Being as I am in the middle of applying to various graduate schools – the first of which have their deadlines at the beginning of December, I can currently attest, firsthand, to the destructive nature of stress on fashion, in general, and on attempts to develop a positive sense of style. Nothing removes the necessity of fine clothing more than shutting oneself up in ones room to fill out forms and write essays and statements of purpose. The art of discrimination is turned inward, and the only emphasis on appearances is conveyed through the written word, not the external presentation. For now, at least.
That being said, I am still applying to jobs and visiting professors and counselors and all manner of people to whom I should not look like the slovenly wreck that I currently am. So what’s a girl to do? I have found my answer in a number of short, grey dresses with built-in belts. All are very distinctive, but being one-piece garments, they present a very formulaic and routine means to getting dressed. All I need to wear is black shoes, hose, a slip, the dress, and some piece of jewelry or a touch of color, to stand out. Currently, I have a very striking broach on one of them – a Viking replica depicting Odinn’s horse Slefnir. It is one less thing to think about, when I am getting out of the house.
I cannot begin to describe how secure it makes me feel to know that I can operate this way, to know that I am representing myself well, without having to expend the conscious effort on this process that I so desperately need to conserve for my academic life, right now. The first thing I am going to do, after the angst of applications subsides is to buy myself a proper suit for mourning – a conservative black gown, accented only by blackwork and jet. Something that I would be appropriate to any funeral, and that need not distract my attention with what, at such times, seem such petty and trivial concerns. I cannot begin to describe how upset I was, as a child, leaving for the funeral of a man who was like an uncle to me, and watching my parents bicker over whether my mother’s skirt was appropriate for such an occasion. It seemed so far removed from everything I was thinking and feeling, even though I knew, deep down, that their concern was not so much for appearing “proper” or “elegant” as showing their devotion to him by honoring his memory through their dress.
In short, I am finding it wise to have pre-planned, easily assembled wardrobes for times of stress and sorrow. These should preferably be one-piece ensembles with built-in adornment and few areas for indecision or concern. In the case of clothing worn when sick, they should also be machine washable, in case of stomach upset. But most of all, they should be thought about in advance, in order to provide maximum comfort on one’s body and security in one’s self image.