Finding confidence around my neck

by Lesley on April 28, 2010 · 9 comments

in growing up,lessons learned

yellow dress

I stood in my closet, right foot resting flamingo style on the left knee. This is my thinking pose; and on Monday night I needed to make an important fashion decision for the following day.

Most days, getting dressed is a short process that happens while brushing my teeth in the morning. My office allows us to dress casually, so unless I have a meeting or event, I don’t need to look perfectly put together—which is fortunate because I’m not a perfectly put together type of girl. My makeup is minimal, my hair is usually straight, and the clothes I wear are often from Target.

I’ve always wanted to dress nicer than I do. Don’t most women say that? Even the ones who are always well dressed? I remember feeling fashion challenged for the first time in sixth grade when all the other girls got body suits and Guess denim shorts. Suddenly, the clothes I had from Limited Too didn’t seem as mature. My mom assured me I looked cute, but I sure didn’t feel as sophisticated as all the other girls.

Sophisticated is exactly how I wanted to feel on Tuesday night. A co-worker and I were nominated for a business award in Sacramento. It was an honor I didn’t expect, and one I felt highly unqualified to win. For that reason, I wanted to look the part of an actual adult. I didn’t want to be the 28 year old kid who shows up to a bar wearing Limited Too when everyone else has on body suits and Guess shorts.

I tried on several outfits. None of them seemed right. How do girls know which shirts go with which pants? When do I need a skinny belt? Can people see my bra through this? Does an undershirt look silly? It’s spring—but it’s raining—so what shoes do I wear? Open? Closed? And, do I have time for a pedicure?

Jonathan didn’t really get it. His most difficult fashion decision each day is deciding what tie to wear. Oddly enough, even this decision can be a challenge for him. And while he gently poked fun of my dramatic closet scene, I found myself lecturing him about how the importance of this very moment and how it might translate to the rest of my career. Was it overly dramatic? Um, yes. (*blush*) But, was it somewhat true? Possibly. Women remember what other women wear—right or wrong—and first impressions count. It’s no wonder we worry so much about finding the perfect skinny belt.

I settled on a short sleeved Target blouse and brown skinny pants. My older heels would have to work, and I’d go without a belt since I don’t own one. The next morning before leaving the house I decided to grab a vintage yellow necklace I’d purchased earlier that week at a consignment store. I’d never shopped at a consignment store before, and it’s rare that I buy jewelry for myself. The necklace was certainly, for me, a step outside the typical.

I fiddled throughout the day with my outfit. The shirt didn’t stay tucked in very well without a belt, and I was cold because of the rainy weather. I started doubting my choice of clothing as soon as I walked into the event not because I was dressed inappropriately but because I am new at this game of playing career woman.

After drinks and appetizers, the award presentation began. I didn’t win. I felt a sense of relief as soon as the last name was called. I wouldn’t have to tromp across that stage in heels with my shirt hanging out. I could go home, change out of the costume, and feel like a kid again.

Shortly after the program, a woman walked up. “You’re Lesley! I’ve wanted to meet you in person.” She was the owner of the consignment store where I’d bought the necklace, and she recognized me from Twitter. I smiled as my hand found its way to my neck.

“This necklace I’m wearing—“ I began.

“Is from our store? Yes. I know. My mom and I recognized it from across the room. It’s so cute. I’m glad you like it,” she said.

I stood a little taller, and smiled a little wider. My self worth isn’t based on appearances. It’s not based on winning an award either. But, in that very short moment, my yellow necklace made me feel like the grown woman I’d been pretending to be.

Maybe I don’t need that skinny belt after all.

photo credit: elsita on flickr

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8 comments
kelli
kelli

Aww, Leslie...I loved reading this :) I can totally relate! I never felt cool enough in school and I secretly loved the years where I had to wear a uniform bc then no one would make fun of my jeans =) You're awesome just how you are and congrats on being recognized! See you soon.

Sarah
Sarah

Love this post. I definitely know the feeling of wanting to dress the part to look like we fit in, but I have no doubt that you very much belong in a room full of honorees (Congratulations!! I wish you were like ten million times less humble.). My "yellow necklace" are these cheap-y pearl earrings that (I decided) add five years to my baby face. I think the trick is to remember even the most confident woman in the room has her yellow necklace too.

Ashlee
Ashlee

Lesley I loved this post! The amount of anxiety that filled my closet during my first week of work was enough to make me cry one morning. I also recently purchased a fedora that I plan to wear all summer long. Can we be hat twins? Congrats again on your nomination! So proud of you and all that you are doing! ;)

Lesley
Lesley

Oh, Mom. I love you. Thanks. Sharon, perhaps we should buy one piece track suits for running? Oh wait. I already have one. Alyson, is it too warm in the summer for a light scarf? It is here, but I know there are cute ones that are very light weight. I just bought a (Target) canvas fedora that I plan to wear as my summer accessory. Anna, thank you for admitting you still cry in your closet. Only a grown woman can admit such a thing. ;)

Ann Sebek
Ann Sebek

You're so beautiful, outside and in, that you don't need no stickin' skinny belt - or even a vintage yellow necklace. You're still a winner to me, and Dad too!!!!

Anna Jordan
Anna Jordan

I can't tell you how many times I've stood crying at my closet in nothing but a bra and panties. I so regularly feel like a little girl putting on her mother's clothes and playing dress-up before a big event. Little accent pieces totally make a difference for me! I'm glad you had that necklace! (also - Banana Republic Outlet usually has great belts) ;)

Alysun
Alysun

Very common issue with women and well put. Now that I am a mom my main concern is that I don't want to look like one, if you know what I mean. I've clung to the cute patterned scarf to help my boring target/gap wardrobe. What do I do in the summer when I can't wear a scarf always?Oh, no. Now I'm getting worried. Maybe a super cool necklace will save me too.

Sharon
Sharon

I had the same thing happen in 6th grade! I was so excited about my Limited II back to school clothes, until I went to school and realized I didn't get the memo...Limited II was out, Guess body suites were in. I think we would have been friends in 6th friend. Congratulation on your nomination. You deserve to be recognized for you work.

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