What to wear when your Venn Diagram fails you

For some odd reason my professional life routinely comes to a slow-to-screeching halt in the late spring and kicks up again in late summer. During the transition, most of what I do tends to be home-based. While others don crisp summer office wear and hobnob with real live adults, I’m reduced to communicating via phone or keystroke whilst (unwillingly) adorned in never-stylish cat hair and (stupidly) donning clothes that accommodate a little too much snacking.

No offense to people who think the setup sounds like heaven, but: ME NO LIKEY.

So imagine my mega-excitement when an organization recently dangled a life preserver bedazzled with chunks of money in my face. Immediately, I started assembling relevant samples and crafting a presentation and running through answers for some potential “tell me about a time when” queries.

My excitement lasted until I started trying to put together an ensemble that would strike a mellifluous note with the organization’s representatives. Because fiddledeedee, that’s when I:

  • remembered that my recurring bouts of professional seasonitis correlate to an understocked hot temps ahoy! wardrobe
  • realized that my limited number of go-to conservative pieces had (not so) mysteriously become approximately 33.865% tighter
  • recalled that my meeting would involve flying to a very warm, sartorially sharp-yet-relaxed spot for an all-day adventure

NOOOOOOO

Surely after all my quasi-successful efforts in wardrobe management, I couldn’t be in a horrifying Start From Scratch situation, which usually requires a Throw Money at the Problem response?

But I was. And, unless I wanted to risk deep vein thrombosis when airborne and/or post-lunch button malfunctions, I faced both a form AND function challenge.

Clearly, vigorously attacking the former issue before I began my online and in-person shopping would streamline the time-sensitive process. All I had to do was take a look at how it might behoove someone of my age + experience + “position” + personal characteristics to dress when meeting with certain broadly-drawn types during a specific season, right?

After factoring in all the obvious variables, I arrived at the stunningly obvious diagrammatic solution below.

Strategies for First-Impression-Dressing

What to Wear When Your Venn Diagram Suggests You Abandon All Hope

Trying to dress for hoped-for success often takes me to Planet Paradoxical

Note that I didn’t say it was a USEFUL solution.

As I scrambled to assemble options that seemed appropriate—a task made ever more joyful by the fact I was, in fact, often too large for size A and too small-without-dubiously-successful-and/or-astronomically-priced alterations in size B—I resolved to stop reading the angst-inducing Corporette.

Which, given its self-described mission to be a “fashion and lifestyle blog for overachieving chicks,” I have no business reading anyway.

But read I do, since a) in many ways it’s my job to be a voyeur; b) I’m a feminist and appreciate the challenges and triumphs of women seeking lucre and power; and c) the site completely contradicts my mother’s dismissive, now-ancient statement that “No one is looking at your socks.”

However, re-reading discussions on topics like “Skirt Suits vs Pantsuits When Interviewing: Choose Wrong and You’re Doomed,” “Peeptoes in the Courtroom: Empowering or Whorish?” and “Could Feminine Detailing Be Derailing Your Success?”* was starting to give me panic attacks. Obviously I needed to chill, dude.

In the end—and after consulting with a few trusted friends who were roughly familiar with the industry, the area, or both—I went with my patent-pending approach of picking an outfit sure to horrify some and please others.

Winner, Venn Diagram Overlap contest

I hopped the train to hell…er, shinytown…by pairing sedate—and hallelujah lined [thank you for getting your act together, Ann Taylor]—black wool trousers with:

  • a dark grey/faux-sharkskin jacket with a more feminine lapel
  • a sleeveless, ruffled silk charmeuse shell in one of the oft-controversial animal prints
  • my non-subtle vintage shell ring (but hey, at least I skipped the matching bracelet!)
  • my semi-broken in, classic closed-toe and -back shoes in non-classic gleamy pewter
  • that standby of the bless-her-heart brigade: HOSE

To date I’m not quite sure how judgments of my work or appearance** shook out. I DO know that my shiny, 3.5″ pewter heels and I have advanced to the next stage of evaluation…the one where I remember that scrutinizing THEM is a key part of the equation. The stage where I can wear whatever my heart desires, as long as I make sure my nerves are clad in steel.

* Paraphrasing, but not particularly exaggerating

** Having been looking at tons of luscious fall shades lately, I admit I’m a little crushed that I had to purchase more items that will grey my anatomy.

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I may as well outsource

Late last week I was all psyched to settle in and produce more content so that there would be more of me to judge or love unconditionally, whichever. I figured a little more on style, a soupçon on midlife crises, and a smidge on my strategies for world peace would provide the proverbial something for everyone.

But then my 4,200-in-computer-years setup, the one with lots of cough bootleg cough ancient and expensive-to-replace design software, decided to go all Desktop in a Coma on me. I briefly wondered if I should see this as a non-spam message from the universe [SHUT IT PLS THX] before determining of course I should see it that way.

Intergalactic communication aside, I do in fact need a computer to work and do whatever the online equivalent of hobnobbing about potential work may be (ok yes “e-networking”…my bleeding eyeballs and I aren’t total Luddites). So one might think I was a little unsettled by hitting the power button over and over and OVER to no avail.

But as someone who lives and dies by all those great articles about backing things up methodically (storing alphabetically by subject matter) and how to prioritize and maintain emergency slush funds

O WAIT

Right: despite being a Gemini I can’t get any aspect of my personalities to act in ways even remotely in-case-of-Armaggedon-y. However, I am not entirely unprepared for this crisis, having read—and if crumbling memory serves written—many Before Your Unsettling Doctor Visit brochures. I figure radiologist, computer surgeon, same difference, right? So enter Mr Vix, stage left, to serve as my Designated Listener. And my Chief Chloroformer.

Much talk of what technical disasters they might find when they open her up ensued; risks were detailed; a tummy tuck and brain augmentation offered. Unfortunately turning my G4 into a cougar would, in addition to robbing her of her old-school charm, render me unable to do what I need to do with her.

[And now that I’ve gone down the anthropomorphic road that last sentence reads really pervy but given what people ACTUALLY do with their computers I’m not going to sweat it.]

So now, since this is not an episode of ER, I wait for FREAKING EVER to find out if her circuits have enough juice in her to keep slowly whirring or if she goes off to be cannibalized and turned into some earth-saving or -destroying thing by the BabyGenius with whom I was interfacing.

And instead of renting a computer for the next two weeks of limbo and thus pissing away $200, I decided it made intellectual and logistical sense to throw a laptop on my credit card and go all CABLE FREE ME for the first time ever.

As my comfort zone is broke but debt-free, I admit I had to think about whether I could rationalize my (tax-deductible!) purchase. Luckily I’m a champion rationalizer, so I was doing pretty well with my decision until I sashayed by Mr Vix,  balancing my new computer on the tip of one finger, and he implied I was a spendthrift.

Since I didn’t blow him off like any sane-but-loving partner would, I guess I do feel a bit guilty about getting a new computer when technically my old one MAY still work. But that emotion is like, such a downer? And unproductive since hell no I’m not repentant. I’m thinking it makes perfect guns-vs-butter sense to pay someone to feel guilty for me. Maybe I’ll try to remember where I stuck my neatly-labelled Use in Case of Enabling Emergency envelope and see if there’s anything left in it…or better yet, maybe I’ll try to find someone who’ll take plastic.

“No one is looking at your socks”

Because I am a math-is-hard-Barbie kind of feminist, I have no interest in figuring out just how many mixed messages I received when I was growing up.

But if I leave society out of it and just focus on my parents for a moment, I can reach a rough estimate using the following formula:

(2) people whose views often conflicted internally as well as with each other x infinity = a shitload of contradictory messages

Sometimes, when navel-gazing (refreshingly, both my parents disparaged this activity) I get why starting new endeavors or pursuing success or making the most of what I have is not really my thing. I mean, I had “your best could be a lot better” coupled with “if you’re trying your hardest that’s all that matters,” which ok…I can just ignore the former, right?

But then you start adding in the related sub-sub instructions of “don’t hide your light under a bushel barrel” and “Who cares if you can’t find matching socks? For godsakes, forget about yourself for five seconds and get in the car. No one is looking at your socks!” and it gets a bit more complicated.

Especially if you’re the type who finds herself looking at other people’s socks.

And if you’re looking at theirs, don’t you think there’s a damn good chance that somewhere, sometime, someone will be looking at yours? Yeah, I thought so.

So frankly the statement was ACCURACY FAIL then, and thanks to the internet “no one is looking at your ‘socks’!” is even more of a fail. Because the internet is full of filthy link-clickers. Or so I’ve heard.