“You look so pretty!”
It’s the first day of my second year as a teacher at this school, and my principal is gushing at me. I wonder what I looked like on the first day the year before that the difference is so drastic.
From the bottom up:
On my feet are a pair of white Anne Klein sandals. They were an impulse purchase — because I imagined they would go perfectly with my dress and jacket, not because I could justify needing them. Simple and elegant with just the right hint of metallic accent, they made my feet scream by second period. They are still in pristine condition because, to date, that is the only time I have ever worn them.
Price tag $79.
Above that is a white suit jacket. First, let me say that there is no practical reason in the everloving brown desert for me to own a white suit jacket. It was purchased for aesthetics only.
This was the jacket that taught me that despite my measurements, the posted size chart, or the number of Xs, XL — or XXL — in any straight-size store does not mean me. This was the jacket that advised me of the “three button minimum” bust containment system and that led me to wonder why “curvy fit” isn’t a known option for upper body wear.
This was the jacket that reintroduced me to the phrase “football shoulders.”
Had it been a more practical color, I might have made better use of it and therefore appreciated it more. As it stands, it is a perfect match to the shoes — pristine white, worn once.
Price tag $168.00.
Beneath that is a dress, the dress, my dress. Teal, my color. I wore this dress to three interviews earlier in the year. Among my employment applications, I received three job offers. Yes, there is a correlation, at least part of which I attribute to confidence. I prefer not to attribute it to the fact that the dress makes my curves look great, though the latter might also be true.
Though I don’t want to ignore the curves bit because it matters. Because this dress cost me miles driven and walked, cost me hours and days in stores. Cost me the chagrin of asking for a larger size when I was damn near stuck in the smaller — only to discover that the store “must have sold out” of the size I wanted. Cost me laughs and gasps and tongue-clicks of disapproval from sales associates who never dreamed a “girl my size” would “dare” to wear something “so fitted” to an interview.
Because, totally, it makes sense to wear — to an interview — clothes that do not fit?
A dress that’s figure-flattering, available in my size, and appropriate for career situations?
Price tag $199.
Worn four times, would have been more if I didn’t require assistance to get in and out of it.
Beneath that, my lucky internet bra. Suffice it to say I can guarantee that bras my size are not available for sale in my city.
Price tag $77, not counting the shipping on various bras I have purchased and returned.
Above all that, my makeup. What’s catching my principal’s eye is my Sweet Libertine mineral eyeshadow in colors of awesomeness — that is to say, tasteful luminescent neutrals that match my glasses and complement my eyes — on me. In conventional attractiveness terms, it looks fabulous on me.
In intimate terms, it represents the minutes and hours I have spent poring over my pores, lamenting the fact that, well past adolescence, I still have acne. It represents the time I have spent analyzing how to make my face less cheeks and more cheekbones — more eyes and lips, less eyebrows and nose. It represents wanting people to look me in the face when speaking to me and being insecure with what they see once they do so.
The cost of tricking someone — me — into believing people want to look at me.
Price tag, about $25.
How much of that was money well spent?