By Michelle October
“Thank god my grandmother wasn’t available”
Recently, in an office slam down, I volunteered to let my mom dress me for a week. Surprisingly, this is not the only one of the many brazen attempts I’ve made at being a professional experimenter.
Full disclosure: my wardrobe is currently undergoing dramatic reconstruction. This year alone, I have culled, demolished, obliterated and nuked the majority of my closet. That’s mostly because for the last three years, I’ve been labouring under the delusion that my varsity wardrobe was good enough to get me through editorial meetings, press events and the occasional face-to-face interview.
Nothing could be further from the truth. While my colleague, Wanita, told me before my first day at Women’s Health that I could wear jeans and sneakers to the office, my boss Danielle is famously never seen without a pair of heels, statement earrings and an outfit that says “I’m here to work.” I, on the other hand, often look like I am saying, “I’m here to loiter.” Having rebooted my look before, I was more than ready for my mom to redo my outfits for me.
I was not ready, however, for her not to like any of my clothes. But she persevered, and for day one, she picked out a hideous orange sweater I’d reserved for nothing other than slouching. The reasons for the sweater’s designation are two-fold: for one, it’s orange. (It was Elle Woods who once said: “Whoever said orange is the new pink was seriously disturbed.”) Secondly, the cut of the sweater is an unfashionable V-neck, and not at all like the crew necks in vogue right now. But I take my job very seriously and deigned to dress myself in whatever my mom deemed appropriate. She paired the orange with maroon heels (the only pair of heeled boots I own) and a brown coat. My mom says it’s okay because it’s only three colours and that’s as many colours as you can wear on one outfit. She even picked out my accessories: a bronze (surely colour number 4?) necklace that’s unfashionably long, but I haven’t thrown it out so it’s fair game.
My colleagues are unusually fond of my outfit, sweater be damned. I am vexed because walking is exceedingly difficult and I am wearing a bright orange sweater that makes it impossible for people not to notice me.
Today my mother has redeemed herself by selecting one of my go-to outfits since it was published in Seventeen magazine circa 2004: shirt plus jersey plus bottoms = preppy and chic. I am happy, despite the fact that I am wincing every time I walk. My mom has also appeased me by selecting a handmade choker with an elephant pendant. Also, this time the colours match. All the grey and brown makes my dark millennial soul very happy and I traipse around like Hermione Granger, but the one who’s Minister of Magic and IN CHARGE.
By Wednesday my mom is over it. She selects a Canadian tuxedo, which she would only ever wear on a Saturday, and while my mother is suspicious of my so-called casual dress code, she lets me wear sneakers (!!!!!) to work. The times they are a-changin’! I am in my happy place once again, as you can tell by my pose. It says: “I am a Levi’s billboard girl who is care-free and fun-loving!” Psych. I have a very serious job.
Or, should we say, back at Day 1? Because this outfit is TERRIBLE. Yes, I get to wear flat shoes, but the hair tied back into this terribly austere bun, paired with the noose-like scarf feels very disproportionate. The worse part is that you can see my elfish ears. This has always been an insecurity of mine, and the chief reason I firmly advocate for wearing one’s hair loosely to school. (#NotAllEars.) My mother told me not to wear glittery socks under my boots, but it is winter and my feet were freezing so I rebelled and now it looks like I have stocky legs. Another insecurity. Again, this outfit receives rave reviews. “You look like J-Lo!” “I love your hair like that!” Nobody takes hair reform at schools seriously enough.
This outfit is my mom’s swan song. Here, my mom is saying to me, in melancholy grey mingled with agitated, controlling red, “You don’t have to look like trash all the time. Take yourself more seriously. Wear a collar.” She spent this morning also making sure I understood the basics of layering. Before, I was unteachable, but because I am writing this story as a feat of high-brow investigative journalism, I am open to alternative voices and a difference of opinion. As a result, I am wearing three layers beneath the red coat: a long johns top, and over that, a trendy grey top that is cropped. Over that, I am wearing a grey vest that is conveniently high-necked, to hide all the layers. This, my mom explained, is how you look good, even in winter.
From this experience, I’ve grown wiser and can dish out valuable intel to prospective interns and other slothish beings. First, reject orange. Sometimes wearing three colours is actually not okay. Ignore the colleagues who tell you otherwise. Secondly, my mom is right: you need to learn how to layer. An easy way to layer is to buy lots of tops with the same neckline, so you don’t have to wear an entire vest just to hide it, and end up stuffing thick wads of fabric in your skinny jeans. Another tip: hide necklines with a scarf. (Note to self: must ask mom why she didn’t think of this.) Lastly, I do think it’s a great idea to let someone else take over your wardrobe. People need change and a shift in perspective; something as simple as a fresh pair of eyes on your recently retrenched closet can do a body good. I’ll try and class things up more, mom.