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What to Wear

By Dr. Patricia L. Bay, Psy.D.
Published in W Magazine, January 2010

Standing in my youngest daughter's vacated room, I brace my shoulders and take a deep breath. "I can do this," I think with manufactured courage. Strewn about the newly painted, deep chocolate walls lay the contents of my entire clothes closet. Every last pair of jeans, in a variety of sizes, along with bras so stretched out that a kid wouldn't be able to use them as a decent slingshot. Outdated blouses, skirts that hung almost to my ankles and their oversized, baggy jackets complete with shoulder pads, mocked me from their piles on the carpet. "You'll never do it, you don't have what it takes to get rid of us," they seem to taunt.

After watching that amazing television show, "What Not To Wear," for almost a year, it had become painfully obvious that my wardrobe needed a makeover. Before some well-meaning soul could turn me into the show to be transformed on national TV, I decided to brave it alone. "I have conquered college and run a successful business. My God, I have braved gynecological exams and birthed children," I scream in my head. "I can do this. Just don't think about it. Just follow the rules... just follow the rules." My mantra in place, I dive in.

Jeans need to be flared at the bottom with a dark wash sans any faded markings that emphasized places that definitely need no further emphasis. Tops should flatter my hourglass figure (remember to try not to think about the size of the hourglass) and jackets should hit me just above the hip because I am short and if they are too long I will be out of proportion. Skirts should be just below my knee and not too long. V-necks will be elongate my frame giving the illusion that I have legs that go on forever. I try not to snicker at that one.

With the ruthless air of a seasoned combat veteran, I start in. If it is worn out, does not fit or is outdated, it goes. I sneer at the growing pile of things to be donated and force away feelings of guilt that I will be sentencing some under advantaged woman to bad fashion. The stained, stretched out things in need of mending go into the garbage pile. With glee and abandon, I decide if I would not buy it in the store, it is not going back into my closet.

Standing in my now cavernous walk-in closet, I stare at the ten items hanging like medals of valor. I look at the empty shoe shelves and caress the three pairs of footwear that made the cut. I mentally make a list of the essentials that need to be bought, albeit slowly over time. Maybe the TV show handing me $5,000 to replace my wardrobe would have been worth the humiliation. Black slacks, pencil skirt, structured jackets, and pops of color in the form of tops I will love. For the first time in 33 years of our relationship, my side of the closet is more organized than my husband's side. I have won. I now know what to wear; I just don't have anything to put on.