The Job You Want

When I was in my early 20s, I had a job at an office near a mall.  And one day on my lunch break, I went to Lane Bryant to buy some sweaters.  They had a book at the register called Well Rounded, written by a plus size model named Catherine Lippincott (I had to Google the title and author - my memory isn't that good).

Catherine was kind of an Emme* knock-off.  The thing is, it was the week of Christmas, and NOBODY was at the office, so I read through it at work that afternoon.

Basically, Catherine talked about the fact that being heavy isn't the worst thing ever, and whatever size you are, you should love what you wear.

There were tons of "helpful hints" about how to shop - she recommended menswear for staples, sweaters, t shirts, gym shorts.  She said that often, Maternity stores carried dresses that were flattering for women with ample stomachs and chests.  And the thing I remember is that she said you could never own too many crisp, white cotton button down shirts.  Now, the thing is, I don't wear button down shirts as a rule because they are about the least flattering thing I can wear.  Well, after polo shirts, which don't look good on many people (and yet, many people wear the hell out of them).

So, I left that advice unheeded.

But what Catherine said that did stick with me is that most of us have a uniform - whether we realize it a lot, we have a set of "types" of outfits we wear.  At the time, I didn't really get that.  Having spent a weekend doing laundry, I now TOTALLY get it.

My work uniform for the office is jeans (dark blue, boot cut), a loose, flowy top - typically in a print  - bright colors and/or black.  Flats or boots in winter, flats or sandals in summer.   The customer facing uniform is similar - wide leg dress pants in either black, gray or brown, the rest is the same as above.

My weekend uniform is older, rattier jeans, Birkenstocks, Converse low tops or Merrells, and a long sleeve t, or hoodie in winter, short sleeves in summer.

I wear a lot of bright colors.  Lots of hot pink, purple, red.  I love orange.  I like bright colors. Loud patterns, too.

I rarely wear accessories.  My engagement ring/wedding band combo, and earrings if I remember them.

I carry a backpack for work.  Sure, it looks like I'm a middle aged woman attempting to look like a college kid.  But it's better ergonomically than a shoulder bag, and I haven't gotten to the point where I need a rolling laptop case.  Thankfully.  Those things reek of defeat and back pain.

My standard for a good piece of clothing is if people in straight sizes (meaning not plus sized) compliment what I'm wearing.  That tells me that it's not just something that fat people would wear because there aren't better options.  That it is, of its own merit, fashionable.

I don't have tons of things like that at the moment.  Today, I went to the mall, just to get a break from the office, and I ended up buying this:

Woman not included.  Pants, either.

And last night, I decided to hold my breath and buy a new coat.  Did I need it?  Well, no - I have a spring/summer weight raincoat that is serviceable, if a little dull.  But.


This cried out to me, and I should have it in my hot little hands just in time for it to get wintery again.

I mean, obviously, I had to have it, it was 30% off, I got free shipping, and so on and on.

I love green, I've always wanted a raincoat in a great color.  I once had a light blue one, but it looked a little like a pharmacy smock.  This is like Carmen Sandiego, or a Girl Reporter, or... this just says ADVENTURE to me.  Realistically, the adventure will be Ohio in May, or a small regional airport in Illinois.

But it's a coat that feels like it should be checked at the symphony, or taken by the receptionist to a coat closet.

It's a grown up coat in a whimsical color.  And I'm putting way too much pressure on an article of clothing to make me something I'm not.

But this finally makes up for "the one that got away".

When I was in my early 20s, I was still living with my parents, my company got acquired, and I got laid off.  I got a job at the local department store, Rich's.  One day, we got in these beautiful jackets - they were this lovely buttery leather, baby blue - Liz Claiborne.  As you'll do when you're bored at the department store, you'll try things on.  I don't mean we went into the fitting rooms and stripped down, but you always kept an eye out for things.

When I put this jacket on,  I heard birds singing and rainbows appeared.  It looked like it had been made just for me.

There were only two problems.

1.  I was going nowhere in my life that justified owning or wearing a baby blue leather jacket.

2.  It was $300 and I was underemployed and living with my parents, rent-free.

So I didn't buy it.  I just tried it on from time to time, and within a month, women with more money and more places to go bought them all.

I regret not having owned that jacket, but I don't regret not buying it.  It didn't make sense.  Did I have the money? Yeah, I could have paid for it that day.  But I'd have to face my parents with a new extravagant purchase and no job.  I couldn't do that.  It was, to that period in my life, the most grown-up decision I had ever made.  It's still easily top 10.

I will let you in on a secret.  The only legit reason for not buying it was money.  Sometimes, you have to buy clothes that are aspirational.  Case in point.  Last fall, my mother gifted me with a red sequin cocktail dress, even though I had no immediate need for it.  It fit like a dream, it looked good, and it was meant to go home with me.  What I'm saying is, buy the dress, then find a reason to wear it.

My new green coat will follow me somewhere worthy of it's happy hue.  I believe it.

Next on my list is some new black shoes.  My current pair look rough and smell terrible.

Sorry.  I am a delicate little buttercup, but I get the stankyfoot just like the rest of you commoners.


*Emme was a plus sized model whose short heyday lasted for part of the 90s.  I think at her peak, she appeared on show on E!  This is before all they did was show Mean Girls 24/7**

**Fun fact - they used to show old episodes of One Day at a Time in the early morning.  I'd watch it while I got ready.