For day one of the new job, I bought a new dress on Sunday. I had to have something new to mark this occasion. I have always sentimentalized outfits for my first day of school, so this day at 26-years-old should be no different. It was like a first date, and I simply wanted to make an outstanding first impression.
In fact, the Sunday before the new job, I wore a Betsey Johnson dress I bought in Atlanta for my first day of 10th grade. It’s sleeveless and medium cool blue with a lace band right under the empire bustline and a matching swiss dot ruffle around the hemline. I know the entire provenance and history of that dress, and every time I wear it I can remember the occasion for which I purchased it, and what it felt like to wear my first “designer dress.” It was a Tuesday, the first day of 10th grade, and my 15th birthday. Catherine had picked me up for school because she was the first of my friends to get her driver’s license, and her parents had gotten her a brand new black Honda Civic. I paired it with a bright red acrylic cable knit cardigan I had ordered from the Delia’s catalog I so cherished every month. I love wearing the dress still because it is vintage, but it’s my vintage. It reminds me that although my tastes have hopefully been refined over the years, I have always had strong sense of style and made lasting fashion choices.
Back to the matter at hand, though: my dress for the first day at a new job. I bought a red seersucker dress with a fitted bodice and a full circle skirt. I stepped across Leonard Street while I was waiting for my laundry to finish, and tried on every dress in Fred Flare. I’m a really fast and decisive shopper, never poring over any choice too long. Neither cutting edge nor fashion-forward, this dress caught my attention because of its classic nod to girly elegance. With spaghetti straps and a sweetheart neckline, it required me to forego a bra, which is always an asset in my book. The skirt shape practically begged me to at least try a twirl. And once I’d spun around once in the mirror, I had found my First Day Dress.
I paired it with my powder blue silk and cashmere MJ cardigan and a pair of black 5-inch peep-toe wedges I’d bought on a girls’ shopping trip to Daffy’s. I walked the entire way (nearly a mile) to the train in those shoes, and my feet didn’t even start to hurt until around noon. For accessories, I wore the heart necklace I wear every day that Sarah had given me for my 24th birthday and the stainless steel Submariner my dad got me for my high school graduation. It’s still way too big for my little wrists, but I love the mix of masculine/feminine that threw off-kilter the picture of femininity that was my dress.
For the second day, I thought I’d switch it up a bit, going for a much more modern and funky look. Like a monkey, I can’t resist anything that is shiny, so I wore what I call my “Mardi Gras skirt.” It’s a silver, purple, green, and yellow metallic tweed A-line from MJ that is just simple enough to be a daytime classic but just ridiculously sparkly enough to only make sense for evening.
Since I barely know my new coworkers but I still want them to think I’m fun, I figured I’d tried to tone it down a little, and I paired this tour-de-force of a skirt with a v-neck American Apparel grey t-shirt, of which I have four. The heart necklace and Submariner made an appearance in this outfit as well. All of this was topped off with this beautiful black leather classic motorcycle jacket from Club Monaco that I got in Toronto for 40% off just because there was a nearly invisible scratch in the leather. And the shoes to go with this had to be my plainest beaten-up pair of black Dolce and Gabbana ballet flats that I bought from yoox.com my sophomore year of college and have worn constantly ever since. They’ve been resoled about 4 times, but they are classic and I doubt I’ll ever find a pair like them again, so I hang on tight.
For me, this ritual of picking out the perfect outfit is partially reinvention, but mostly it is a re-assertion of my own style choices throughout the years. Mimicking the philosophy of that Girl Scout song, I believe that you should hang onto classics, but still allow room for trends. With some of the key pieces in my wardrobe still being worn ten years on, I’d say that philosophy has served me well. Perhaps it is materialistic to think that the clothes make the woman, but I think we can all appreciate the old-friend feeling of comfort our favorite sweater gives us and the new-lover sense of excitement a dress can bring when we put it on for the first time. I've made some new friends, but I've certainly kept the old. And I'm happy to pair silver and gold as long as they both make me feel like a million bucks.