#34. Accessorizing

Note: I completely forgot it was Friday until right this minute. I’m in Santa Fe, the sun is shining on the mountains, everything is terra cotta and glowy and I’m gearing up to go and eat at Pasquale’s, one of my favorite breakfast spots in the world. So sitting down to dash out a blog entry in a half-panicked, half-starved state is not, I realize, ideal. I suppose this is my way of saying that if this week’s entry reads like it’s hurried and half-assed, that’s because it is. My apologies. Sometimes I get completely burned out on selecting a change to make every seven days. Unfortunately, I’ve already played my “not doin’ it” card – twice, actually, if you count the week I was sick. Fortunately, I have friends who occasionally make a suggestion. And, for some reason, when it comes out of someone else’s mouth, the ideas always sound so much easier. Like the time a friend suggested I meet someone new every day. That turned out to be a blast.

But this week I adopted a change my friend G. suggested a few weeks ago: accessorizing. Yeah, you read that right: accessorizing. I know. I was a little sheepish about it at first. To start with, I wasn’t sure that accessorizing would really change me in any meaningful way. Plus, I wasn’t entirely certain what the hell it entailed. That’s how backwards I am when it comes to these things.

I was, however, convinced of one thing and it turned out to be the deciding factor: accessorizing sounded easy.

Now, I should mention first and foremost that my friend G. is miles more stylish than I am. I suspect she understands fashion, a claim no one who knows me would ever make about yours truly. She strikes me as one of those gals who just knows how to throw a thing or two together and make it work. I am not one of those people. I know how to put my underwear on right side out. Other than that, most style baffles me.

One thing G. and I have in common, however, is that we’ve both left the formal workplace and labor away at our own endeavors at home. And there is no question that the life of the person who works from home becomes decidedly more casual. So casual, it could at times be mistaken for complete and total neglect of all things good and proper.

I’ve been there. I may, in fact, live there.

Mine is an uber-casual lifestyle. I usually start the day in my gym clothes, thinking that if good intentions hold out I may make it there. Even if I don’t, unless I have the rare meeting outside my home, there’s little reason to suit up. Sweats are comfy! No one sees me! And if I can’t get myself into a pair of pants with actual buttons, what are the odds I’m accessorizing at all? Zero. That’s the odds.

I also live in a really casual town, so even heading out for the evening doesn't really require much dressing up. Unless you're comfortable being the most over-dressed person in the room. I'm generally not.

That said, for someone who doesn’t accessorize, I happen to own a lot of accessories. Some are leftover from the days where I had a Real Job that required dressing up on a daily basis. Some are just pretty things I’ve gathered over the years. Most go unused. I’m a creature of habit and I tend to have just a handful of go-to pieces I wear time and time again. (I believe, in fashion terms, this is what’s known as a “rut.”)

As I’m continuing the 30 Days, 30 Items Challenge I wrote about last week, I was ripe for reflecting on the purpose of having all these things and never using them. So maybe this accessorizing was a natural extension of the previous week’s challenge: to see if I could put these items into play. And, if not, maybe they needed to go on the Goodwill pile.

It so happened that the first day of my accessorizing week I had a busy schedule out of the house. I had an appointment, then met a friend for coffee, then had a meeting later on. It was the perfect kick off. I wore pants that buttoned. I wore an actual shirt. And I topped it all off with a pair of earrings and a necklace my husband had bought me a few weeks before, now making its inaugural trip outside the house.

When I had emailed G. to ask her what accessorizing changed for her, especially for someone who works from home, she responded:

I'm not sure the going anywhere really matters, although it's nice when the Starbucks people say they like your earrings. I found it to be -- unexpectedly -- a real internal transformation, even if I am putting on a scarf or a necklace to sit and work at the computer. I've had to back off bangles in the library, though. Too noisy.

I had to confess that just putting care into selecting these items made me feel far more “put together” than I do on the average day. It made me feel like…a grown up. And for someone hurtling towards 40, that’s probably long overdue. I did feel a bit more like a professional, a glimpse back to the old days when I got dressed up for work every day and chose shoes and jewelry to match my outfits, feeling professional and polished.

The real test, I initially thought, would be how other people reacted to the new, accessorized me. I was sure those who were used to seeing me barely out of pajamas would be bowled over by the new me. As I sat for coffee with my friend, I tucked my hair behind my ears to show off my dangly earrings. At my meeting, I played with my chunky beaded necklace pointedly as I spoke.

And no one said a goddamn thing.

In fact, as the week went on, I followed through and accessorized. I accessorized at home, at one point sitting at my desk in sweats, fancy earrings and a silk scarf, just to say I’d met the criteria. When we went out to dinner, I wore a scarf jauntily tied around my neck in what I guessed was Euro fashion. I wore a bracelet on my wrist for the first time in I don’t know how long.

And no one said a thing.

But I guess that wasn’t the point G. was making, was it? (Although, she did say the Starbucks folks complimented her, no? Maybe it’s that she has better accessories? Or maybe it’s because I don’t go to Starbucks?) It’s about the inner transformation. In my case, at least, I think transformation is too strong a word. There was a change that took place, a change that had something to do with making a bit of effort and taking a little more pride in my appearance.

That may be a good thing, but one of the bigger observations I made about myself this week is that doing this stuff isn’t really in my wheelhouse. I tend to feel self-conscious when I’m all “done” up. Like I’m pretending to be someone I’m not. I’m confused to the point where I don’t even know if I like it or not.

But then G. sent me this article from the New York Times, with a note saying, “Even your bike is accessorizing!” And that sort of broke things wide open for me. You see, I’ve been accessorizing this whole time. In fact, I love to accessorize – my house, my life. Just not necessarily my person, and not when I’m just hanging around at home.

That said, I can’t ignore the fact that I did enjoy putting a little more thought into my accessories when going out. I do like the fact that feeling put together on the outside can make me feel more pulled together, confident and competent on the inside. I think I just need to worry less about what magazines and websites recommends for accessorizing and just do what I’m comfortable with.

I can pretty much guarantee, though, that I won’t be wearing earrings with my yoga pants when I work at home.  Of course, a wise person might recommend that I try wearing something a little more presentable, a little more professional, even in my home office.

That wise person, however, isn’t me.