The Evolution of an Outfit

One night last summer, I was knee-deep in my garden, pulling out oversized weeds and wearing an old t-shirt of my husband's, my light pink crocs and the black capri pants that I had bought at The French Connection, a trendy boutique on Columbus Avenue in 1999. The pants that I had purchased for a dinner at an up-and-coming restaurant had made their way down the clothing food chain into an item that warranted being covered in mud. The transformation didn't happen overnight, I reminded myself. The capris had time to get used to their gardening status. A couple of years into our relationship, they were worn out only during the day and then not allowed out of the house at all -- unless you count the mulch in my front yard.

How did this happen? I asked around and heard similar stories of such evolutions. My friend's young daughter now runs around her basement playing dress up in a once-treasured scarf of her mother's. The mother remembers buying the scarf at Ann Taylor to accent her new suit right before an important job interview. Over time, the scarf got demoted to a sweater accessory, then filled in as a belt on old jeans and eventually became a child's toy.

I felt a bit sad for these items. Did they know they weren't as special anymore? I thought back to last summer again, when I wore the black sundress purchased at Betsy Johnson eight seasons prior for an outdoor wedding. It had somehow morphed into a beach top -- covered in sand and sun tan lotion. Was I being fair to the dress that once danced the Horah and hob knobbed with men's sear sucker suits?

Perhaps the biggest offense was the cashmere sweater that my late grandmother (a stylish woman in her day) gave me on a chilly fall afternoon when I stopped by her apartment for a visit. "Take this," she said as we made our way to a new exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. I felt like a million dollars draped in the soft light grey cardigan, and I wanted the world to see it.

I worshipped that sweater in the beginning of our relationship, saving it for special days at work -- perhaps a dressy brunch in the winter. Slowly, it became a weekend sweater and now, I sleep in it. It only sees my bedroom walls. Currently isolated from the busy social scene it once lived in, I wonder what it would say. If only cashmere could talk.

In all fairness to me and other offenders, styles change as do lifestyles. In many companies, jeans are now an acceptable choice, and not just on Fridays. So, what is a girl to do with all of those dressy clothes? I think back to my grandfather, who even in the last years of his life, wore a tie to the theatre and a sport jacket on airplanes. I don't think he would be amused.

I give myself a break. I think about the changes in my life over the last decade and realize that the clothes must have seen the metamorphism, too. They should learn to go with the flow. Each item had their special time. Perhaps the black capris like being in the dirt -- they are back with nature, I tell myself.

Last spring, I bought pair of Jack Rogers platinum flip-flops, and they are having a pretty good run -- going into work meetings, out with friends and even accompanying me on vacation. Not bad for a shoe originally designed for the beach and the shower. "Enjoy it while you can," I tell them, and I think that deep down, they hear me.