It is perhaps the only pure act of masochism that I practice on a regular basis: reading the “What I Wore” column in the New York Times Style section.
Sometimes the subject of the profile is a celebrity I’ve heard of; other times it’s a socialite whom I haven’t; but no matter what, I’m in the dark when they describe their clothing. Only occasionally am I familiar with the designer; sometimes I’m not even familiar with the piece of apparel they name. And oh, do they spend a lot of time changing clothes. An outfit for yoga. An outfit for morning coffee. An outfit for a midmorning meeting and another one for a photo shoot. Then a quick clothes-change for lunch out and another change of clothes before an afternoon meeting. Finally, the Big Three of end-of-day costuming: a cocktail party outfit; a dinner outfit; and a clubbing outfit.
I try to imagine applying this standard to my own life. If I break down what I wear in a typical day, it looks like this: Track pants (which used to belong to Tim’s friend Austin) and a Dare to Stay Off Drugs t-shirt (which used to belong to Tim) for my morning run. Add to that L.L. Bean duck boots and work gloves for when I’m in the barn feeding the cows. Pants and a pullover sweater for workday, which encompasses morning coffee, lunch, meetings and appointments that crop up in the course of the day, and picking up the kids at the bus or after their extracurricular activities. Then, if I’m really lucky and have no evening commitment, sweat pants and a hoodie before starting dinner preparations; that outfit will easily get me through to bedtime.
Yes, in some respects I’m envious of the socialites and celebrities with their lives so fabulous that the clothes merit their own column in the New York Times. There isn’t one aspect of my life interesting enough to make the pages of the New York Times, and these people show up not only for their own endeavors and activities but for the existence of their clothes! But in other respects, I wonder if they might be envious of my approach to dress once in a while. Sure, it must be wonderful to wear Jimmy Choo and Miu Miu and Marc Jacobs and Isabel Marant and Vionnet all within the course of 24 hours. But having your attire reported on in the New York Times must be a lot of pressure too. I wonder if they ever wish they were me, a self-employed writer and homemaker in small-town New England wearing sweats to make dinner.
Most likely not. They didn’t get where they are by dreaming of smaller things, after all. And I’d love to own, or even borrow – okay, even just breathe on – some of those items that hang from their closets. But I also love my purple Gap hoodie and the quiet, low-key evenings it represents to me.