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Intro & First Story.
This is not a newsletter... it's a collection of essays tied by a thread.
I have a friend who remembers every dish she's ever eaten. I can say something like, "Remember when we were 25 and had that huge fight at Florent because I was 45 minutes late?"And she'll say, "Oh. Yeah. I had the steak frites and it was overdone."
I'm that way with clothes. I remember the orange and mustard plaid jumper I wore to a 4th grade recital, the turquoise Danskin I paired with a white jeans skirt for the fireworks one 4th of July, when I was 18, and a heat wave had just ended, and everyone was happy, and I was very much in love.
I remember the way a slim, brown suede skirt felt against my frantically rubbing hand, when I was at work and got a phone call saying I had to get to New Jersey right away, because my father had a stroke.
Clothes might make the man, but my clothes tell my story.
Or stories. Which became clear to me as I purged my closet recently.
Here's the first one.
My (sort of) leather skirt.
The pile of clothes I’ve thrown onto my bed seems to look back at me as I stare it down. My hand brushes against a beloved, but pilling cashmere sweater and I feel the kick of adrenaline. My closet purge is on.
I start with a very soft, black leather A-line skirt that hits just above the knee. I wore it with a vintage blush-colored sleeveless top and pointy ankle boots when I presented my first ad campaign to the president of a prestigious luxury brand. Seated at a long, polished table, I felt well-dressed, until he, looking very French and very fit, walked in. The other clients took their places and I got the sense that, unlike me, they hadn't agonized over what to wear. I was sure their closets were nothing like the chaotic hodgepodge that I dervish-whirled through every morning. I pictured them to be spare, color-coded, curated. And filled, not with knockoffs, impulsive reactions to sample-sales and an embarrassing amount of Zara dresses, but with, well, with what they were wearing.
One woman wore head-to-toe Chanel. Another, Dolce & Gabbana, its label peeking out from the jacket she casually draped over the back of her chair. My skirt, which now seemed more faux than leather, was from Club Monaco and my top, from a consignment shop. Instantly, I was aware of how badly I needed a manicure and curled my fingers in, so my nails wouldn't show.
My voice wavered as I began to present. The room was too quiet. It didn't help that my new boss, who was notoriously demanding, sat to my left. I read something that was meant to be witty, and paused, for a flicker of a second, because I thought I heard a soft laugh. I dared to glance up. The Chanel woman smiled, and gave me the smallest of encouraging nods. I read with a bit more conviction, but finished to silence. Until she broke it. "Yes," she said. The others looked over. "That's exactly our tone, isn't it," she murmured to no one and everyone. The French President looked at her thoughtfully and agreed. "We need to do some tweaking, but you..." she said, fixing me with her very blue eyes, "you get the essence of this brand. There's an understated joy here." I forced my smile to contain itself to a slight grin - one that I hoped conveyed understated joy.
I drop the Club Monaco skirt onto the Yes pile and wish I could thank the woman who did exactly what women are supposed to do for each other - she reached down from what could have been a lofty CMO perch and lifted me. We all know how it feels to curl our fingers in so as not to be found out. Understanding that doesn't make you special. But doing something about it - for someone you just met; someone you owe nothing to - - that does. Thank you, Caroline.
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