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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Wardrobe Challenge

Day 1 of My Wardrobe Challege
Dressing as a Successful Author
In the spring of 1988, I undertook a challenge intended to make the work-a-day world just a tad bit more exciting.  I was newly named as a Vice President at Shawmut Bank in Springfield, MA. My primary duties were to manage the personal banking offices in Hampshire and Franklin Counties.  With a team of over 80 employees, I was on the road most of the time. With the promotion, my home base, formerly in Springfield, was moved to Amherst. I attended meetings in Springfield and Boston two days each week.  The remainder of my time was spent traveling on the Interstate and backroads between Amherst and Route 2 in Orange, MA. This amount of travel necessitated a reliable car and professional clothes that did not show wrinkles.  My wardrobe was built slowly, over about five years.  I felt uplifted when I laid out my clothes at night; It brought me all of the joy of playing dress-up as a child.  First, I selected the dress or the suit (pants were not acceptable wear at the bank at that time). Then, I coordinated matching lingerie and stockings.  The shoes that I chose were tucked neatly beneath the outfit. At the time, I wore sensible 2” heels with just a bit of flair in bone, brown, blue and black. I tried to use one purse for a week at a time. My preference was a Coach handbag in tan, brown or black.  My briefcase was always the same.  Brown leather, with my initials embossed next to the lock.  
I was not a big shopper, but I did follow the advice that I  received in college; dress as the person I wanted to be. Right out of the gate,.with diploma in hand, I wanted to have a job. I wanted to be a bank officer. I wanted to be an assistant vice president.  I wanted to be a vice president.  Through out the eight preceding years, I found myself buying quality and sacrificing quantity.  I did much of my shopping in Boston because the options were so much greater.  However, I rarely had much time to shop, and I was always very careful with my budget.  I would often rifle through merchandise during seasonal sales.  I found shops that sold high end second-hand clothes.  A friend introduced me to Cohoes, a large retailer that took deep discounts in their pricing. I became a fan of Filene’s Basement. Finally, I made friends with a saleswoman at Steiger’s Department Store. She called me when something came in that she thought I would flatter my figure.  She would set aside an item she thought I would like, holding it days longer than store policy dictated. Her taste was impeccable; admittedly, she often caused me to go slightly over-budget.  In her accent that bespoke of a Polish heritage, she told me that I would remember the dress she had selected (navy blue dress with white polka dots, sleeveless, cinched waist, full skirt, mid-calf) and not the price.  It has been 24 years, and, as she predicted, I remember the dress, not the price tag.  
Another sales woman who brought joy and a little magic into my life was Judith Fine, the owner of The Gazebo, a lingerie shop in Northampton, MA.  One day, I called her store and told her I needed a set of unmentionables to match an outfit I planned to wear for my wedding anniversary.  She was kind enough to keep her store open late just for me.  When I found an open parking spot and scooted into her store, she smiled, and without saying anything, handed me a bag with colorful ribbon streaming from the handles. I peaked inside and saw she had made selections in my size. They were wrapped in purple tissue.  I went to pull out my credit card and she said, “I’ve already charged them to your account. You better be on your way.”  Wow!  Service like that is hard to find.
It took a whole cast of characters and an assembly of stores to put me together in a Vice President-looking-expensive-but-not-over-budget sort of way.  I was grateful to every one of them. 
To test my ingenuity and as a testament to the fine work that he powers that be did in helping me build a suitable bank-worthy wardrobe, I created a challenge for myself;
I did not wear the same outfit twice for an entire month.  A No Repeat Month!  It was with extreme satisfaction that I successfully completed the task.  I believe there must be a mathematical equation that could have predicted my odds of success.  Since I was not clever enough to calculate the odds, I did things the old-fashioned way. I just did it.  Every evening I made a little note of the outfit I planned to wear the next day.  At the end of a month, having navigated my wardrobe with no repetitions, I earned a reward.  I placed a call to Steiger’s Department Store.  While I was on hold waiting for the Women’s Department to pick up, I wondered what my friend might have in mind for me this time.  
Yesterday, I decided to repeat this challenge in the new mileu in which I find myself.  A month.  No repetitions. I can see it will be challenging because I have a weekend overnight planned, and traveling light is mandated.  I will see just how clever I can be.

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