How to Dress for a Breakup
It’s the story of how we dress for the first date, all the high and low points in between, and what we enter in, when we exit. Our clothes sometimes become our treasure map to how you feel undressed. What covers us in the first place, might be what leaves us naked in the end.
If clothes truly made the man, it would be so easy. To dress him up, outline, and fill in the blanks would actually say something about your taste. And getting what you asked for would be either your reward or your curse. When you decide to have another person in your life, clothed, naked, or thrown together by circumstance, the wardrobe sometimes becomes textured subtitles, to matter and memories, and to what was, what never was or what is, ever after. It’s the story of how we dress for the first date, all the high and low points in between, and what we enter in, when we exit. Our clothes sometimes become our treasure map to how you feel undressed. What covers us in the first place might be what leaves us naked in the end.
For the first date I wore a black t-shirt and low cut jeans with a very strategically placed butterfly. Casual, yet thought provoking, covered, yet sexy. It wasn’t really a first date, as we had dated the year before and I had gotten cold feet, which I should never have decided to reheat, but that is beside the point, as this is not a story of bad circulation, but of modern romance and the wardrobe it requires. There I was, at a restaurant that I had picked and given him very bad directions to, and therefore was waiting at the bar, which I have to say, I am quite comfortable with, as it is not as bad as you might think. You might be the kind of person that likes to be waited for, but I like to be lit well and placed. And so the evening begins and lasts, circling itself through Hollywood until 2:15 AM, when it ended in my car, with promises of things to come. And. My clothes still on.
So am I insecure enough to think that what I wore was what sealed the deal? No, because then relationships would be a lot easier and Carrie Bradshaw would live happily ever after in some hellish fashion bliss. Sometimes, however, when we have yet to define how we feel, we are defined or at least outlined by what we wear. The blue jeans made me look somewhat laid back, but then the butterfly sprawled across my backside made me look bold. The low cut of the jeans made me look confident, but my constant jokes about sitting down, made me seem like I, at least, had a sense of humor about the effect. Or maybe that I was just irritating. But, as the results revealed, at this early stage, not irritating enough.
And the relationship ignited into second and third dates of more dressed down jeans and colorful t-shirts and exploded into even tighter pants and more revealing tops. Dresses to meet friends in, gowns to seal other people's marriages in, and skirts too short to ever make it out of the house. Usually, the next step in dressing in the relationship is undressing, and as you shed one skin, you shed another and the clothes on the floor become metaphors both for what you don’t need and what you are willing to let go off. And sometimes, glaringly, they become the only items that you can actually pick up in the aftermath. Naked, which at this point in a relationship, is the best way to dress, can be a result of what covered it and as incidental as it might seem, most of the time it sends a message about how you feel about the other person. And even more significant and in the grand view of retrospect, how you feel about yourself. All the pencil skirts, stilettos to warm your feet, and coats thrown across your shoulder, have yet to prepare you for who you are right now. If you got dressed alone, you are neither dressed nor alone now. All that comes later, but by then, you have, perhaps, learned to fold.
Of course, all truly great moments rarely require clothing, but all sad, terrifying or dramatic moments require armor. And if you are at war, you must wear a uniform. If that war happens at a public place, hopefully you have worn shoes that give you stature, that make you throw back your shoulders and keep your head high, as you sashay out of a situation, that you will never return to, because you are a woman, who cares about herself. But it’s love we are talking about, so usually, you are wearing sneakers or something, which moments before made you seem adorably vulnerable, but in a moment of strife makes you grasp for inches, air and what you thought was your spine. Maybe the sweats that you are wearing belonged to an ex and they fit badly and have “Ozzy Osborne road crew” written down the side. This is where sleeves become tissues, sweaters become tents and your open heart can no longer be disguised by neither a great bra nor your naked body. This is where you define who you are with the other person. No matter what you wear or don’t.
And then, if it works, you are wearing that loose fitting, all encompassing, big, huge shirt of trust. Something you never have to pick up, because you never have to take it off. Unlike gloves.
And then it truly works and you think you have conquered the worst. Being at your worst. Looking your absolute worst. You did it. Your feelings define you, not what you wear.
And then you still have to walk out of a party looking your best. The person whose side you were on has become your enemy and your uniform no longer gives you a sense of pride, and high heels and pointy toes make more than your feet hurt when you have to run from strangers. The feet that should have remained cold. Your uniform does not save you, when he was wearing camouflage all along.
So you dress for breaking up. Everyone touches up before curtain call. And you don’t touch lightly. This is no time for subtlety. This, not unlike if everything had truly worked out, is the time for the rest of your life. And whatever that is to you, I don’t know, but I am guessing not beige. I say red. And covered. Nothing revealing. You’ve done that already. Slam the door without the paint chipping; wipe your feet on the welcome mat, without leaving anything behind. This time, you are late. This time the bar is darker, it’s earlier, hell, it’s Sunday. But then when he responds to your goodbye as a giant hello, you realize that you did not dress for liberty, but for possibilities. And then there you are, in your car again. Your clothes still on. Because you are going back and because of who he is, you are always going to have to be covered, no matter how little clothes you’re wearing. And the truth of the matter is; you dressed so well all along, because you would love to be truly naked.
And then you no longer feel like dressing. And certainly not like undressing. And when you most of all need something to define you, you find that nothing matches. And you hold on and pretend and dress for other people, so they end up becoming much more important that they should ever have been. Sense of Ceremony, any sense, does that. Are you afraid to be unloved or just really afraid to lose anything that comes in pairs? Are you afraid of your own inherent loneliness or have you just lost too many socks? Somehow, between picking up the floor and folding, discerning what is love and what is costumed as such, has become a white wash. And when you really look at the explosion of shoes, the encircling of shirts and the tangled mess of pants that is your closet, you realize that just because you have two of something does not necessarily make them a pair. Come to think of it, you have much denim, but one great pair of jeans.
So the defining moments, which we dress for, which we enter in and are lit for, are the times where our style becomes what we make it. When I ask him to walk out and never come back, he’s still dressing. His army green shirt still on the floor, camouflage pants protectively in a ball in the corner. Combat boots, next to dainty shoes, overwhelming them and obscuring their color. I open the door and close it behind him and look at my reflection the mirror. My eyes match the color of my heart. My hair matches the shape of my skin. My body matches the rest of my life. And all I was wearing was a large man’s shirt. The shirt is made by a tailor in Jermyn Street in London. I had taken it the last time I was home, just to wear. The shirt belongs to my father. Mostly, it matches my genes. So I dress for the day. And nothing else. I can be on time and I can be defined. Because dressing is a choice, but naked is a privilege.