Some years ago, I read a book by Jayne Ann Krentz (I can’t recall which one, as I’ve read probably a hundred books by her under her multiple pseudonyms) in which the main character was hopelessly fashion-challenged. Her shirt was always wrinkled or stained, she’d have a runner in her hose, her hair would be tumbling down or something would keep her from looking chic, sleek and put-together.
I so identified with that heroine.
My mother, bless her heart, could have been the original model for that fictional fashion disaster. Mother wore her Mary Kay make-up too thick, so there were always foundation smudges on her collars, and she clung to her blue eye-shadow until the end. She wore hose (sometimes with runs) with shorts, and was especially fond of her battered pink flats. Those of us who knew her noted those quirks with affection; the beauty of her spirit made her look perfect to us, no matter what unique combination of garments she might have put together that day. I still remember very clearly some of the, um, interesting outfits she made for me when I was growing up — like the cowgirl skirt and vest made of pink fake-leather with black braid trim (I was in high school) and the hip-hugger, bell-bottom pants made of gold crushed velvet upholstery fabric. Even in the seventies, those were … odd. But I loved her for the effort.
As for me, I enjoy watching fashion shows like What Not to Wear on TV, even though I know I’d probably be a candidate for a makeover. I never know quite what to wear to any particular event, which means I’ve been known to show up over- or under-dressed on more than one occasion. I tend to find a style that works (ish) for me, and wear variations of that style in different (dark) colors nearly every day until my daughters finally convince me it’s time for a change. It doesn’t help that I’m … well, thrifty. I bee-line for the clearance racks at Kohl’s or Penney’s and I’m always delighted to find something that fits — for 60 percent off! My motto is “never pay full price!” (Unless it’s for books, of course — and even for those, I usually pull out my Books a Million discount card.)
When I was in junior high, I was awed by a girl named Maurey who always came to school looking so fashionable and chic. She made it look effortless — her collar cocked just so, cuffs turned back, just the right jewelry or shoes or hair accessories. I remember trying to imitate her, and knowing even then that I was completely missing the mark. I was the Jayne heroine with the tumbled down hair or the run in the hose (or I was dressed in a pink leatherette cowgirl skirt or gold crushed velvet bell bottoms).
Now there are other people I know who always look just right, who “get it” when it comes to fashion. And yet …
Some of my favorite people have been the ones who are known for their questionable styles. The ones who make you smile just to think about them. The ones to whom there are a lot more important things in life than the latest arbitrary fashion “rules”, the most popular designer labels or the “right” look. The ones whose beauty radiates from the inside … like my amazing mother, who had so many friends from every walk of life.
So, the next time you see me, whatever I’m wearing, you’ll know that I tried to look nice that day. That I probably bought the outfit on sale. Sometimes it even works — the right look in the right place at the right time. Whew.
But what I hope you notice first is my smile. A smile is always in style.
Don’t forget — THE DOCTOR’S UNDOING is in stores now! And be sure to click the Enter to Win! tab above for details about the prize drawing on September 1.