Last week a miracle happened. Despite missing my flight last Tuesday because I had forgotten my passport, I somehow managed to land in Austin, Texas, only a few hours later than planned and still make it on time for dinner with friends that evening. When I had arrived at Heathrow airport earlier that day and realized that I didn’t have my passport , I had doubted whether I’d be making it to Austin in time for the wedding we were going to last weekend, much less for our dinner that night. So I was amazed that I landed in time to go straight from the airport to dinner.
The only problem was that I was in dingy sweat pants with holes, and from what I had seen online, the restaurant looked nice. My husband had gone ahead on our planned flight to Austin with both of our bags, and I wasn’t able to get in touch with him in time to get him to find me a change of clothes from my bag. So I was left with a choice: show up at the restaurant looking like a bum or break my rule and buy something new during my layover at Houston airport that I could wear to dinner. I decided that I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy something but that, if there was a clothes store on the way between my arrival and departure gates and if that store had something I would definitely wear often in the future, then I would get something new.
As fate would have it, I got off my plane from London and saw a Brooks Brothers straight ahead. Right at the front of the shop was a red and black striped no-iron shirt dress that was exactly the kind of comfortable, casual but not too casual, dress that both would be appropriate for dinner and that I expected I would wear often. They only had two sizes left of it, and one of those sizes was mine. So I bought it.
Arriving at the restaurant in my new dress, I realized that Austin is a lot more casual than London and that I probably could have gotten away with wearing my sweatpants without any dirty looks. Also, even if I had gotten any dirty looks, why should I have cared? Except our friends, who would have understood the situation because they knew about my passport drama, I was never going to see anyone in that restaurant again. It’s amazing how even after a year of trying to break my old ways of thinking about clothes I still worry so much about what other people will think about what I wear.
At the same time, it was freeing to realize after the fact that I had bought the dress because I liked it and it looked comfortable even though I had no idea whether it was stylish or ‘in’ this year/season/whatever fashion cycle we’re on. I obviously see what people are wearing on the street, but because I don’t look in stores or at shopping websites anymore (or even the ads the shopping websites send by email) I don’t really know what current trends are. It’s incredibly freeing not to know, not to feel pressure to wear things you wouldn’t otherwise really want to wear. I hope that, even if I do start buying new stuff again after this year ends, I can manage to avoid knowing what’s ‘in’.