The One with the Dress Code

I bought a bright blue jacket. It’s the color of a blue jay. This shouldn’t be big news, except that I live in New York City, where we have a dress code. That dress code consists of one color: black.

The jacket was available in several colors. Standard black, of course, red, the aforementioned blue, and sunshine yellow. Fueled by good cheer and a pumpkin spice latte, I decided to live on the edge and went with the blue. The sunshine yellow wasn’t even an option. I said “live on the edge,” not “jump off the cliff.”

On the subway ride home, I began feeling buyer’s remorse. Everyone over the age of five wore black coats, black hats, black gloves. Still, I liked the jacket and thought it was a good purchase. When I got home, I cut the tags right away. There. I’ll teach myself not to second guess. But myself had other ideas.

I avoided the jacket. Put it at the back of the closet. Wore my old ratty jacket, the one I was planning to donate to NY Cares Coat Drive. This was silly. I doubt anyone registers what I, a stranger, is wearing. And if they do, why would I care?

At the next opportunity, I donated the old ratty jacket as planned. There. I’ll teach myself not to worry about what other people think. But myself had other ideas.

For the next few days, I bundled up with thick sweaters and layers to avoid having to wear a jacket. Then the temperature dropped, and I couldn’t avoid it any longer. We had a date with destiny.

I tried it on for the first time since I’d bought it. Oh, was it too snug? I should have gotten a size larger. Maybe I should have opted for something a bit longer. Was it going to be warm enough? All of this was dancing around the main issue. The color. It’s just a jacket, I kept reminding myself. Part of the reason I’d chosen that color was to get out of my comfort zone, even in this nominal way. It’s good to push boundaries from time to time. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s important to give myself a chance.

fitting-in

I zipped up the jacket and grabbed my keys before I had another chance to talk myself out of it. I got to my office building without incident, but I felt self-conscious, like a fish trying to swim against the school. There is a paradox here. I both want to blend in and be recognized; belong and stand out. (Though as Brene Brown points out, fitting in is not the same as belonging.)

As I walked the long hallway to my office, a co-worker stopped me. Some of us have worked together so long we are pathetically tuned in to the slightest changes in appearance. “Hey, that’s a new jacket! Great color.” Really? I stood a bit straighter. I hung the jacket on the back of my door and thought maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.  Later, on leaving for the day, another colleague offered a similar compliment while a third peeked around a filing cabinet. “Yes, I was going to mention that earlier. I like your jacket.”

Suddenly this was the best purchase I’d ever made. I felt confident and savvy. I practically strutted onto the subway for the ride home.

Have your perceptions changed after getting approval (or disapproval) from someone?

Have a great weekend, everyone!  

 

 

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51 comments

  1. Love it. I second guess myself all the time on purchases but I suspect your inner self KNEW that this was the perfect coat to wear in your lovely NYC winters. I favor a red coat, btw. 🙂

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  2. I love this!! (But no photo? I’m so curious!) These days I wear a black coat and mostly black clothes, but a long time ago I had a red coat. Just wearing it made me feel happier. Maybe I’ll go look for another one. Thanks for helping to change my perception!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I needed a new winter coat this year. Truthfully, I needed it last year and the year before and, if I’m totally honest, a year or two before that. At the end of last season, I donated the old one. I was forced to shop (ugh) for a replacement when winter thrust itself upon us early.

    I tried on a beautiful off-white one, knowing all along that it wouldn’t be cream-colored after one day on the train. Then I tried on red and I loved it, but I just knew it would stand out too much. I went with a dark grey (not black!). It is still in the closet because it’s too nice to wear and I’m wearing the too casual, puffy back-up to the ratty one.

    This is a great piece, and I love the photo.

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    1. In some ways, I think coat shopping is worse than bathing suit shopping. There are so many styles and brands, and it’s something I have to wear every day for months on end. I become paralyzed in the store.

      I applaud you for even trying on an off-white coat.

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  4. I love your choice. My usual go to color is red. Standing out is fun because people who know you confined you in the crowd. I was recently considering a black quilted rain coat but didn’t buy it because it is black. I still may buy it because it is super warm… but is it too warm.

    Jackie – enjoy your blue jacket!

    judy

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  5. Hi Jackie. Your post has me grinning. Like you, my go-to color is black. (Translate: urban, sophisticated, cool.) But my sister convinced me to buy a bright orange coat last winter. Not only bright orange–it has pleats and big black buttons. My experience was the same as yours–I was nervous about wearing it until the compliments started rolling in and rolling in. Now I feel so cool and chic in my bright orange coat. Every time I wear it, I get a compliment. Now I’m wondering why I waited so long to venture out of the safe black zone. Courage, Jackie. There is a world of color beyond black!! We’re both on the same exploratory journey. –Patti

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    1. Thank you, Patti! You really did venture out of your comfort zone with the orange coat! It sounds bright, happy, and fabulous. I’m glad that you’re enjoying it and getting compliments. I bet it really cheers people up during the winter doldrums.

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  6. I admire your decision to swim proudly against the current, but I remain a typical New Yorker drowning in basic black. This season I had to replace both my worn out winter and fall jackets. The fall jacket was navy blue and quilted. I wanted to get another like it, but I could not find one in navy in a style I liked. J. Crew had The Exact Jacket I Wanted, but it came in three colors: bone (no way, never), dark green (hmm) and black (safe choice). I debated getting the green, but a friend talked me out of it. I am very happy with the black. But I did exit my comfort zone and got a dark red silk scarf. Milton has been all over me for years to wear red.

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    1. Milton is usually right, so I bet the red scarf looks terrific.

      Emboldened by my blue jacket, I recently threw caution to the wind and got an off-white knit hat. I really like it and it’s the only area I can wear that color safely.

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  7. I just had a discussion with a receptionist at my doctor’s office about colored coats! She said she loves her bright red coat, and I told her about my bright yellow raincoat, which always delivers compliments. Regardless of what these do for us, I think they cheer other people on gray days.

    I miss the days of brightly colored cars. Mostly neutrals now. Mine is a color called “Clear Blue Skies.”

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    1. I realized as I was writing this post that people do enjoy seeing bright colors during the winter, especially when, as you mentioned in your recent post, even the sky seems dull and lifeless. There have been so many times I’ve smiled at the sight of a child wearing yellow rain boots or a woman wearing a bright green jacket. It is quite a pick-me-up. I bet your yellow raincoat spreads a little joy into the world.

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  8. But what you did not know was that they rolled their eyes as you passed. Don’t be surprised if they start asking you, “Is there something bothering you?” or “Do you need to talk?” or “We would like you to go and see someone for, counseling”.

    Breaking the NYC dress code is like putting on a big sign, “I’m not from Ohio, I’m nuts”.

    They have wonderful medications out now. In time you will be able to resist these outrageous tendencies.

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  9. Aw, this is very close to home… Two years ago, I bought a fancy, long (black) knitted cardigan, but for an entire year, I never wore it. “Too fussy”, I thought, once I had got it home, and when said garment suddenly reminded me of a particular style of dress donned by a childhood friend’s mother, a bombastic bleach-blonde whom I never really took to.

    Then, earlier this year, I put it on again and, to my great surprise, found that I’d somehow got over my hang-up. “Quite flattering and stylish,” was the new verdict, and I’ve worn it lots this year. Glad I didn’t get rid of it, coz, on rare occasions, something just starts growing on you 😉

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  10. When I was in college, I had a long wool coat that was, believe it or not, purple. I loved wearing it in the snowy winters and got so many compliments on it. Now I stick to black, but I do miss that purple coat. Good for you, going against the grain!

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  11. I Applaud your courage. It’s crazy how set in our ways we become with ourselves and others. It’s hard to crack the mold, ever so slightly. It’s like you throw the equilibrium off. I’m Wearing a new shirt to work tomorrow and it’s completely not me. I’m going to think of you and smile…

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  12. This was funny…”live on the edge, not jump off the cliff” cracked me up…sounds something Robin Williams would say in Dead Poet’s Society. I think everyone has gone through this at one point I our lives. But seeing how my wardrobe consist of jeans and Mossimo shirts from Target impressing people seems to be the last thing on my list, but I do walk with an extra spring in my step when someone gives me a compliment.

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  13. When I was a kid my mom bought me a bright green rain jacket. I refused to wear it. Of course I was lucky. It hardly rained where I lived and I grew out of it fast.

    I’m proud of you. I have a black winter coat, but I prefer my purple vest. Even when it doesn’t match, which is most days.

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    1. There are some photos floating around of me as a kid in some pretty garish outfits. My mom claims this was the “style,” but sometimes I wonder if she had to bribe me to put on those clothes even back then.

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  14. I’m glad you found the courage to wear your new jacket, and I’m glad someone else had the insight to compliment you on it. I’m sure we’ve all been in that same boat one time or another.

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  15. I love this post and can totally relate! But I love that you finally wore the coat (the color sounds gorgrous) and you were immediately met with positive feedback 🙂

    It’s such a great metaphor for life, edging out of our comfort zone is never easy. But often vital for growth.

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    1. It’s good to test the boundaries of our comfort zones once in a while, isn’t it? I think the same applies to writing as well. It sounds like you’re really getting your of your comfort zone with your current WIP. 🙂

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  16. Oh yes, ALL THE TIME. It’s funny– I’m confident about certain things, but not purchases of clothes and accessories. I always worry that it’s the wrong thing. I have a very fashionable friend (in nyc actually) and I often text her pictures. We joke (though it’s not a joke) that I cannot buy anything without her.

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    1. I’m embarrassed to say how long it takes me to make a clothing purchase. I second guess myself all the time. I wish I had a fashion guru friend like you have. I need all the help I can get. Maybe I can reach out to those fashionistas on What Not to Wear. 🙂

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  17. I love a blue coat! Or any kind that keeps out the cold 🙂
    I glanced down your recommended books too and I rather fancy My Salinger Year and the Antony Linden novel. Merry Christmas to you, Jackie!

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  18. I am late to the conversation, but related to your dilemma. A word in one direction or another possesses the power to transform our own perceptions – it reemphasizes the lingering power of how words can either affirm or create negative energy. Love the quote you cited by Brene Brown.

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    1. I’m often quite amazed at how a word or two can change my perceptions — in a positive or negative way. I’m trying to be more mindful of this and ground myself in my own convictions yet still be open minded. It’s a challenge to be sure!

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