On the Monday before Thanksgiving, in the middle of the day, having run some errands, I returned home and inspected my closet. The clothes were carefully arranged: vintage silk blouses next to button-downs, hanging neatly alongside dresses, and then pants, blazers and coats. I stood calmly surveying my wardrobe and accepted the truth. I am guilty of compartmentalizing. The fact that I have this tendency didn’t much surprise or particularly upset me, as it came to my attention while I was visiting with my tailor. (I regularly pass by her studio to enjoy a chat on topics as wide ranging as the weather, fabrics, horses, fashion trends, and the perplexing nature of English grammar.) I am also self–aware enough to know that I prefer structure when it comes to fashion. As much as I don’t believe in the Dos and Don’ts lists that litter women’s magazines, corralling them into what to wear at different stages in their lives, I seem to be of the school of thought of an outfit for every occasion.
I have in my lexicon: the going to the YMCA to swim outfit, the hiking outfit, the Pilates outfit, the grocery store outfit. Then, there are work clothes, party clothes, and house clothes. I suppose this attitude towards dressing has as much to do with conservation as it does with a sense of appropriateness; after all, clothes are apt to last longer if worn sparingly. I’ve noticed that most people choose their outfit for the day based on their mood. Instead of remarking on the occasion, they pay attention to what they feel like wearing at any given time. While I factor in my frame of mind, more usually, the task at hand determines my selection.
Obligation to others is what I’m in pursuit of: if someone has taken the time to cook a dinner or to throw a party, I will make the effort to dress appropriately. Even for something as sorrowful as a funeral, I keep in mind what that loved one appreciated in terms of style, and as a means of expressing my love, try to incorporate some element of it into my outfit. In today’s modern world, my call for an accountability of style will likely single me out as old fashioned, or just simply as a fantasist. Can wearing something nice and coordinated really make that much of a difference in the stark day to day? I have always supposed that dressing for the occasion is a way of enriching the communal experience. Of course, some may bristle at this idea and take it to mean I am in favor of blending in. But I have found dressing for the occasion is one of the easiest ways to connect with others while staying true to your personality. In this respect, whether getting fitted out for a party or a concert or a barbecue, occasion dressing serves to enhance the beauty of the experience for all.