I wore a cute outfit today. Here’s a picture.
The dress is vintage – I modified the skirt from an a-line to a pencil shape after watching Christina Hendrix’s Joan in Mad Men. The neckline detailing, though, is what makes this dress – that little flash of cream at the neck and sleeves really lifts this frock.
The shoes are my summer-go-to sandals I blogged about a couple of weeks ago.
The bag is a favourite Skipping Girl from years ago that Mamma-K and I share.
The jewellery is a mixture of favourite pieces, but I like the way that the round shapes pick up and accentuate the darling fabric-covered button detail from the neckline of the dress.
All in all, a pretty picture, wouldn’t you say?
But, aye, here’s the rub. This isn’t the outfit that I wanted to wear today. It’s valentines day, and I wanted to wear this outfit. Here’s another picture.
The dress was a $20 bargain from DFO, made all the sweeter because I had been eyeing it off at five times as much in the retail store. Notice how from a distance the print looks like polka dots, but, up close, it’s actually love hearts? Blows my mind.
The earrings – adorable – were $3 from Diva. There’s a rather large part of me that enjoys ghetto name jewellery a little too much. Until such time as someone gets me massive earrings with ‘Peggy’ emblazoned in 9 carat, I think these ‘love’s are a workable compromise.
The bag is my daily lug-all, but picks up the red from the dress’s heart print. So, reader, why did I go with the former, rather than the latter, outfit?
It all comes down to expectations and clichés. About conforming to expectations – in my own way as much as possible – and avoiding clichés.
You see, as I was kneading bread yesterday afternoon (I have become a sourdough tragic – but that’s the topic for next week’s blog), it occurred to me that in addition to my usual fieldwork commitments, and, of course, valentine’s day dinner at mine with the Dreamboat, I was due back at Yooni for the semester’s official kick off. I had a departmental seminar to go to, and, like any season’s kick off, everybody was going to be there.
‘Well, Peggy, wear the Love outfit’, I said to myself, ‘It’s not like anyone there will notice, and, if they do, they will surely enjoy the outfit for its campy kitch as much as you do.’
‘But, on the other hand’, I said to myself, ‘What if people pick today to notice outfits? What if they don’t get the campy kitch message that, I believe, this outfit conveys? What if, by its femininity and its cliché young-girl-in-love-on-valentine-day connotations, my special outfit goes from cute and fun to silly and immature? Is that really a semantic risk you want to take?’.
This dilemma kept me occupied until my bread was kneaded. And I came to the conclusion that, sad as it made me to dismiss my Love outfit on this, the most appropriate day of the year for it, I knew that it wouldn’t make me comfortable in the seminar.
Nobody gets dressed in a vacuum. This would be quite difficult on a practical level, from my meagre understanding of physics. When we get dressed, we are participating in a network of cultural symbols and contexts. Furthermore, our bodies, without us being able to do anything about it, also carry symbolic cultural value, via our genders, sizes, ages, and defining features. As much I would like to be able to wear whatever I want to, where I want to, whenever I want to, I’m not able to escape the cultural connotations of my clothing choices, and how they interact with the way that people ‘read’ my body. Perhaps this is more to do with being a cowardly custard on my part – and I accept that I am not a particularly brave person – but I simply can’t bring myself to throw sartorial caution and the opinions of others to the wind. I will always dress for myself, but I also dress for others, and I think, in some way, we all do that.
Although, maybe I could get away with the ghetto fabulous earrings…