Friday, April 9, 2010

If you are what you wear, I'm in big trouble

Tomorrow I’m traveling to Portland for my first meeting with my new RWA chapter, the Rose City Romance Writers.

Can I confess I’m a little nervous?

Oh, it’s not that I’m afraid of dropping gristle in someone’s purse or shoving a half-cup of butter in my mouth.

They aren’t serving food, which cuts back significantly on my ability to embarrass myself.

I am, however, faced with the age old question that has plagued women since the first cavewoman studied her reflection in a pond trying to decide if the mastodon pelt or the T-rex hide was more flattering to her skin tone:

What do I wear?

In most parts of Oregon, “dressing up” means putting on a clean fleece hoodie. However, having a good friend in the fashion industry has made me dimly aware that there are fashion rules I should attempt to comply with.

Rules that aren’t carved in stone.

Several years ago I worked for a large corporation with a dress code that hadn’t been revised since the Nixon administration. A handful of female employees dared to question the company’s pantyhose requirement, and were quickly slapped down by a posse of matronly executives who considered bare legs just slightly below murder on the scale of mortal sins.

After several attempts to make my point through professional channels, I decided to challenge the hosiery policy by complying with it in theory, but looking as ridiculous as possible in reality.

One day I wore a forest green skirt with neon pink fishnets. Another day I showed up in a pink silk skirt and rainbow striped toe socks.

I looked horrendous. I was so proud. Certainly, I’d proved my point.

Then a co-worker returned from a meeting looking bemused. “I was just talking with one of the executives,” she said, naming the grandfatherly director of one of the company’s most influential departments. “He thought you looked nice today. Said you really brightened things up.”

I stared at her. “He was being funny, right?”

She shook her head. “You know him. He isn’t funny.”

As it turned out, the guy was dead serious. He thought I looked wonderful – bright and cheery, and as far as he was concerned, perfectly fashionable.

Eventually, the hosiery policy was changed – not before I trotted out a few more ridiculous outfits and withstood the threat of firing.

But the lesson I took with me is that fashion is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. What’s ridiculous to one person might be the height of haute couture to another.

If writing is the most subjective business on the planet, fashion must run a not-so-distant second.

On that note, I have to go figure out what to wear tomorrow. Parachute pants, perhaps?

27 comments :

JM Tohline said...

Oh wow, I'm wearing those same socks right now.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Hi! I popped over from Candyland's blog to say hi and congrats on your award. Your blog looks super fun. Have a great weekend! :-)

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

Ugh. I hate wardrobe issues. They're ever-present in my life. I tell you what, if I could afford it, I'd dress everyday like Jennifer Aniston in Along Came Polly. To the mall. To a wedding. To a wake.

Have a great time in Portland!!

Candyland said...

YOU GO! You can rock anything. Personally I like the striped socks.

Flannery said...

lol! I'm in Seattle, and I'd have to say that our idea of dressing up sounds pretty much the same. What do you mean I'm not dressed up? Look, this sweatshirt is a pretty color!
Good luck with your important decision!

Jaydee Morgan said...

Hope you find something you like (perhaps the striped toe socks will make a return). Regardless, enjoy your weekend!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Tawna,

Do what I do: Run out to the most fashionable store you can afford, explain the event to one of the sales clerks, and let her dress you.

Works for me!

KAK said...

Our RWA chapter suggests the ambiguous "business casual," which we all understand to be "no pajamas." After that, however, it gets a bit dodgy. I vote for striped socks over pink fishnets with a Christmas Doll pinafore. Clean hoodie optional. It would make a *memorable* fashion statement.

Jade said...

You can't go wrong with a fleecy hoodie. Do you have one with sequins? Maybe gold? That will go down a treat.

Angela said...

Those are awesomerific socks. Damn, you dress to impress!

Minta said...

You can borrow my pink fish nets again if you like. I can overnight 'em. The most important thing to remember is to wear bandaids on your nipples. That was the lesson I learned from one said matronly executive.

Tahereh said...

hahahahahaaaa

that was a great post!! and sooo true!!

you can never tell with fashion.. some people find beauty in the oddest things. but then again, that's what makes it beautiful, isn't it? the diversity?

love your blog :D

Christi Goddard said...

My current employer is a big proponent of 'diversity in the workplace' and sends emails about how different we all are. To test the corporation's limits of what is 'diverse' and what is 'unprofessional' I dyed the front of my hair fire engine red and the back of it blue black. I did this three years ago, and they've yet to say a word. Point for me. So, I decided to take it a bit further and got a lip ring. Not a cutesy one but a giant black hoop that sticks out and I roll around with my tongue all day. I'm still an employee, and wondering what to try next. In case you're wondering, I work for one of the top four not-for-profit insurance carriers in the United States.

Tawna Fenske said...

JM Tohline, I'm certain the socks look fabulous on you. I'll be watching for you to post a photo on your blog! :)

Shannon, thanks for the comment! Isn't Candyland's blog terrific?

Nicole, I'm lucky to live in an area where "casual" is the standard, but there are always different levels of casual...

Candyland, I was a little surprised to discover I still had the socks (not to mention all the other components of the outfit). I went digging for them this morning when I decided to write this blog and recreate the outfit for the pic.
Flannery, I think you're right -- Portland and Seattle are pretty similar in terms of fashion standards, which is to say it's perfectly acceptable to wear hiking boots to a nice dinner.

Jaydee, though I've been a bit of a hermit lately, I do still have some nice "dressy-casual" things to wear. Still haven't decided which I'll pick, but I can always change in the car on the drive over.

Dianne, one of my best friends is a supreme fasionista who owns a designer handbag boutique. I rely on her to dress me!

KAK, dare me to wear the socks to the meeting tomorrow? :)

Jade, a sequined hoodie...I think you're onto something there. You could make a fortune!

Angela, now that I've found the socks again in the bottom of my sock basket, I'm going to have to start wearing them all the time. They are pretty cool.

Minta, that's right -- I had totally forgotten I borrowed the fishnets from you! And the bandaids on the nipples suggestion -- what the hell were those women thinking? Miss you, hon, but I'm pretty sure I can speak for both of us in saying I don't miss that job!

Tahereh, on a sad side-note, one of my former colleagues just informed me that the executive who praised my outfit recently passed away. I was sorry to hear it, as the world needs more people who find beauty in odd places.

Christi, OMG, you MUST keep me posted on whatyou decide to try next. Severe body odor maybe? A tattoo on your forehead?

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Claire Dawn said...

You're so not lying about the subjectivity of fashion. It always hits me when readign/watching awards show recaps. Best and worst dressed are so out there, it's anyone's guess. And one's person's garbage bag, is another's spring trend!

Linda G. said...

Somewhere, in the deep recesses of my sock drawer, I have those socks. Which tells you something about how often I clean out my sock drawer.

(Cynthia, if you're reading this -- I haven't dusted inside it either.)

As for what to wear to your meeting...is it too late to "Bedazzle" something? Any ol' thing will do, as long as it's properly bedazzled. ;)

Xuxana said...

Fleece. You either love it or hate it. I happen to love it, but the rest of England hates it. I should probably move to Oregon.

Delia said...

@Jade and Tawna, for your fashion-forward pleasure: http://www.thisnext.com/item/C4B7754F/C65F06F4/Spiegel-Gold-Sequin-Hoodie

Maybe they overnight?

LR said...

Best stockings ever. And I think they go just dandy with that skirt. :)

Squeaky said...

BWAHAHAHAHA!!!! also - i have MASSIVE sock envy! *glows green*

Jan Markley said...

That's passive resistance fashionista style! I have a frog hat I wear for school visits. ;-j

Talli Roland said...

GOOD LUCK! Hope it's all going well! Make sure to report back.

Cheeseboy said...

Parachute pants are better than skinny jeans.

Tawna Fenske said...

Claire Dawn, I loooove those photos they post after awards shows where they spotlight the best-dressed and worst-dressed. I always try to guess which is which before reading the captions. I'm wrong about 50% of the time.

Linda G, I wish I'd thought of the bedazzling beforehand, but alas, I had to go bedazzle free. I'm sure I would have made twice as many friends if only I'd read your comment before I left!

Xuxana, if you share a passion for fleece, you'd definitely fit in here in Oregon!

Delia, words fail me. I thought you were kidding about the sequined hoodie. Wow. I've seen it all now.

LR, I sometimes wear the socks to yoga class when it's too cold to go barefoot but I still need traction (notice the rubber grippy things on the bottom?) and the ability to move my toes.

Squeaky, I bought the socks at Fred Meyer maybe five years ago? I can't remember, but they weren't terribly expensive.

Jan, you MUST post a picture of yourself in the frog hat!

Talli, I just posted today's blog entry reporting on my first RWA experience. I had a great time!

Cheeseboy, wonder if it's still possible to find parachute pants? Knowing the fashion world, they're probably back in style by now.

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Jennifer X said...

I went to a Catholic high school, and I'll never forget a kid wearing a tie with sperm on it. Not like, real sperm, but pictures of sperm. All over the tie. They weren't microscopic ;) but they were small enough that he got through the whole day with not one comment from a teacher. He was a hero for awhile.

Lindsay said...

You know, harem pants (otherwise known as M.C. Hammer pants) are coming back in.....

Laina said...

I own those socks... well, mine are shorter, but they're still rainbow toe socks. The kids at my work loved them the last time I wore them.

*makes note to wear rainbow toe socks soon*