A few days ago, I was unpacking my winter clothes and putting away my summer clothes, and I realized that there was a small section at the very back of my closet that had gone untouched for years. The garments hanging back there literally had cobwebs and a thick layer of dust on the shoulders. It was the Haunted Zone!
I pulled out these garments to decide if there was any justification for keeping them any longer, since I obviously hadn’t been wearing them frequently. One was the skirt-suit I bought for a friend’s wedding in 2000 and wore a few times after that, but it’s out of style now. One was a silk blouse I bought in a thrift shop, which is nice but too big for me. One was the red velvet micro-mini cocktail dress I bought in 1992 and wore to a couple of college parties, but I really thought I’d passed it on years ago! (I found that I still can squeeze into it, but it’s absurdly tight in the hips, and it always was uncomfortably short!) All these things need to be given away.
But then there was this dress, this sort of elegant party dress that I’d totally forgotten I ever owned. As best I recall, this is the story behind this dress: I was shopping for an outfit for a special event, a springtime event, and I wasn’t finding anything appropriate that fit me, but then in the downtown Macy’s this dress was marked down to an extremely reasonable price, like $20, and it fit so well that I bought it anyway. I thought that although it really wasn’t a springtime style, I could wear it to the event if I couldn’t find anything more suitable. But then I did find a nice springtime dress at another store, so I hung this one in the closet, thinking I’d wear it to some other special event in the future.
The event I was shopping for may have been my brother’s wedding, which was 7 years ago! Not only do I not attend a whole lot of dressy events, but I really had forgotten that I had this dress. Now what?
Discovering the dress in the Haunted Zone a few days before Halloween inspired me. I would wear it as my Halloween costume! Instead of waiting for somebody to invite me to some kind of evening event in the fall or winter where I’d have to be “dressed up, but not in a businesslike way,” and relying on myself to remember the dress when that invitation finally came, I would just wear the dang thing already!
This idea reminded me of a story that made the rounds by email some years ago, about somebody’s brother-in-law tearfully selecting clothes for his young wife to wear in her coffin, clothes she’d never worn because, “She was saving them for a special occasion.” I thought about the three dresses I bought in September, suitable for office wear or church, none of which I had worn yet because I’m between jobs and I’m dogged by the feeling that I’m unworthy in various ways–and also because my time at church always involves wrangling my two-year-old and often involves serving food, and I didn’t want to mess up my new dresses.
I decided, therefore, that this Halloween I would dress as A Person Who Deserves to Wear This Dress. Because the dress deserves to be worn. Because keeping it in the back of my closet isn’t doing anyone any good. Because it’s washable, so it doesn’t even matter if I spill something, and I don’t have to be perfect! I can wear a pretty dress just because I feel like wearing a pretty dress! It doesn’t have to be a once-in-a-lifetime occasion!
My kids were wearing their Halloween costumes to church on Sunday for the church-school Halloween party, so I stealthily wore my costume, too. Nobody noticed that I was wearing a Halloween costume. But several people commented that I was wearing a nice dress! It turns out that it’s really quite comfortable. Maybe I should wear nicer dresses to church more often. Gee, maybe I should even debut my new dresses at church instead of waiting for my new job! Maybe I should dress as if worshiping God is a special occasion, special enough that I’m not saving my best clothes for something specialer. Maybe I should wear those new dresses to church first so that I can ask God’s blessing on them and on all my other good intentions for the new job that I’m praying will come my way.
Furthermore, sliding this dress over my head and then looking into the mirror smacked me with a reminder to be grateful that I’m so fortunate: Although in the years since I bought this dress I’ve been through a pregnancy that caused a hernia and the surgery to repair the hernia, I’ve bounced back to exactly the same size and shape I was before any of that happened. In fact–as proven by the cocktail dress–I’m not all that far from the shape and size I was when I was 19, long before my first pregnancy. A lot of mothers are permanently altered by childbearing so that none of their old clothes fit anymore and they can’t have the comfort of wearing familiar old things again and never feel like they are living in their old body ever again, but I had only a brief taste of that while I was actually pregnant! I just turned into a sort of eggplant with legs temporarily, and then I was returned to my familiar body again. I had to part with only my smallest-waisted clothes after the first pregnancy. I’m so lucky, and sometimes I kind of forget to feel it.
Between the cold weather on Halloween and my arthritic feet’s need for proper support during the long walk with a lot of stair-climbing that is trick-or-treating, I was forced to accessorize the dress with a coat and running shoes. Oh well. Anything goes on Halloween! (I also wore a silk T-shirt under the dress for warmth. I managed to keep it from showing at the neckline by tucking it into my pantyhose.)
Nobody asked what my costume was. They were busy admiring my two-year-old in her scientist costume. That’s okay. I’m just glad that I wore this dress and proved that I can wear this dress.
Maybe pretending on Halloween to be A Person Who Deserves to Wear This Dress will help me to believe more consistently that I am A Person Who Deserves to Get a Good Job. Sometimes it seems like my skills and qualifications are all neatly hung up and waiting for me, but I just can’t even remember that they are there.
Getting all the way to the back of my closet and making use of what I found there worked for me!