Thursday, January 10, 2008

Project Runway, Madison, Wisconsin

It's amazing how much my fashion sense has devolved since I've moved back to Wisconsin. There is something in the water on the East Coast that makes you want to dress nice even if you're just going to the grocery store. At my workplace, some of the younger staffers would lobby for the occasional "jeans day" but, on the few occasions they were granted, I'd still come to work in slacks and lipstick.

In the nine years of living in Wisconsin prior to the move to PA, I bought a total of one tube of lipstick, and that was because I was in a bike crash two weeks before my sister's wedding. Half of my front tooth had broken off and gone through my upper lip and, though the swelling had gone down by the wedding date, there was still a white line on my lip from where the stitches had been removed. This was not the time to attract attention to myself, so I dabbed the spot with concealer and went around wearing lipstick (a barely perceptible neutral color, of course) all weekend.

In the year and a half I lived in PA, I bought seven tubes of lipstick, one lipliner, one eyeliner, and two compacts of face powder. I'd wear lipstick to work, of course, because it was a huge company that seemed to offer some possibility of promotions if it didn't end up imploding on itself (which it has), and I am an incredibly pale person who, sans make-up, gets remarks like, "You sure look tired," throughout the winter months -- especially on days when I'm feeling fabulous -- and nobody wants to promote a dreary broad. So I'd put concealer under my eyes and eyeliner around them and lipstick to make it appear that there was some color in my face.

But it wasn't only work. I'd wear make-up to church, to Whole Foods, to 12-step meetings -- even to Kmart. Throughout winter, I wore a tailored, boiled wool longcoat (heaven forbid I wear a parka and look like someone who lives too close to the Columbia outlet in Portland). For the first time in years, I started wearing gloves instead of mittens. I purchased shoes with heels, and wore them. I wore jewelry every day of the week -- half of the time, pearls.

But now I live in Madison. Occasionally I look at my jewelry box and think, "Huh, that's a little disused." My outfit to work today? Winter boots, jeans, a brown leather belt with two rifles on the brass buckle, a black wool zip-up turtle neck and an orange wool cardigan that became boiled wool when someone stuck it in the drier. It used to have a zipper, but the zipper puckered after the accidental boiling, so I ripped it out and sewed a clasp in at the neckline. I never wore this sweater in public when I lived in Pennsylvania; it was my "house sweater," the upper-body equivalent to a pair of cloth-bottomed slippers.

Oh, yeah. The coat? It was a parka.

I did put something on my lips today, but I don't think it counts as a fashion-forward effort. It was weatherproof lipbalm "with titanium dioxide!" -- which means it makes my lips even paler than they appear naturally. Who knew such things were possible?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

sounds like life on the east coast totally sucked.