Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Every Picture Tells a Story, Don't It?

Valerie wore this outfit to work the other day, and got to thinking that every piece had a lesson to teach.

Starting at the top:

The necklace:

This Mexican sterling and onyx necklace was in the display case at a thrift shop.  The price discreetly stuck on the front was very reasonable for the merchandise, but still would have bought quite a few lunches.  So it was not a transaction to be entered into lightly, and I asked the clerk to take it out of the case.  When I turned it over, there was another sticker on the back that priced the necklace at two lunches, transforming the moment out of the realm of hesitant lust and into the realm of done deal.  Happily, the clerk had been waiting on me the whole time, and graciously honored the two-lunch price tag.

Moral: Objects that look far away are closer than they appear.

The shirt:

Several weeks ago Jean and I stopped at a favorite resale shop, and after combing through the racks we went to the communal dressing room with our respective finds.   There were a few things we each rejected, and gave to the other to try on.  This shirt, with the wonderful asymmetrical hem, was one of Jean's rejects.  I would never have found this piece on my own, or if I'd found it I would have rejected it because it has eighteen snaps (too much trouble), AND because it has sewn-in ties (I prefer mine removable), AND because it's a size 36, which I would have assumed too small for me.  (These are examples of what everyone is now referring to as lizard brain - the primitive part of the brain that makes snap judgments.)

But Jean prodded me to try it on, and we both love the designer, Ivan Grundahl, so convincing me was easy. I loved the look, it fit, and I bought it.

Moral: 1) it pays to listen to your friends, and 2) overcome your prejudices (your lizard brain).

Jean says: I have to confess that the minute after I'd offered the top to Valerie, I immediately regretted it.  Seeing the top on Valerie only made my lizard brain want it more.  (It's sort of like that boyfriend in high school whom you thought was only OK, until other girls became interested. Suddenly, he became so much more desirable.) Figuring that it was bad form to just rip it off her back, I convinced myself that when she decided not to take it, I'd get my second chance to pounce and make it mine.  So, of course, she loved it and I never got that second chance -- and since I never told her until now, she'll find out by reading this.

Speaking of lizards, here's what the well dressed frilled lizard brain is wearing these days (from

The bracelet:

Shortly after college graduation, I was working in a department store in a job that was about to be phased out. The store didn't let me go, but they had no place to put me. So I did what anyone would do - I volunteered to take a month off without pay, and spent the time in a youth hostel in Italy.  (Yes, you could afford to do that back then!)  I watched my lire carefully, and spent the time going to museums (in the days before entrance fees were $18 and waiting lines at the entrance were an hour long), window shopping, soaking up the local history, eating amazing Italian chocolate and drinking incomparable cappuccino.  Just days before I was to leave, I passed - for the millionth time - a tiny jewelry shop where I had fallen in love with a bracelet of sterling silver bits punctuated by coral bits.  In the window, I could never see the price, and was mortified at the thought of asking.  But I had bought barely any souvenirs, so treating myself seemed a real possibility.  I rehearsed appropriate questions and answers, and went inside.  The price, L40,000 (well under $40 then), was so reasonable that it's amazing I didn't faint on the spot. Ecstatically, I reached into my wallet, only to discover (in the years before ATMs, when banking hours were short and lines to cash travelers' checks were long) that I only had L35,000 on me. This was something I had not rehearsed for.  Crestfallen, I apologized for wasting the store owner's time.  But he waved away my concerns.  "L35,000?", he said in Italian.  "That will be fine."  Pan the camera to my dumbfounded face, which then reverts to ecstasy.  I still love this bracelet.

Moral: 1) American thinking is useful in America - when in Rome, do as the Romans do; and 2) Big memories hide in small places.

The gauchos:

Remember gaucho pants?  Everyone had to have them in the '70s. These are Issey Miyake, from the 80s. They're incredibly well made, so I was able to wear them for years - actually, for more than a decade till I blew up like a balloon, and the elastic waist began to feel like an external gastric band.  I came close to giving the gauchos away a hundred times, and can't say what stopped me.  I probably wore these pants fewer than five times in the past five years, and all wardrobe specialists will tell you that should be the point of no return.  When I tried them on the other day (what got into me?), they didn't fit as they did in the '80s, but they fit (!), they still looked like new, and even worked well with the shirt.

Moral: 1) classics aren't in style, so they don't go out of style; 2) sometimes it's good to jettison your own rules.

The boots:

I saw these Diane von Furstenbergs - 9 1/2, exactly my size - at a resale shop, priced at $99. I must have schlepped them around the store for an hour weighing the pros and cons of spending what I thought was an exorbitant price at a resale shop.  $50 would have been an immediate yes; $99 demanded deep reflection.   I tried them on several times, waiting for Buyer's Epiphany.   In the end, I convinced myself that paying $99 and getting boots I really liked NOW was better than finding cheaper ones after another year of searching. (Yes, I had been looking for at least one winter, and maybe longer.) When I got to the register, the cashier told me the ticket code indicated these boots were 50% off because they had been there a long time, and I nearly ROTFL at myself and the good joke the universe had played on me and my Shopper's Angst.

Later, when I got home, I looked at the bottom of the boots again and discovered they were actually size 8 1/2.  If I'd read the size correctly at the store, I never would have tried them on.  Most likely the boots got old at the store because they were tried on by a legion of women who wore 8 1/2 and all found the boots huge.  And they weren't tried on by any women who wore 9 1/2, except one half blind one - me.

Moral: 1) It pays to shop outside your size; 2) If the universe gives you the boot, you should try it on.

So remember, every picture tells a story, don't it? Wuuuu!

(Thanks to Rod Stewart, who presciently named this post before it even existed.)


  1. Great post! I love all those stories. Charming. : )

  2. I love every component of this outfit, and your lessons are all worth remembering. Kudos on a very entertaining post!

  3. Wonderful post! Love the stories that go with clothes.

  4. It gives great joy t when you can look down at your outfit and it tells you the story of how it came to be. It is how creative dressing should be! Love your posts!

  5. LOVE THIS!!!! I always have stories that accompany my clothes too, so this was sheer joy. I loved every tidbit, and could totally relate. Oh, except I've never been to Italy, so thank you for taking me there. I love every single piece you showed and you look AWESOME. :-)

  6. "If the universe gives you the boot, try it on." I love this and I enjoy your blog so much.