I bought a yellow polka dot dress.
While I was trying it on, while I was paying for it, while I was walking around the mall with it in a bag wondering what color shoes one wears with a yellow polka dot dress, I found myself pondering a larger question: “Am I too old for a yellow polka dot dress?”
Initially I thought that I would accessorize with red. And then I wondered if pairing “STOP” sign red with bright yellow was not, perhaps, a bit over the top. Would red shoes complement the yellow dress or would they scream, as I feared they would, “This woman has NO idea how to dress herself — at her age!”
I mentioned to my sister, as I was borrowing the far more subdued black and brown dress that she had agreed to loan me, that I had, on a whim, purchased a yellow polka dot dress for the occasion. I even took it out of the bag to show her. She swore that she loved it. I swore that I saw (or at least sensed) a faint narrowing of her eyes. Did SHE think I was too old for a yellow polka dot dress?
I took the black and brown number from her just, you know, “in case”. In case I spilled coffee on the spiffy yellow dress. In case I accidentally burned it with the iron. In case I couldn’t find the right color shoes. In case I chickened out.
She advised me that I should be on the lookout for a purple pump to pair with the snappy yellow dress. She told me that red would be too “predictable”, navy blue too “boring”. Purple, she said, would “pop”.
Off to the shoe warehouse I went. I couldn’t find purple. Apparently purple is not “in” this year. They had plenty of hot pink and turquoise, which, much to my surprise, looked great with the dress. (Yes, I had brought it with me!) Still, I found myself unable to make a commitment to either of these colors. And then, buried on the clearance rack, lo and behold!, I found a pair of coral patent leather heels.
Some combination of their color, sheen, heel height (4″), and design (retro ankle strap!) made them the perfect accompaniment to the sunny yellow dress. They all but shouted “Pick me! Pick me! I’m what you’ve been searching for!” It didn’t hurt that, to boot, they were also quite the bargain!
They are trendy. They are also, much like the dress for which they are needed, completely and utterly out of character for me.
So is the jewelry that I bought to go along with the outfit — white, beady stuff that clanks when you wear it. Yum!
While I will admit to drawing no small amount of comfort from the fact that I found THE shoes, far too many white, beady accessories (I’ll put them all on and then, as Coco Chanel advised, take something off before I leave the house), and replaced the boring white belt with a coral one (Yes. Yes, I did!), I still find myself wrestling with the question “Am I too old for a yellow polka dot dress?”
For the record, I am 48 and 5/6 — give or take a sixth. I am a woman of what used to be termed “a certain age” — too old, perhaps, for the yellow polka dot dress and the coral heels, too young for the dowdy florals and the sensible shoes.
Because I used to be heavier, I have a closet full of “slimming” black clothes. When I can’t find the proper black thing in my own closet, I can rely upon my sister’s closet to yield something boring, yet acceptable. (It’s not that my sister wears boring clothes. She doesn’t. It’s that she only thinks to loan me the staid, traditional garb — the stuff that, I’m sure, she normally reserves for job interviews and funerals.)
I also wonder if, when I wear the yellow polka dot dress, people — and by that I mean other women of “a certain age” — other women my own age — won’t say, “OMIGOD! You look GREAT!” and then, the minute they’re out of earshot, whisper to their best friend, “OMIGOD! She looks ridiculous. You know she’s our age, right?”
Even my own husband was taken aback by the purchase. When I asked him what he thought he, very diplomatically, said, “It doesn’t matter what I think, you’re the one who has to wear it.” I reminded him that he would be the man WITH the woman in the yellow polka dress and coral heels. He just shrugged. Because, yeah, he’s THAT guy.
My daughter, on the other hand, in a rare moment of female solidarity took one look at the ensemble and said, “Mom, it’s fabulous! What size are the shoes?” She even agreed with my decision to add the coral belt. So, there!
As the event for which the dress was purchased is a dinner to celebrate my daughter’s academic achievements, I’ve decided that I’m going to accept her assessment of my choice. I’m going to embrace the fabulousness of the jazzy yellow polka dot dress, confidently stride into the room on my shiny coral heels, and appreciate the clanking of the clunky white beaded jewelry.
Mostly, though, I’m going to bask in the celebratory nature of the evening. As I do so, though, I will also carefully and strategically arrange my napkin to catch the greasy gravy or the buttery potato drippings that will inevitably accompany the barely warm prime rib and the rubbery chicken that are so often served at these things. After all, I wouldn’t want to ruin my lovely, new yellow polka dot dress.
UPDATE: I wore the dress. I felt fabulous in it! And my daughter, well, she’s just so damn cute, isn’t she? She could rock a toga.