Janet Sheridan: Concerning clothing

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Janet Sheridan

To introduce a lesson on organization, I asked my adult students to tell the class how they organized the clothes in their closets. Most arranged their clothing by type, season, color, or frequency of use; but some responses were less predictable.

A young unmarried man said he either hung his clothing on the rod provided or heaped it on the closet floor. “How else,” he wondered, “could clothing be organized?”

“I leave it up to my wife,” a cheerful fellow admitted, “and she organizes our closet mathematically: two-thirds for her and one-third for me.”

A middle-aged woman described her three categories as wear at will, wear with sturdy foundation garments and wear after dieting.

I asked the question about closet organization to many classes over the years and never had anyone look confused or ask for clarification; answers flowed easily because most of us devote thought, time and energy to shopping for and maintaining clothes.

We clean them, put them on, take them off and admire them on one another. We decide what to wear, what to pack, what we’ve outgrown and whether we’ll ignore our spouse’s opinions.

I can’t speak for men, but I’m familiar with the clothing dilemmas women face, and I think most would agree that among the worst is staring at a bulging closet and thinking, “I have absolutely nothing to wear.”

Since I exceeded retirement age, however, that common complaint has evolved: I now think, “I have nothing appropriate to wear.”

I’m haunted by a memory of Great Aunt Bertha tut-tutting as we left Christianson’s Department Store and saw a friend of hers parading down the sidewalk in heels, cut-off jeans and a tight sweater. “Take a look at Eunice,” she said, “That’s what I call mutton dressed up like lamb.”

Now, whenever I try on clothes, I check in the mirror for Eunice.

But I take comfort in the knowledge that inappropriate clothing choices plague all ages.

A few summers ago, Joel and I went on a nine-mile hike with friends. We had begun our descent when a young couple, climbing uphill, asked in the plaintive tones of weary hikers, “How far to the summit?”

“You’re nearly there,” we assured them, prompting a relieved sigh from the young lady who wore shorts worthy of the name, a halter top that bared her midriff, and thin flip-flops—attire as appropriate for hiking as a coffee-stained bathrobe would be for tea at Buckingham Palace.

Though the men seemed to approve her choices.

When I moved to Craig, a long-time resident told me that appropriate attire for funerals and fancy events in Moffat County meant decently covered—with the definition of decent being debatable.

Still, I would like others to see me and think something a little more complimentary than, “Well, Janet’s decently covered.”

So I throw open drawers and closet doors and despair because nothing I have seems right for the occasion and my years.

Then I buy new clothes. What else am I to do?

Joel seldom questions my purchases because he has no idea if something is new or not. “I like that top,” he’ll say, looking at my comfortable, go-to sweater of the current decade, “Is it new?”

My need to buy clothing peaks in August, when back-to-school ads appear featuring sparkling children in the latest styles. I retired four years ago, but the 60 years prior to that meant new clothes for the first day of school. It’s hard to overcome such conditioning.

As a result, when I see city workers re-painting crosswalks near schools, I gather my credit cards and car keys the way Pavlov’s dogs salivated at the tinkle of a bell.

So if you drive by my house in September and see me weeding flowerbeds in a spiffy new professional outfit that looks like I just removed the tags, I probably did.

And I know it’s inappropriate.

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