A Year Without Pants Week 5

Has anyone ever asked you, “Why are you so dressed up?” I bet they have. And when they do, they never ask in a nice way, like, “Oooh la la! You look smashing! Where’s the party?” Instead it’s delivered in an accusatory tone as if you did something wrong. I loathe that phrase and the people who deliver it. When I was younger and desperate to fit into impossible molds, this phrase would make my stomach drop and my heart sink in sadness. Usually I’d reply with something like, “Oh, I need to do laundry, so I’m down to dresses.” It was as if looking nice was something shameful!

Wearing the dresses, I feel like I’m being true to myself for the first time in my life, at least since I was about six. Every day, I’m choosing pretty clothes and accessories to wear and buy. And before you say I’m spending a fortune, think again! Like everything else, I do it on a tight budget. Many items that interest me right now are vintage pieces from the 1960s, and if it’s good-quality clothing and accessories that are well maintained, they’ll last longer than our own lives. Resale shops and eBay remain two great places to find amazing vintage wear at a fraction of the new prices, which are often lower quality items. Usually, these vintage pieces are of amazing quality, well maintained due to the initial cost, and now find themselves unwanted for one reason or another. Right now, I’m shopping for a bargain vintage dress coat to wear with my dresses this winter to keep my legs warm. I haven’t found just the right one yet, but when I do, I promise you’ll be the first to know!

Sales are another great and obvious way to save money. I shop a lot at the boutique stores in Crockett, but I also utilize my online resources. Nordstrom offers fabulous iPhone and iPad apps that allow you to window shop at your leisure, many of their dresses are less than $100, and shipping is always free both ways. When buying dresses, keep in mind you’re buying a complete outfit. If you spend $60 on your jeans and $40 on a top, you’re at $100 before you add a belt, necklace, scarf or shoes. If you buy a $50 dress, that’s it! Not only is it affordable, it’s mindless. I find it also saves me a lot of time and headache grabbing a dress opposed to figuring out a shirt-and-pants ensemble.

With fewer headaches and angst centered on creating an outfit, I’m excited to face the day. From what dress I wear, how I style my hair and the accessories I choose, it all seems fun to me now. I practically float out the door every morning humming “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story. I feel good about myself and ready to face life’s daily battles. There is something to being true to yourself and the person God made you to be that instills self-confidence. After four weeks in dresses, I’ve come to the conclusion God made me fancy. I should probably always wear dresses.

I read somewhere recently about a life study conducted of hospice patients. The participants were asked several questions, one key question being what they regretted not doing in their lives. Overwhelmingly, the most common answer was they regretted living for others rather than themselves. That made me think about my dresses. I know I’ve spent a large part of my life trying to fit a mold to please others. Part of this was in self-defense, and part of this was in searching for myself. From conforming to the kids in high school to trying to meet my parents’ expectations, I’ve never felt particularly at ease with the person I put together every day. Maybe this explains the headaches and heartaches I had over combining all those outfits every morning. Make-up and hair never took more than a combined 30 minutes, but piecing together an outfit could take anywhere from five minutes to over an hour. It always began with dread; sometimes it went well, and other times it resulted in tears and temper tantrums as I threw clothes against the wall and on the floor in exasperation. I’d often think, “I bought this stuff. I liked it once for some reason. What happened?”

When I leave the house now, I not only feel excited about the day ahead, I feel ready to face whatever and whomever life throws at me. I also feel ready to go from the office to a surprise dinner party or evening function. I feel good about myself because I’m comfortable in who I am and who I present to the world.

In a recent issue of WSJ Magazine, Alber Elbaz, the artistic director for the Parisian fashion brand Lanvin, said, “Sometimes you don’t really need armor to feel protected. Sometimes maybe you need just a chiffon dress to hug you.” I couldn’t agree more. Every morning when I put on my dress of the day, that’s exactly how I feel – secure.

Laura Land began styling and fashion advising long before she lent Melanie a sweater and belt in the sixth grade. Laura firmly believes that how you LOOK effects how you FEEL, and as she says, "change your look, change your life." With a degree from UT-Tyler in journalism, Laura not only writes a style column and blog, but is the editor-in-chief of County Life magazine and website. Most Saturday mornings find her pouring over fashion magazines with her three dogs, one cat, and husband at their ranch near the quaint East Texas town of Crockett. And whether she's at a cocktail party or preparing for bed, you can bet no detail goes unnoticed.
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