dressing for me or for Them (whoever They may be)

The lovely Egyptomaniac recently posted a question about appropriate wear to a wedding that could be dressy or could be informal; she was asked (by someone with more nerve than me, that's for sure!) "not to stand out."

In my experience, weddings often bring out the worst in people. Even if they're not the ones doing the invitation list, or the seating, or the flower choices. Example: Early in our relationship, Himself and I were invited to the wedding of one of his cousins. His mother took a vicious interest in what I planned to wear, expecting no doubt the pre-makeover Pretty Woman. Finally the day came, the wedding was somewhere between Short Hills, New Jersey, and Hell, so the Witch and her Familiar (his parents) picked us up to ride out together, and his mother came charging inside to see my outfit before I put a coat on - translation: while there's still time to scream that I should change. I was wearing satin, a tea-length café au lait color princess-seam dress, scoop neck, tiny sleeves; bronze sandals with bright pink flower; my mom's real pearls and ruby earrings. The Witch was speechless. It didn't last. Finally she managed, "Nice pearls." "Thank you, they're my mother's," I replied. The Witch turned to Himself and asked "Didn't she come with any jewelry?" Well, what do you say to that? Given total freedom of choice, I would have caused her sleepless nights by stating that I expected her son to provide plenty when he finally made some real money, but I opted for the high road: "I'm wearing this, since my mother was kind enough to offer it."

And yet, and yet... I look in my closet and see the deep ink-red velvet shirtdress, long sleeves, high collar, mid-calf length, that I wore to the Orthodox Jewish wedding of a friend's daughter. I see the flowery yellow Ralph Lauren slip dress, Collection, no less, that has gone to two indoor/outdoor weddings in Southern California. At one, the mother of the groom checked out the AC, ran out to her car, and came back with an armful of pashminas for everyone, in assorted colors. That's planning. I see a black-and-white wool tweed jacket with lace lapels that tops a silk slip dress in a print that looks exactly like the tweed of the jacket, which has gone to a number of weddings where you keep covered at church and lose the top at the reception.

My sister and I wore green to Mom's funeral, or maybe that was the wake, it's kind of a blur. Maybe it was black with formal sunglasses. And to funerals where I'm expected to go on to the cemetery, I do not  wear good shoes. There used to be a small collection of "firm dinner" dresses, I've disposed of those. The interview suits are long gone. Actually, in today's economy, who's interviewing? But the dresses, the dresses that are particular to a certain kind of event, well, I certainly wouldn't want to pay for those again. Hence the absence of shoulders, the predominance of the style that has no year. On the other hand, my luck, if I'm included in another Orthodox wedding, it'll be summer. As for hats? That's a post all by itself. Or not.

And so it goes. My nephew married young, way too young you might say, but the Army ages you fast. We rarely see him, and my sister wanted everyone to look wonderful, or as wonderful as they could, at the wedding, so that he'd remember us all at our best. My hope was that when he was back on the job he'd concentrate on what he was doing and what the Bad Guys were doing, and not be thinking, "Damn, Uncle Himself had a great necktie at the wedding." So the fussing with the clothes and the endless shopping and picking and fretting were for my sister, whom I dearly love. It paid off, she was beautiful, comfortable, confident, serene. The bride's family looked like they'd just finished harvesting some labor-intensive crop. This could make sense and demand respect in a number of contexts, but they are all teachers or civil servants of one kind or another in northern Wisconsin. I thought I understood the mailman wanting to wear sneakers on his time off, then I realized that the D in RFD means Driving and he did not lug a leather bag from door to door like Great-Great-Great-Uncle Mike. And don't they have irons in Wisconsin?

But I want to say this: for all the times that I think, if my clothes have any importance at all in my life, it's that they reflect who I am, there are many many times when I'm glad that my outfit reflects how I love and respect my friends and family. And yes, the boy is back safely. Boy no longer. And promoted.

21 comments:

  1. Oh WFF - we must find each other! We could write book! My M-I-L, who has mellowed somewhat with age, but is the equivalent of the mother in "something about raymond", was born with a 6th finger on one hand, which they lopped off at birth. You decide how signficant that was...

    I couldn't have cared less when I married what people wore (even my friend who wore black! the horrors to some) and hope to repeat that same "what the hell" attitude when I eventually become the mother of the bride or groom. I will dress myself appropriately to me, stand out as much or as little as I want and try to behave myself until after the first waltz - after that, all bets are off and it will be every man or woman for themselves and they best get out of my way on the dance floor!

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    1. WMM -- my mother asked me if I minded if she wore black to my wedding, LOL! I had NO problem with it...it's timeless and chic, no reason I could see for her not to look and feel her best instead of in a frilly pastel concoction they sell to most mothers-of-the-bride. :)

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    2. Hi, Cliquot, there was a thing for black-and-white weddings a while ago, we'd see the wedding parties lined up for pictures on church steps or in Central Park, they looked quite elegant, I thought.

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  2. Wow, WMM, that's really scary. Dare I ask if anyone knows what happened to the person who dared "lop"?

    Here, for you, is a scene from a family dinner. Witch perceives insult hanging in the air, leaves table, vanishes. After a while, the Familiar notices and asks if anyone knows where she went. My Dad (boy do I miss him. Sometimes.) replies: "She ran downtown to get her tongue sharpened."

    Have you noticed that the people who tell you they have to say what they think, rarely think anything nice?

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  3. This is one of my favorites.... Sometimes I dress nice because it makes me feel better and sometimes I dress nice because it makes the people I'm with feel better, which in turn makes me feel better. And isn't that what fashion is for? To make the wearer feel great????

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  4. YOu are killing me!

    Okay - how about this - my MIL takes HER mother to visit the grave site of the dead husband. Grandma (who was a bit of a downer her ownself) says "I should be in the ground too..." MIL says "well we forgot the shovel so get back into the car"... You can't make this stuff up!

    It hasn't gotten better with age, or else I have gotten better at coping with age. Now we (myself and the dear husband) agree that the visits should focus mostly on he and the kids and I am often too busy to attend). In her day though, she said the cruelest things and honestly, I think it almost ruined my marriage a few times! My motto, when I become a MIL will be "to thine own self keep thine own opinion" and its corollary "when thy thinks thy must speak, pour another glass of wine and shut up!"

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  5. BTW - did you find the blouse yet???

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  6. Oh Fred, I feel for you. Have you won over your MIL since then? Please tell me there is hope.

    Regarding Egyptomaniac and the wedding request, a friend of mine who is getting married in May has been in a tizzy worrying that her aunts will show up to the wedding dressed in some gawdawful fashions that will upstage the bride in the worst possible way. Her parents are divorced and she has been asking her mother to talk to her father's sisters about their attire. Mom refuses and says, "You invited them, you want them to attend so welcome them, however they are." Good advice I think.

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  7. Hi, WMM, a dear friend has stated the Iron Rule for MILs: Purse open, mouth shut.

    Two shirts arrives and were too small, were returned. Two more, different sizes, arrived and await judgment.

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  8. Hi, xoxo, no, I had to wait for her to die but finally the curse worked.

    re: wedding attire - I think it's nice to make an effort, but bottom line, if you come with love and joy, what you wear is secondary. If you come with condescension and resentment, well, I guess what you wear is also secondary, but not on a good way.

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  9. Hi, Chic Chauffeur, you said in one line what it took pages to get around to. Wow.

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  10. WFF, this has to be one of my fave posts of yours. My ex-MIL was not the monster in my world, but my own mother. She once said to me, when I arrived for dinner with a bunch of family friends, "oh, that shirt makes your arms look fat, best start dieting". What do you say to that? I was mortified and rendered speechless (as I was too polite to retort in public), and decided not to go to those types of dinners again. Now when she lets one lose, we're usually dining with just each other, and I tell her what I think about that sort of comment. She has mellowed out a bit, but still fires out a doozie now and then.

    Oh, and I wholeheartedly agree with Chic Chauffeur.

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  11. Much appreciation for the mention! I'm wondering what it is about mothers (or MILs).... as a mother myself, I'd like to hope I'm not, nor ever will be, critical to the point of hurt feelings with Child. Perhaps mothers see their children (and who they marry) as an extension of themselves, and if the child looks 'wrong' somehow this is a refelction on the mother's parenting skills. I'd like to think whatever problems inward or out that Child may develop are thru no fault of my own, but from the 'other' set of genes that contributed to his person.

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  12. Hi, Closet Crisis, I became the "good daughter" when my sister took up with A.Real.Bum. To my shock I remained so long after the Bum was gone. My sister took it in stride although she could have used a little unconditional support at that point in her life. Looking back, though, I think what really happened between me and Mom was that (1) I began to speak up, and (2) because there was a real witch in my life, Mom's sense of family loyalty overcame her natural tendency to continue to treat her daughter as a four-year-old who could be Improved. At some point, too, I began to feel sorry for Himself, growing up with that pair, who made my parents look, hmm, maybe normal's not exactly the word, but...

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  13. Hi, Egyptomaniac, your post really made me think, and I see it had that effect on many others, too. When I started the blog, I decided to avoid two topics, (1) wine and (2) the younger generation. I have noticed, however, that parents never stop watching children for signs of improvement, and (2) children never get too old to feel embarrassed or picked on by parents. And I've gotten a little mellower about parenting. I think most people are the best parents that it's in them to be. Society attempts to deal with some of the more dangerous deficiencies, but the words, the zingers, the closed minds -

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  14. Just to let you know I have been following your exploits in London and Paris, though haven't always commented. I kept being drawn towards the photos of puddings!

    Having a good chuckle at the MIL stories in the comments above. Thankfully mine is a dream. I should clone her.

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  15. Hello, Trish! There are the rest of the Paris and some Lyon pics to deal with, I'm just taking a break. Delighted to learn of your MIL, but statistically there had to be at least one, right?

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  16. I've just bought a dress to wear at a wedding. It's not what I expected to buy being rather plain and a simple colour, but my daughters both told me it looked really great, better than anything I wanted to choose. I got them to take a movie of me in it and I found to my surprise that they were right. I think this dress will be okay for the wedding. But it is always a choice that needs a lot of thought.

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  17. Hi, Jenny, your daughters may have been looking at how the dress worked for you when you moved. If so, well done them! Anyway, it sounds like you and they have a great relationship if they can be that candid.

    I agree that wedding wear is, as my mom would say, "fraught." I went to one wedding where a close friend of the bride's mother decided she would honor their friendship by wearing the dress she wore to the wedding of the bride's mother. Imagine, she still had it. It had not survived 30-odd years in a box all that well, although it was impressive that she could still get into it. I thought she looked like Miss Havisham - Finally! I get to wear it! (again). People kept asking who she was. It did not help the friendship either.

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  18. I read this and then didn't have time to comment, but it's one my favorite posts here and that's saying something as I love your writing so much! So I'm back to comment and read the comments which are great.
    Laughing abou the MIL exploits, you and WMM could indeed pen something together!
    I've been lucky with two fine MIL's, though my first husband was a cad his Mom is a very nice lady, we've always kept in touch. My current MIL, I appreciate her so, maybe because my own Mother is very cutting in her subtle way, and was always so unhappy, joyless really. When I married MrBP, a wedding we organized and paid for ourselves, my own Mother insisted I not wear white as I had "obviously been married before".
    What do you think I wore: blazing white with huge tulle layers of course.
    As far as what to wear to weddings, yes it is about pleasing others I think. I wore a bright blue and silver ensemble to my best friends daughters wedding last summer, the first dress I bought was navy but my friend thought it not festive enough, so I went for shine, it was a great wedding with much dancing!

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  19. Dani, I love your wedding story!

    The comments here have made me think that the Late Witch deserves a post all her own, what do you think? I'm just afraid it would sound like one long moan. Actually that about sums up her personality, maybe a whole post isn't needed. My mother was ordinarily quite sensible and helpful, but my wedding turned her into someone I just didn't know, to the point that I felt I was planning a complicated escape. She actually called my Godfather to ask him to talk me out of it.

    And help, help, I'm locked out of FrockPhilosophy. wellfedfred@verizon.net

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