Welcome to the August edition of “Dressing the Part.” I’m Robin Abrahams, the Boston Globe’s “Miss Conduct.”
Wondering what to wear to an upcoming job interview, family reunion, wedding? I’ll be chatting today from noon-1pm Eastern Time here. Join me! (Or e-mail me your fashionetiquette dilemmas if you can’t make the chat).
Here’s what’s been on my mind during the past month.
Dressing for the Show
I’m a firm believer that all the world’s a stage, but when I go to an actual play, I especially like to dress in the mood of the performance. Not so’s it looks like I wandered out from the greenroom by accident, but I’m not going to show up at “Medea” in a peppy floral frock. Part of what makes live events—theater, music, worship services, sports—worth attending is your fellow audience members. Etiquette requires we don’t interfere with others’ enjoyment of the spectacle; I say, if you’re so inclined, go ahead and do your best enhance it! Here’s my outfit for a Boston production of “Absurd Person Singular,” a 1970s-era British comedy of very bad manners: a feminine silhouette in bright, almost violent colors, with traditional preppy accessories.
My theater shoes are Cole Haan’s “Monroe Deconstructed” (I have no idea what that could possibly mean) which are currently on sale!—and which I’ve worn some version or another of since “Seinfeld” ruled the airwaves. Two-tone shoes, for me, belong to an elusive category I have dubbed
Like real bacon, Style Bacon makes things better. Like real bacon, Style Bacon can be the main dish, or a tantalizing seasoning. Like real bacon, everyone you know loves Style Bacon, to the point that you feel a little guilty, actually, for relying on it so much.
But don’t! Embrace Style Bacon: the silhouettes, colors, patterns, accessories that automatically take your outfit up a couple of notches of deliciousness. Having a good rasher of Style Bacon on hand can get you through fancy occasions that won’t say how fancy they are; the monotony of capsule wardrobes for travel; and days when you just need a little extra oomph.
More of my personal Style Bacon:
Fishnets. Black can be a little too va-va-voom for daytime, but neutral fishnets—grey, tan, beige, brown, olive, burgundy—can add a vaguely European touch of sex appeal. In cooler months, wear them over tights for a textured or contrasting look. I get mine from We Love Colors.
Black & white stripes / Leopard/cheetah print. Usually not both at once, although I will occasionally drape a leopard scarf over a striped shirt. Both patterns, though, create visual depth in an outfit, and although they are assertive patterns, they both coordinate well with neutrals, brights, pastels, and jewel tones.
This J.Crew necklace. I love it. Other people love it. And just like real bacon, it can burn my naked skin. (Trufax. It heats up in the sun, I can’t wear it on hot days.) J.Crew has excellent jewelry, which I usually score on eBay.
Finally, in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, I posted the following (slightly revised here) on my Facebook page.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about appearance privilege. As a moderately attractive, medium-sized, slender brown-haired white ladyperson, I have never been profiled maliciously. I have very rarely even been profiled inaccurately. My physical type is our culture’s default setting for the Smart Nice Girl. From Fern Arable to Laura Ingalls to Mary Richards to Veronica Sawyer to Coco Chanel to Liz Lemon, I have never lacked for positive images of women who looked like me. My appearance has made it easier, not harder, to be taken seriously as an intellectual, as a professional, as a member of my chosen religious community. Women who look like me are the girl next door, the sensible wife, the breaker of glass ceilings, the comedienne, the thinking man’s sex symbol. There is little-to-nothing about my appearance that anyone would take as physically or psychologically threatening.
I am so incredibly lucky and have never really owned it. It’s much more socially acceptable to talk about wanting to lose 10 pounds than it is to talk about the ways your looks have made life easier. The latter feels simultaneously like bragging (as though you were claiming to be a goddess with people falling at your feet) and self-deprecation (as though you’re admitting that you didn’t earn what you’ve gotten).
So for what it’s worth, here’s one medium-sized brown-haired white woman saying that lookswise, I hit the lottery. And it’s not because I’ve bought the right products or developed the right attitude, because it’s much bigger than learning to be pretty or love yourself as-is. It has nothing to do with me at all. It has to do with the luck of being born into what my culture considers the right body. It has to do with the luck of having an inner self that matches the stereotypes of my outer self.
I want to work for a world in which everyone has it as easy as I do.
Elaine via Marie Claire.
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Already Pretty contributor Robin Abrahams writes the Miss Conduct social-advice column in the Boston Globe. (Got a question? Send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org!) Robin has a PhD in research psychology and is married to Marc Abrahams, creator of the Ig Nobel Prizes.
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