Sarees over Sneakers

This past week, I challenged myself to not slip into any pair of jeans. Instead, I was going to explore the side of my closet that holds all the dresses and skirts. As it turns out, I have a lot, and I only seem to wear them to church or when I am going out to somewhere other than work. Since I keep telling myself that if I haven’t worn it in a year it has to go, it makes no sense to have a bunch of things that are about to turn into closet-pumpkins. Rather than throw them out, I’d decided to attempt to wear them, and hence reset their termination clock.
While contemplating what shoes went with my skirt, for some reason, I remembered my fourth grade teacher. She ‘d worn dresses every day, or at least, a sort of dress. I can’t remember her name at all, or the details of her face, but what I do remember is that she’d worn a saree every day of the school year.
Her sarees were beautiful. And flowy. They were flowy and flowery in the winter, when other people were wrapped in layers of various kinds of knits in the dark hues of winter. They were flowy and flowery in the spring. Every day. That wasn’t odd to my fourth grade self, not even in the way that a new arrival to a northern state wearing a summer dress in the winter is odd to me now. In fact, I didn’t realize that she was dressing differently at all, not even when we noticed that when she turned around, you could sort of see her white skin peeking out in the space on the side where the saree blouse met the fabric of what becomes the skirt when you wrap it around your body.
It wasn’t until maybe, May (the school year ended in June) that I realized that this woman wearing a saree was even different. At this time, in New York, you could probably have found several women in sarees, maybe not in 1970s Flushing, Queens, though. At that time, you were probably more apt to find men sporting yarmulkes and prayer cords, but there were certainly some sarees somewhere else in Gotham.
What made my teacher’s saree different was not necessarily the saree, but her. She was a blond-haired white woman from the Midwest that liked to wear the sarees because she thought they were beautiful and to her, comfortable. She had never even been to India. I know because I asked her.
Back then, she was just odd, I suppose, but today, she might be accused of cultural appropriation or something like that because she didn’t wear the teacher-uniform or try to conform to what everyone else was wearing at all.

I am a techie. The techie uniform consists of jeans, tee shorts, and since I am in the Pacific Northwest, if not sneakers, then rugged boots. Grunge. Just writing it makes my skin crawl. Not me at all.
Even when I am not on my save-the-dress kick, I won’t wear sneakers to work. Sneakers are for sneaking. Or working out. I’m definitely a shoe girl. And dresses, well, no one wears them. My outfit this day consisted on a long midi skirt, with slits up both sides and a high waist, paired with a simple white tee, a long white duster sweater with flutter sleeves, and well, red sling back shoes with a moderate, but not too high heel, because why not?
By my third day of jean avoidance, I already knew that I would be as much of an oddity clicking up and down the halls of the high-rise paragon of technology I work in,as my saree-clad fourth grade teacher was as she floated through the halls of my elementary school. For the first two days of the week, I had garnered all types of comments and compliments directed towards my outfit. Several people asked if I were interviewing, others saying “OOH, fancy!” and other such comments. The exposed flash of flesh that were my legs had been a surprise and an enigma to many. No one else wore dresses and heels, especially not at the same time. Was I a perpetrator of a sort of cultural appropriation, too? Was I a tech worker stealing the culture of a better-dressed bank worker or maybe, someone from the finance department?
There are a lot or complaints about the lack of women in tech companies and the one I work in is no exception, but once hired, it is almost as if both sexes try to blend together The clothes are almost interhanhageable. The same jeans with the same tee shirts, often ones with some catchy slogan on the front. The norm seems to be that attire should convey that you are either too smart or too rich to care about your clothes. As I tried on yet another pair of clothes, I embraced that I was a culture buster.
I made sure my bare legs were sufficiently moisturized and remembered working in an office after college where pantyhose were required and no opened shoes were allowed. This place was not that. I rebelled then, not wanting to wear hose (I do not anymore). Save the hose, I now lean in the other direction, slipping into dressier clothing. Now, I was just old-fashioned, a throw back to when dress-down happened only on Friday and not every day of the week.
I might stick out and my high heels might seem out of place to some, but like my teacher, I am absolutely comfortable. Just what is comfort though? For some it means those sneakers and boots with their favorite jeans, for others, it means sarees in a world of western dress. For me, comfort means clothes that make me feel good about my day and as if I need to strut down the hall with my head high, aided by the imaginary string that comes out of your head and pulls you up towards the ceiling that they tell you about in dance class. Comfort means feeling proud that I took two extra minutes (and not even that because a dress is actually a grown up onesie), to put my appearance together. That extra minute helps me to know that if I stand in front of a room, I appear put together enough that I am believable, stylish, powerful and good at what I do, not the imposter that I sometimes feel I am. Comfortable means feeling good in my skin and that what I choose to put over it reflects how I feel inside.
I work in a tech job, in a city know for grunge, but in a design organization. People find a way to express themselves here. Some paint, some wear jewelry they make themselves. Everyone seems to create something on the side that is not so related to the job that pays the majority of their bills.
I write.
I wear shoes.
I create with my fashion.

Comments

Jb said…
I absolutely love this and it inspired me to dress it up just a notch today!

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