Is there a gene that enables a person to know when her clothing ensemble is acceptable to be seen in public? Oh, you have no idea how much I hope the scientific community votes a resounding “Yes!!” — with two exclamation points. If it is indeed genetics I can fault my ancestors for my deficiency and be blame-free myself. As the ever-prescient Lady Gaga notes, “I was born this way.”
I know style is an individual thing. I know a person should wear what she likes. There is even a fringe group of fashion lunatics who propose wearing what is comfortable. These people do not embrace stiletto heels, neckties, or corsets. I also know, however, that a person probably shouldn’t go out in public clothed so hideously as to frighten small babies. It wasn’t quite that bad with me, but toddlers would occasionally visibly cringe when I walked into a room.
Luckily, I had two things: a friend with wonderful fashion sense (Kim) and an iPad that could photograph and then email pictures of prospective outfits to her. Although I never actually watched the show, there was a program on TV called “Survivor.” Apparently, participants, in a survival (get it?) scenario could get voted off an island if they displeased or bothered enough of the other inhabitants or if they were just generally annoying. My outfits were like the outcasts. Kim would give them the boot, banishing them back into the rear of my closet.
I would put together what I considered the height of fashion — a dress, perhaps, with a matching pashimi. Matching, like beauty apparently, is in the eye of the beholder. Kim would email back broad-hinted statements such as, “Don’t you think this is a different tone?” Oh, Kim, honey, first of all, I thought tone had to do with sound, and second of all, if I could tell if one tone went with another, I wouldn’t be on the Internet so much. Pashimis used to be called shawls, you know. But shawl = Grandma, and pashimi = exotic elegance. Even if it is just a shawl. Out came the magic iPad, the best invention ever. I would snap a photo, send it to Kim, and she would vote the outfit right off my back. A non-survivor, if you will.
My closet is full of non-survivors. If I were a reality-based life form, I would do the smart thing and take my entire wardrobe to Goodwill. Then I think to myself, “Don’t low income people have enough to worry about without the very real prospect of having to sort through my terrible clothing choices?” It’s just like people cleaning out their pantries for food drives. They end up donating cans of stuff they can’t recall either the date of or reason for buying. Sardines in mustard sauce? People who habituate food pantries can’t afford food, much less Prilosec. Eventually, of course, something is going to have to give. Hideous or not, my clothes are going to end up with some charitable organization or in the landfill, the latter being charitable in itself.
It should come as no surprise to learn I have no better luck with home décor than I do with Marla décor. My friend Meg is an artist. She creates the most wonderful paintings and even makes abstract art look good. This is much tougher than it sounds. Abstract act is so … abstract. I can’t quite grasp what the artist is trying to tell me, sort of like listening to rap music, only usually less profane. I know there’s a message there, I just don’t get it.
It’s a small thing, really, but Meg has arranged a collection of art on her wall. Of all the charming things in her house (and charming things are everywhere in her house), this is the charm champion. Photographs, an oil, a watercolor, and a mirror, all gracefully placed. All these pieces in different media coming together to make a whole.
In contrast, when I put nails in the wall to hang a collection of things, the best that ever happens in that I make a hole.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.