I was paying for some new work clothes the other day, in a fancy boutique where I don’t usually shop or plunk down the kind of money needed to shop there. But I like the saleswomen, and the fact that they hover over me and try to help me find the perfect outfit to fit my imperfect body. And while it is in a swanky part of town, where most of the women are skinny and toned to perfection, they still carry clothing that works for those of us whose bodies reflect the scars of aging.
So all of this is to say that I was chatting with the saleswoman as she rang me up. I looked down at my pretty purchases, and noted with pleasure that they were all in the beige/grey/khaki family, my colors of choice for the warmer weather (and when I’m feeling skinny enough to eschew black at least once a week.) And they were all solids. When the saleswoman had earlier brought me a jacket that had pinstripes, I nearly fell over and shouted, with a not a little touch of neurosis, “I don’t do patterns!”
The woman checking out next to me (one of the skinny ladies from the neighborhood) had a panoply of both color and patterns in her purchases. Orange t-shirt! White and salmon striped jacket! And she was already wearing something that was robin’s egg blue.
I mused out loud to my saleswoman about how we make these choices about our taste in clothing, and wondered what DNA separated me from the woman next to me. The saleswoman tried to convince me that it had to do with our color comfort zone. And while I don’t disagree, because every time I announce to the world that I’m going to attempt to wear color, I buy one muted piece and it promptly winds up in my non-wearable pile, I think the origins of these comfort zones go much deeper.
In my history, the obvious thing would be to link it to my mother. My mother, who sported wild purple and pink outfits, who never met a pattern she didn’t like, and who, when asked to buy a dress for my wedding, was stumped by how to dress like a “mother of the bride” (and when she did, was bitterly disappointed with her choice and chose something much more inappropriate and ultimately, satisfying, for my sister’s wedding.) My mother, who always marched to the tune of her own drummer in her sartorial choices, and thought that she looked cute when in fact, she started to look a little crazy in her older years.