Warning: this blog is long... but the entire story must be told...
Yes, I was asked by my Relief Society president to participate in a tri-stake fashion show meant to highlight women in the community who dressed fashionably, yet modestly. Can you see the color of flattery rising in my cheeks as I am being asked to choose my 2 fave outfits (one casual and one fancy) and bring them to meet a nationally renowned style consultant for a dress rehearsal?
Well, I was flattered. And I had a hard time only choosing 2 outfits so I brought 4. We were to meet at the church at an appointed time so that we could have “face time” with the consultant. I was so excited. I laid out my choices and waited my turn.
I can’t remember the consultant’s name… I choose to forget. She had advised First Ladies and Janet Reno (that should have been a clue), and had been on Oprah numerous times. Oprah! For crying out loud…
I was a little disappointed when one of her assistants came to evaluate me. She was cute and stylish though. She LOVED my clothes. I loved my clothes. We chose two outfits and then we decided how to describe them. For the fashion curious, here’s what they were:
1. Pleated jean skirt (from the really posh section in Nordstrom but it was WAY on sale…), ¾ sleeved button down shirt with tuxedo ruffle at the buttons and a retro poppy print (from Anthropologie), super cute straw bag, and heeled sandals. Summer get-a-way…A little self tanner on the legs and I was good to go…
2. Ann Taylor suit in blue silk with long jacket and coral colored silk wrap-around shirt. Not my very fave, but responsible looking and dramatic, I guess.
Well early, EARLY the next morning (the morning of the show) I get a phone call before work from the consultant and she says, “I would love your help. I want to add some things to the show…I don’t feel that we have the right balance… Can you come to my house and bring your outfits? Will you also bring some additional outfits for me to look at?”
I basically answered “Of course, dahling…I’ll be right there…anything I can do for the show…”
I called into work and told them I’d be late, grabbed the two outfits and then some, and raced over… “She heard about me,” I thought. “She wants to see more!”
I get to her big old house in Alpine and she’s waiting, she been up for hours, but it’s early, she has no make up and I don’t think she brushed her teeth… She looked tired and weary…
Down into the basement we went, where to my surprise and initial delight I found ROOMS of clothes on racks… racks and racks… Shangri-La…Heaven…Nirvana…
Then I modeled for her. She asked me to walk for her (thanks mom and dad for the modeling lessons when I was 6… they are finally going to pay off!). Then she made some suggestions.
“I have the perfect jacket for those pants,” she says.
I am wearing my chocolate brown, pin-striped Ann Taylor pants with high heeled boots and she pairs it with an oatmeal “shell” and a linen jacket. I’m frozen like a deer in the headlights. The shell has shoulder pads…SO does the jacket. The shell reaches to almost mid thigh and the jacket IS mid thigh. Then she rolls up the sleeves of the jacket to reveal the silky lining. “There,” she says.
I am speechless…is this for real?
I stutter some unintelligible comments, “I’m…n-n-not sure…. the shirt…shoulder pads ….” She ignored me and moved at lightening speed toward another rack.
“I really wanted someone to wear this outfit. It’s one of my favorites.” She hands me something black and slinky feeling. I put it on. “Oh, that’s just gorgeous! We needed something formal. It’s from Egypt you know. The flowers are hand painted.”
Just in case you are thinking this might be something cool or sexy, let me inform you sternly just how wrong you are. The black material was slinky and that’s where the slinky stopped. It was a pants outfit. The pants had an elastic waist and tapered legs, the shirt (again) had shoulder pads, as did the jacket (reaching my KNEES). The jacket was painted with METALLIC flowers in a papyrus motif all around the sleeves and hem. I. WAS. MORTIFIED…and buggered if I was going to be seen wearing this in public.
I looked exactly like Claire Huxtible from the Cosby Show, that era, those clothes. But then it hit me…SHE WAS DRESSING ME LIKE THE FAT GIRL. I was the plus sized model. I have never been a waif, and I totally own my meatiness, but COME ON… This was not exactly flattering to any size. Stacy & Clinton would have disowned me.
As she is dressing me and primping me, she is going on and on about how I am a yang who dresses like a ying. My hair and clothes are too ying for my yangness. “Own your yang…” says she. I wanted to say that I had owned and paid off my ying years ago, and ying I would be for evermore!…whatever that meant, I was rebelling against her insistence of yang.
The consultant saw my shock and hesitation, and started basically listing her resume. She capped it all off with, “and then of course there was the chemotherapy…that was difficult.” She was guilting me because she was a cancer survivor. That was low…
She told me not to worry about the clothing descriptions she would take care of it. I was to wear three outfits, I should feel special because everyone else could only wear two.
All day I work I had SEVERE anxiety. Constant stomach ache… I couldn’t do it. I could not appear in public in clothes that were supposed to me mine. The whole premise of the fashion show was that these were real women wearing their own clothes. Everyone would think those were MY clothes! No! NO! I hold my personal style dear to my heart. I would be a fashion charlatan! A badly dressed fashion charlatan!
I was in agony. It got so bad that I considered throwing myself down the office stairs as many times as it took until I was too hurt to walk. Seriously…
All of my sisters were coming to the show as were all of my friends from the neighborhood. How could I get out of this! Besides just saying “no”…
“…and then of course there was the chemotherapy…that was difficult…”
I knew that if I refused to be in the show I would be ungrateful and it would appear prima donna-ish, and my decline to wear her clothes might kill her. After all, someone who had gone through chemotherapy might not be able to handle that!
Then, in a flash, calm settled over me… a voice whispered, “I DARE you to do it. If you do this thing, you will have the best story to tell for the rest of your life.”
“Bring it on…” I said (probably out loud for I was feeling psychotic at this point). I was now determined. I would strut my stuff… I would have fun.
My sisters were my entourage, I had Sarah and Abby and my sis-in-law Darcy. They bolstered my courage; Sarah brought the video camera. I almost lost confidence when Abby saw the outfits backstage and said, “You CAN’T wear that…”
I scrutinized the other participants. They were all definitely way thinner. My suspicions at being the “token fat girl” were justified.
But before I made my debut, we all had to endure 2 ½ hours of fashion instruction by said consultant. This was mostly her talking about who-knows-what as she cleverly changed outfits on stage in front of about 600 ladies. It was like an acrobat act, she’d unbutton her blouse to reveal a whole other outfit on underneath. Then she would remove the skirt to reveal the pants underneath and pull a scarf out of the pocket to make a new outfit. It was BIZARRE.
Mercifully, by the time it was time for the show, half the audience had left. We all took our places in our first outfits. Mine, thankfully was the blue suit. Apparently, that was yang enough and she let me where it.
We had to walk across the stage and then down some OSHA rejected, rickety stairs while holding the hand of some nervous young man *pause*. Then we had to walk around the right side to the middle of the gym *pause* figure 8 around the back to the middle again *pause* then out the door. Imagine all this walking, this is a full-sized basketball court I am crossing and crisscrossing… First round, check…no tripping…hands not too sweaty…
Then came the linen blazer outfit. The heel of my boots got caught in the cuff of my trousers on my way down the stairs, and I came this close to going down. I recovered with a deep blush and walked on. Passing the sisters, their faces were crimson and their shoulders were shaking up and down with suppressed laughter. Second round, check…
Then came the finale, the dressy round, complete with blushing bride in a modest gown. My dressy outfit was the black fashion death. While waiting on the stairs I kept whispering to the other participants, “This isn’t my outfit! She made me wear it!” No one knew what I meant and no one was sympathetic.
I was third to last…I took a deep breath and walked out, smile on my face, hand on my hip. My sisters were dying. Tears are now streaming. (As Sarah follows me with the camera and pans behind herself you can see the ladies behind her giving her the stink eye, as if she were laughing to make fun of me.)
I had to look a lot of people I knew in the face while wearing that outfit. It was hard to do with a composed face. I wanted to just scream out, “This isn’t mine! I was forced into this by a cancer survivor!”
My face was red and hot for hours afterwards. I was exhausted. I had experienced so much anxiety and anguish throughout the day, I felt like I had run a marathon. We immediately took the tape home and watched it, like, 50 times and laughed ‘til we cried.