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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finding Confidence Around My Neck

By Lesley Miller

I stood in my closet, right foot resting flamingo style on the left knee. This is my thinking pose; and on Monday night I needed to make an important fashion decision for the following day.
Most days, getting dressed is a short process that happens while brushing my teeth in the morning. My office allows us to dress casually, so unless I have a meeting or event, I don’t need to look perfectly put together—which is fortunate because I’m not a perfectly put together type of girl. My makeup is minimal, my hair is usually straight, and the clothes I wear are often from Target.
I’ve always wanted to dress nicer than I do. Don’t most women say that? Even the ones who are always well dressed? I remember feeling fashion challenged for the first time in sixth grade when all the other girls got body suits and Guess denim shorts. Suddenly, the clothes I had from Limited Too didn’t seem as mature. My mom assured me I looked cute, but I sure didn’t feel as sophisticated as all the other girls.
Sophisticated is exactly how I wanted to feel on Tuesday night. A co-worker and I were nominated for a business award in Sacramento. It was an honor I didn’t expect, and one I felt highly unqualified to win. For that reason, I wanted to look the part of an actual adult. I didn’t want to be the 28 year old kid who shows up to a bar wearing Limited Too when everyone else has on body suits and Guess shorts.
I tried on several outfits. None of them seemed right. How do girls know which shirts go with which pants? When do I need a skinny belt? Can people see my bra through this? Does an undershirt look silly? It’s spring—but it’s raining—so what shoes do I wear? Open? Closed? And, do I have time for a pedicure?
Jonathan didn’t really get it. His most difficult fashion decision each day is deciding what tie to wear. Oddly enough, even this decision can be a challenge for him. And while he gently poked fun of my dramatic closet scene, I found myself lecturing him about how the importance of this very moment and how it might translate to the rest of my career. Was it overly dramatic? Um, yes. (*blush*) But, was it somewhat true? Possibly. Women remember what other women wear—right or wrong—and first impressions count. It’s no wonder we worry so much about finding the perfect skinny belt.
I settled on a short sleeve Target blouse and brown skinny pants. My older heels would have to work, and I’d go without a belt since I don’t own one. The next morning before leaving the house I decided to grab a vintage yellow necklace I’d purchased earlier that week at a consignment store. I’d never shopped at a consignment store before, and it’s rare that I buy jewelry for myself. The necklace was certainly, for me, a step outside the typical.
I fiddled throughout the day with my outfit. The shirt didn’t stay tucked in very well without a belt, and I was cold because of the rainy weather. I started doubting my choice of clothing as soon as I walked into the event not because I was dressed inappropriately but because I am new at this game of playing career woman.
After drinks and appetizers, the award presentation began. I didn’t win. I felt a sense of relief as soon as the last name was called. I wouldn’t have to tromp across that stage in heels with my shirt hanging out. I could go home, change out of the costume, and feel like a kid again.
Shortly after the program, a woman walked up. “You’re Lesley! I’ve wanted to meet you in person.” She was the owner of the consignment store where I’d bought the necklace, and she recognized me from Twitter. I smiled as my hand found its way to my neck.
“This necklace I’m wearing—“ I began.
“Is from our store? Yes. I know. My mom and I recognized it from across the room. It’s so cute. I’m glad you like it,” she said.
I stood a little taller, and smiled a little wider. My self worth isn’t based on appearances. It’s not based on winning an award either. But, in that very short moment, my yellow necklace made me feel like the grown woman I’d been pretending to be.
Maybe I don’t need that skinny belt after all.

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