Every day is a good excuse to wear a costume.

I’m not a “Halloween person.” For me, every day is an opportunity to decide which character I want to be and to dress the part. On days when I just really don’t want to get out of bed, I slide into a black silk blouse and comfortable black trousers to pretend I’m a socialite lounging about her penthouse in imported pajamas, sipping tea, surrounded by discarded newspaper pages, wondering where in the hell my food delivery has gotten to. On a recent dreary Wednesday, I wore that very outfit to work and a co-worker said, “For a second, I thought you were wearing pajamas.”

Thank you very much!

Some days, I can’t bear the thought of being trapped in the center of Texas, in the middle of the United States. I imagine myself, a tiny pin with a dot where my head should be, stuck into a giant map of the Western Hemisphere, surrounded by endless stretches of land. The camera pulls back and up up up, until my dot-head is an almost-invisible speck and my “aaaaaarrrrggghhh” echoes in the wasteland. I know! Very dramatic. On those days, I must pretend I’m a French girl who is considering joining forces with a handsome but dangerous revolutionary. I just need to pass one test of loyalty before I will be privy to all the details of some lucrative but benign caper. (The French spy version of me shares my real-world wishes for world peace and affection for black eyeliner). Standard uniform: black mini, black turtleneck, black tights, black boots actually from France and purchased on eBay at a time I could barely afford them, making them my most adored footwear. As I prepare for my caper, I consider fishnets, but decide that a spy-girl can’t risk drawing too much attention to herself.

It’s not always all-black. When the sun is shining and my attitude is properly adjusted, I might be “friendly girl on Saturday afternoon” and snuggle into my Spring green sweater (which has seen so much action, the elbows are threadbare). Sometimes it’s just about the shoes. Some days I feel very Converse, sometimes I don’t.

I’m mostly not exaggerating when I say I can remember what I was wearing for most significant events in my life. Stephen King used to lie in interviews and say that he wrote every day except Christmas and his birthday. In his stunningly good book On Writing, he admitted he actually does write every day, including holidays, but didn’t want to freak people out too much by being honest.

Full disclosure: I can remember what I was wearing for many insignificant events in my life, too.

I think it all started with my dad. You’d need an imagination more potent than mine to label my dad a fashionista, but he does have his own style (utilitarian with the occasional quirk… like a tissue-thin-from-washing t-shirt from the Georgia Pig BBQ joint or his bright green t-shirt that read “Jive Turkey” in silver sparkle letter across the cheest ). When I was growing up, he owned a restaurant and had a self-imposed work uniform. Every morning, we’d meet at the top of our staircase, me in my pajamas, dad in his white shirt, black bowtie, and black pants. While I sat with him, still woozy and warm from my bed, he’d polish his black oxfords and prepare for his day. He was the handsomest dad in the world on his way to the Country Squire, and his cheeks – taut and cool from shaving – smelled like Canoe. The finishing touch as he stepped out the door was a gray wool flat cap.

My mom taught me how to apply make-up and instilled in me the idea that I should always be ladylike and look my best. (Coco Chanel said something similar but with French flair: “I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.”). And Dad showed me that I could be anyone I wanted. Sure, it’s the inside that counts, but the outside is sometimes the voice of reason for the inside. And that’s why I say the clothes make the girl.

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  • Bob Schubring says:

    A costume helps one get into character. If one is playing a plumber, it helps to know that the tool belt is heavy and one must use a certain walk to keep from getting bruised by one’s costume. Playing Manhattan doorman? Hold the head erect, or that garrison cap will fall off.

    Dwight D. Eisenhower used to signal his intentions by his choice of colors. If he stepped out of the White House in a tailored brown suit…everybody at the Executive Office Building scurried to look busy, because that brown suit was Ike’s “I’m about to ream you a new bodily orifice” costume, and nobody wanted to be caught between Ike, and the person who had earned himself a reaming.

    Right now I’m costumed as a hick crashing a filmmaking event. Dressed in chambrey shirt, jeans, and hiking boots, I will look totally unthreatening to the roomful of conferees here in Chicago. And maybe a little bit dumb. Which helps in the film biz. One should never make a comedy that only intelligent people can appreciate. There has to be enough room between gags, for the average person to catch on and start laughing. A friend of mine made that mistake and he’s having one helluva rough time selling a film, after he blew a quarter of a million making it.

    I’d like to visit him at his next film festival screening. Hook him up with the guy who rescued the Austin Powers movie by recutting it for laughs. Turn it into something that a non-genius would find funny. Get it into distribution and make everybody some money.

    But first I have to figure out what costume to wear.