Keeping up appearances

I was saddened by the recent death of Stéphane Audrane, the marvelous French actress who starred in Babette’s Feast, a cinematic gem that won the 1987 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Audrane’s distinguished career spanned six decades and a variety of roles, and she always considered clothing in her approach to characters,  she told The Chicago Tribune.

“It starts with the clothes,” she said in a 1994 interview. “It is the first thing you have to think of. It’s helpful because, if you notice, the way you wear your clothes is the way you are.”

When I read this, I felt indicted. Because it’s true, and because I was wearing, again, what has become my at-home winter uniform:  leggings and sweat pants, a turtleneck and sweatshirt, wool socks.  All in varying shades of grey and black.  It’s an easy,  practical and comfy ensemble — as good for sleeping as waking — and it matches my cats.  Yet I could feel the enervating influence of all that soft, sloppy darkness, an outer muting that mirrored the frequent inner ennui of a post-prime life.   The way you wear your clothes is the way you are, Audrane said.  Nailed.

Now, I’ve never been a fashion plate; in fact, I’m a late adopter of all trends, if I get to the orphanage at all. But I’m seeing that semi-retirement is quietly dangerous in a boiling-frog way for people who spend great swaths of time alone.  Demarcations between day and night blur; associated social imperatives recede.  Hygiene begins to feel kind of optional,  dressing sort of pointless.  You gradually forget you must shower, arrange your hair and attire yourself for the world of people, if only to avoid scaring the Jehovah’s Witness who comes unexpectedly to your door. (I still feel bad about that.)

As I considered Audrane’s observation, I could feel myself slouching slowly toward the day when I would absent-mindedly go to my part-time job wearing bedhead and what amounts to jammies.label Action was clearly needed — always a dangerous thought — and whenever action is needed, I know just where to go:  Amazon.  There I ordered two fistfuls of beautiful Buff knockoffs, multifunctional headwear that can be worn in a buzillion configurations: a beanie, a headband, a balaclava, a pirate scarf (my favorite), a blindfold (mildly troubling), a facemask and so forth.

These very fine products, made of genuine polyester microfiber,  have just arrived, having come all the way from China. According to the package insert, they’ve had “hot sale for a long time” due to their high quality, so customers can “buy felt relieved, with happily.”  All I know is they’re awfully pretty; by the time I’d opened the cellophane packages and admired each piece,  my color-impoverished self had gotten her money’s worth.  Just seeing them made me want to spiff myself up.

I intend to wear them as scarves that add panache to my otherwise understated wardrobe and also cleverly disguise my neck wattles, which are a real thing among women of a certain age and men, too,  though men don’t learn to care. This plan presumes that I will 1) actually get out of my sweats;  2) figure out how to don the scarves without strangling myself;  and 3) accept the sideways stares of people who have actual fashion sense and wonder if I’ve recently had a tracheotomy.

A high bar, I know.  But it’s a start, a small step out of my clothing complacency toward a more lively appearance, and perhaps demeanor.  Already, I feel relieved, with happily.





  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I think that I’ll be smiling for the rest of the day!


    1. Ah, that’s the effect I hoped it would have. Thanks for sharing your enjoyment!


  2. very interesting scarves/kerchiefs, Cate, and fabulous chinglish labeling. I do get it on the attire issue. I still manage a very mild semblance of okay when I go to my office, but the “at home” attire is quite odd. We laugh on cold days when there Dr. Seuss printed fleece pants, often paired with a fleece lined plaid (in utterly different colors) shirt. And then non coordinating slippers and socks, too! Stunning. But warm and oh so comfy!

    Enjoy your new stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Steph! Sounds as if your default at-home uniforms are more colorful than mine, if less coordinated. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s an accurate assessment. Plaids and prints, different colors–preschoolers run amok!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. i’m left inspired
    to get dressed 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You have a low bar, too! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ant Nance · · Reply

    Great one Cath, makes me ALMOST want to follow suit!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’ve always had more fashion sense in your little finger than I’ve had in my whole body. Now, finally, we meet at this dubious crossroads. 🙂 Thanks for reading, Dear Aunt.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Dackley · · Reply

    Oh but Miss Cate, you wear them so well!!!! Seeing you in our working space, sporting a new buff did indeed POP with fashionista flair. Even in her 90’s my mother would somewhat do her hair and makeup with that little touch of red lipstick to finish it off. I bought lipstick last month; now if I can only remember where I put that damn thing I’ll slap some on before my ride.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Debbie! I have decided to carry on with my own interesting fashion ideas in the face of whatever approbation (or polite silence) comes my way. As for you, dear, do as you will with the lipstick, but do not wear mascara on your Big Pedal, lest it run as you sweat (and possibly weep). Just kidding on that — you’ll do fabulously, and I’ll be thinking of you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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