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?