But since I believe in putting things in perspective, having a positive attitude, all that stuff (well, I'm actually in favour of extended grumbling as well, but there's no one at home to listen, so it's really not that much fun), I remind myself that last time I was in the city, I had a great time. I also got a charming compliment when I was shopping at Holt's which so pleased me that I had Paul take a picture of my outfit later to commemorate the moment: As I was coming out of the washroom, a very smartly dressed, attractive young woman was coming in. As we manoeuvred past each other, she smiled and said, "You look lovely." Perhaps it sounds odd out of context, but it was a convincingly sincere comment on my outfit and/or demeanor, and I savoured it for its unsolicited spontaneity. I also will occasionally (and judiciously, I like to think) comment on some aspect of a stranger's clothing that pleases me, and I almost invariably evoke a surprised smile in response.
Partly this incident pleased me for the fleeting connection between two women across a generation. So often, we women critique each other's dress, culturally conditioned for eons to dress for the male gaze, competitively conditioned by high school to be bitches to each other! Some sloppy theorizing in that last sentence, obviously, but while we complain about the male eye checking us out, we've all seen that female eye raking our outfit from top to bottom before turning away, and, at best, never letting on what the verdict is, at worst, turning to say something derogatory to a friend. Yet I know much about the generosity of the female gaze as well, and for me, the young woman in Holt's epitomized it. More, she recognized my desire to "look lovely" for the world, the pleasure and effort I'd put into creating that particular look for that particular day. Une femme wrote a post weeks ago about aspiring to look 'chic' and what that word might mean for different women, and I've thought on and off since then about writing a response. Generally, I think 'chic' isn't something that I do aspire to, and I will write at some point about why not -- something about the word suggests too much polish and control, perhaps, for my personality -- but something like 'chic' was what I was feeling that day, and that young woman recognized it.
When I show you the photos of what I was wearing that day, you don't need to agree that I achieved 'chic.' I've already said what was important about the moment the photos testify to -- my own feeling of looking good and someone else recognizing it and willing to reach out and let me know. The photos themselves show you an older woman in a (fabulous, I think!) cloche, wearing jeans tucked into her brown slouchy leather boots, feeling great in a Free People babydoll black hoodie [which I love for its witty, stylish interpretation of a street/mall classic] that I've embellished with a leopard-print rose brooch I've had for several years. What I like to think about this outfit is that I've taken my basic black and denim and updated it enough to look current without compromising my own style -- so yes, I've got elements of trendy (the babydoll style, the slouchy boots), but they're elements that please me for their own sake. And I've got elements that are a bit more idiosyncratic and that I'll wear beyond this season's style cycle long into the future -- the hat, the brooch.
I feel exposed, self-conscious, very vulnerable to your gaze right now, not so much for showing you the photos, but for letting you know I think this much about my appearance, something I've been taught to think is a superficial concern as much as I've been culturally conditioned to concern myself with. Truly, I don't spend hours thinking about fashion, appearance, style, and deciding what to wear, but it is important to me, and I try to feature honesty in this blog, so vulnerable I am!
Now, having reminded myself of the pleasures the city offers, I'm off to stop my grumbling, get in a quick run, and try to decide what to pack for dinner with a friend tonight, drinks and a Molly Johnson concert with more friends tomorrow night, and a breakfast of my favourite crêpes Saturday or Sunday morning with a daughter and her guy. You have fun too!