After 7 years of living in New England, I still couldn’t get it right. My best friend threw a dinner party, and I showed up looking like a mad dowager/empress of a forgotten kingdom.
Let me rewind: I am a chronic overdresser. I could wear my black, floor length Calvin Klein to the gas station, grocery store, for drinks, etc. Unfortunately, it is languishing in the back of my closet because even I know that I would look like a crazy woman running errands in an evening gown. (I still shed an occasional tear over a gold floor length Ralph Lauren that I passed up two years ago. It was PERFECT…for the Oscars.)
New England dressing, however is different. Understated would be a polite way of saying that people in Amherst and Northampton always look like they don’t CARE. What you wear to Whole Foods is what you wear to your best friends’ wedding is what you wear to pump gas. I was afraid of slipping into the abyss of not caring, so I actively did the opposite: I dressed up for every event. A fall barbecue? I was standing and suffering in 5 inch suede boots, holding a pan of my homemade macaroni and cheese. A casual dinner with friends meant a brand new summer dress + heels to match.
But at this dinner party, I over, over-dressed. While my friends at the dinner party looked like slightly better version of themselves, in jeans + t-shirt, or quirky, mismatching dresses, I was wearing a very short, black baby doll lace dress and 6 inch heels. The dress unintentionally fell around my shoulders. The host of the party graciously called it sexy; one of my best friends called me a flapper. But I knew the real truth: I looked like a bad version of a 1990s Seventeen prom shoot.
No matter! A few glasses of Prosecco and delicious food made my insecurities about my outfit melt away. We had a great chat about films, books, an INCREDIBLE debate about Jane Eyre, and the role of beautiful women in literature, then pondered about why exactly Kanye and Kim named their child North West.
It was, in short, my kind of party.
I got over my shame of overdressing, and thought about the art of dressing. I love people who are thoughtful about their presentation. Regardless of personal style, when a person actively chooses to wear cerulean pants, parrot earrings or a Darth Vader face mask, I am with them. Dressing up, (or dressing thoughtfully) to me, will always be a sign that I respect not only myself, but the person I am spending time with. And, to be real, I think the world might be a better place if people dressed up for dinner instead of looking like they’re going to make a Target run right after a meal at a French restaurant.
But until that happens, I’ll be the overdressed one at the bar…or in the woods.