by Beth Diane Bradley
Mark Twain said: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
That’s why I’m almost late for work most mornings. It’s my job to influence people, and therefore I must not be naked. But sometimes my attempts to be a fashionista fall flat – or down, despite my greatest efforts.
Take last Wednesday. I threw together a new combination – a scarf I just bought on sale, last year’s clearance rack cardigan, and some black pants that fit fine the last time I wore them. When I got to the building where I work, I had two wardrobe malfunctions before I even made it to my office – a loose button caused my pants to practically fall off, and my new scarf got caught in the zipper of my coat.
I agree with Mark Twain. When you dress well, you feel more confident and things just go better — at least it helps when your pants stay up. But since shoes squeak, stockings run, and coffee spills, I find it quite challenging to look like a polished professional for an entire work day.
So I prefer to take a more philosophical approach to fashion, and just let go of all that pressure once and for all.
In many cultures, artists will intentionally make a mistake to symbolize that only God creates perfection. The Japanese call it “Wabi-Sabi,” which is defined as “the art of finding beauty in imperfection.”
It feels good to put this issue into a cultural context, and know that any fashion mishaps that come my way have a deeper global significance. I’m not sure what we call it in North Dakota, but I know my less than perfect fashion statement definitely fits the bill.
The other side of this issue is the embarrassing clothing catastrophe that goes unnoticed by the wearer of the wayward garment. When do you tell the person, and when do you ignore it? My rule of thumb is based on how well I know them. My motto has always been that friends alert friends when they have toilet paper stuck to their shoe during a cocktail party. And strangers look the other way. The same goes for open flies, broccoli in your teeth, etc.
If only we practiced Wabi-Sabi, friends could give each other high-fives after spilling salsa on their clothes, to show their appreciation of the artistic and spiritual value of the stained shirt.
While that could cause some backlash from the dry cleaning industry, I think it would be a healthy step forward for the rest of us.
The stain could lend itself to a number of useful applications — such as a Rorschach test, in case you are in need of a quick psychological evaluation by your friends. Or for those seeking to know their future, it could be read like tea leaves or cloud formations.
However, it may be awhile before our society evolves to that level of spiritual growth. Until then, we’ll have to continue using napkins, and follow more conventional paths to enlightenment.