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The Directrice Gives Back

 
Oyez, Oyez!
 
I am cleaning my closets ruthlessly, which means giving away some dear things. I want them to have good homes.
 
You may be saying to yourself, “GiVINg AwAY?? To wHOm?”
 
To you, of course. Here’s the deal . . . A Contest!
 
But first, Eligibility. Eligible contestants are persons who have posted a comment in the past. Just one comment renders you eligible!

 
 
Bag No. 1: It’s teal patent leather with brassy trim. Looks beautiful with black, greys, blues, yellow, and white.
 
Your entry in this contest is to post a comment below describing a time that you unwittingly showed up somewhere and realized that you had the dress code all wrong.
 
Shiny bag

RAFE New York


Here is a sample, taken from personal experience: I showed up for work wearing an Eileen Fisher merino wool knit jacket and pants. One of my colleagues, who knew I had a settlement meeting scheduled that day, said, “It’s a good thing you wore your best track suit for this meeting.”
 
Note: The partner on that case was wearing an Oxford button down and khakis — no jacket, no tie. To this day, I maintain that I was appropriately dressed.

Coach Legacy Field Bag

Coach Legacy Field Bag

 
Bag No. 2: It’s like new because it’s scarcely been used. It’s a classic satchel in British tan.
 
Eligibility for the satchel is restricted to the free-lance writers who read this blog. There are a number of you, and I am honored that you take the time to read my words.
 
Free-lancers, your entry in the contest is to post a comment below identifying one thing you’ve learned from this blog. Please identify yourself as a writer.

For those who are feeling aggrieved because you never imagined there would be negative consequences to free-riding: You can post a comment today and ensure your eligibility for future contests. Surely that is some consolation.
 
Winners will be selected according to random criteria that have not yet gelled in my brain.

33 thoughts on “The Directrice Gives Back

  1. In 6th grade, I attended my first “boy-girl” Halloween party. The budding tweenagers all came dressed in something trendy or appealing to the opposite sex. There were many Wonder Womans in leotards and Luke Skywalkers wielding light sabers.
    Courtesy of my parents, I arrived dressed as the Dorchester Gas Tank, a costume comprised of two hula hoops, a vast amount of white tarp, and a home-rendered version of the famous rainbow Carita painting that adorned this Boston iconic landmark.
    This was almost, but not quite, as bad as the time I showed up wearing a toga to what I thought was a college costume party at my boyfriend’s fraternity. It was not a costume party.
    Photos upon request.
    No need to enter me in the contest — I have too many purses but thought I would contribute to the collection of responses.

    • The Dorchester Gas Tank is such a good costume idea! I love it!

      I had a similar Halloween experience in which I didn’t get the memo that we were supposed to try to be cute or something now, and showed up dressed as a bag of jelly beans.

  2. Recently I attended my husbands nieces wedding. Traditionally, my friends dress fancy for weddings. I wore a lace skirt and floral blouse that I had worn to a friends wedding 3 months previously. I was actually a little under-dressed at my friends wedding. I guess I didn’t realize his nieces wedding was a barn wedding. Everyone had on jeans and boots, the bride wore boots with her wedding dress. I was dressed more fancy than the bride. High heel shoes are not good in barns, holes in floor, or on the soft dirt outside which was where the wedding was held. My husband wore a suit and tie. We both felt out of place.

  3. I laughed about the track suit comment. Honestly, your outfit was so perfect in my eyes and I think her clothing is so zen and perfect for any confrontation providing no narrative nor distraction. Very funny story. Kate

  4. Both lovely bags! The Legacy is my favorite of the two, though alas, my writing is salaried legalese.

    For an Important Negotiation Session held at a client’s office, I of course wore a lovely suit and silk blouse. Little did I know that the opposing team wore jeans and cowboy boots (they are not from Texas and the deal did not involve agriculture or livestock…). My client’s team also dressed down for the meeting to send the message of “let’s reach a deal” cooperative spirit. Oh, did I stick out, but at least I served as a nice ice-breaker as everyone (including me) got a good laugh at my expense!

  5. I am so embarrassed to write this: I am visibly pregnant and it’s very hard to find stylish maternity clothing that look good! My husband’s family member recently passed away and we went to the funeral. I don’t have any black maternity dresses that are funeral-appropriate and I did not want to go out and buy something new that would be worn once. Instead, I showed up with a lovely floral dress with a bright-red bow that highlights my belly. Needless to say, I was the only one in print, or ANY color at this funeral, and received many disapproving looks when I walked in. My husband is still mortified!

    • Pregnant women get a pass, Sarita! You did your best! Your body is working triple-overtime on a very important project.

  6. I found out about your blog last month from your husband’s posting on a FB photography group, and since then have enjoyed reading many of the back issues. One thing I’ve learned from your blog is the way you manage to complement the story with terrific, and often odd, photo captions. And yes, I’d love the Coach bag – my first bag for my first job many years ago was a classic Coach.

  7. This is very timely, Directrice! I am at a yoga retreat in a remote part of Guatemala at this very moment. I carefully packed a mix of yoga clothes, sports clothes for other activities like kayaking, and casual evening wear like black pants and {Eileen Fisher) sweaters.
    Wrong! It’s day three. Everyone else is wearing their yoga clothes 24/7. And nothing else. So most of my clothes will remain packed in my suitcase (so the scorpions can’t climb in and nest in them), and I will try to find new and interesting combinations of limited yoga wear.
    That’s all I can write because we are all sharing very limited internet access (because, the volcano).

      • yes, the volcano , and general remoteness, limits internet access to slow email, and that’s not a bad thing on a retreat. (And on the bright side, volcano hasn’t erupted since 1850s).

        • For those on world-wide volcano/tsunami watch (like me), Mt. Etna was angry last week. Thank you for sending word from your trip, Lynne. It sounds wonderful.

  8. Oh, this one is painful to recall. I showed up to my first day of work at my first job after to grad school in a periwinkle blue double-breasted skirt suit with nude slingbacks. At a firm where the office “uniform” was a denim workshirt and black jeans. A) Periwinkle blue? What was I thinking? B) Ugh. One of my coworkers busted my chops about it for. years.

  9. When I was 21 I married a young doctor. Too young to get married, I know, but that was the least of my deficiencies. I had no clue, none, about how to dress for anything except work (at a hospital) or a wedding. The same month we married, we were invited to his group practice’s picnic in one of the partner’s backyards. Not knowing any better, I asked him what I should wear and he said “What you would wear to a picnic.” So working class me, I wore a pretty shortish skirt (it was summer) and a top and cute flip-flop things. He wore khakis and a polo shirt. When we show up I hear the strains of a string quartet. Okay, that’s nice. We enter the house and are greeted by a man, one of the partners, and he’s wearing a tux. A waiter offers a silver platter with flutes of bubbly. And then I see other men wearing tuxes. And the women are ALL wearing long beautiful gowns and diamonds. It was a society picnic. Husband and I made up the excuse we had just stopped by on our way to *another* picnic for some relation I probably made up. We beat it out of there so darn fast we were merely a rumor. My social debut was a disaster. From that day on, though, I always called one of the other wives to get some idea of how to dress!

  10. Wow! Well, I’m a writer, and I enjoy your humor and whimsy. I’ve learned a lot of things from your blog – for example, I could take a high-low hemline to a seamstress and ask her to make it even if I felt like it. Which I’m thinking about. I also learned that lawyers CAN dress in an interesting manner; if I’d known that back when I decided against law school in part because I couldn’t bear the thought of wearing a suit every day I might have gone to law school and THEN become a writer. I also learned that your photographer is a very charming and friendly person who has taken the time to comment on my blog on occasion.

  11. As a freelance writer, I am always looking for good examples of connecting with your audience. While reading the Directrice, I’ve observed how you use fashion and glimpses of your life to entice your readers to crave your next posting and create a community of women in the process.

    Aside from good writing, I have been inspired to make some dramatic alterations to renew my wardrobe. Just today, I ribbed off the sleeve cuffs and changed the buttons of a much beloved, but over-worn, sweater in order to reinvent it.

    I hope you gift the Coach bag to me – It will look fantastic worn cross-body with my recently reinvented sweater.

  12. The unwritten rules of work attire are difficult to decode, and in my first real job after grad school, working in labour management in a northern Canadian city, I took several missteps, but none so cringe worthy as the “slip” incident. My mentor was a smart, tough and intimidating woman. The night before my first big negotiation, she called over her shoulder, “And don’t wear a suit!” as she left the office. What?! My one good suit was my uniform and my crutch. I don’t know why I didn’t just ask what she’d be wearing. Idiot.

    So, after much hand wringing, I settled on a borrowed sweater dress (!) and riding boots. The dress was itchy and I worried that the skirt part was a bit sheer, so I pulled on an old half-slip and raced to work.

    My mentor wore a crisp, tailored shirt and beautiful cuffed trousers. She arched an eyebrow at the sweater dress. The meeting was hot and stuffy with a wide range of attire on display from work boots to suits, but I was the only one in a dress. As I squirmed and fidgeted in my scratchy (and static-y) wool, the half-slip kept bunching up and twisting around my hips. As the meeting dragged on, we eventually reached a stalemate, and my colleague stood to leave. I desperately tried to smooth down the slip, but somehow managed to stretch out and break the old elastic waistband. As I walked out of the room I felt it sliding down my backside. It hit the floor just before my exit. I grabbed it, stuffed it in my bag and kept walking.

    I must have heard the slip story told a hundred times in the two years that I worked for that particular government department, but it was an initiation of sorts. People commiserated. I learned to laugh at myself and to become more comfortable in my own skin. Afterward, I wore things that made me feel good and confident.

    Directrice, the thing I admire most about the blog is that you always make me see my own closet with fresh eyes. And as my own closet does not contain a teal bag, I would love to give a good home to yours.

  13. My very first school dance was a noon hour dance. My mom made me a very pretty party dress to wear, and everyone else was wearing jeans. I was embarrassed and didn’t have as much fun as I should have. But, these days, I usually don’t worry if I’m more dressed up than those around me because I really love wearing skirts and dresses!

  14. I’ll add my own story as a freelance writer (though I’m sure the fine print says that as Husband and Photographer, I am exempt from the contest.) I was meeting with an editor here in D.C. to pitch him a story idea and he suggested I meet him at his club. Clubs are an old-money concept that I know nothing about. He did not tell me it was fancy enough to require business dress! I showed up in an oxford and corduroys, and while I don’t remember what shoes I had, I’m sure they weren’t up to code. The concierge looked at me, said “Wait a minute…” and brought out a navy jacket that was at least two sizes too big for me. I felt like a twelve-year old trying to wear his dad’s jacket. The sleeves kept flopping over my knuckles. Well, I felt like an idiot. I gamely pitched my story, but I imagine I lacked a certain gravitas, and that was the end of that. He’s the chief editor of Wired now, and though I’ve published three features there, I would only pitch him again if I were wearing, say, an extremely expensive bespoke suit. But maybe then he’d switch the venue to Hill Country Barbecue.

    P.S. Betsy, your Dorchester Gas Tank story is hilarious.

  15. Sadly, I am often out of step with the majority here when it comes to dressing for evening events. A few years ago my husband bought us tickets to a Harry Connick Jr. concert in an intimate venue here in Portland, Oregon. I wore what I assumed was appropriate attire, just recently moved here from California – and thinking “Oh, romantic date; let’s do black velvet, fitted, something vintage, heels…” Everyone else was in REI, LL Bean, denim… These Oregonians tend to be super practical, either bicycling to the theatre, or coming in from walking the dog/gardening/serving the homeless. I am now careful to wear something in which I won’t stick out sorely, yet still feel special when the occasion calls for it!

  16. Just a quick comment after a long hiatus from commenting due to so many things going on in the world and so much work to do. Glad I can count on the Directrice to keep inspiring. I wanted to mention that I was in Santa Fe recently and made sure to stop in at Cashmere and Chocolate. All was as lovely as described.

  17. Completely off topic comment hereā€¦I too am cleaning out my closet. I imagine many of your readers are doing a spring cleaning with this early spring we’re having. I think we should all get together and have some kind of swap party. I suspect your readers would enjoy meeting you and each other. We could make it a charity event, such as everyone pays 25 bucks to get in and brings one bag of things they would like to swap. We donate the proceeds to a great cause, such as Suited for Change, along with any leftover items. If you’re interested, I’ll help you organize.

  18. Ugh. Awkward transition from grad student to academic – broke bohemian chic meets second hand ill fitting suits, for tenure track interviews (yes, plural).
    A

  19. Update from yesterday’s post about bringing totally wrong mix of clothes to yoga retreat I’m at this week in Guatemala: We are now accessorizing our yoga wear with lovely handcrafted local items like scarves and jewelry (I’d send pictures, but bandwidth here limits us to email). Yes, we are all shoppers, but are hiking to the local villages so we’re working for it. Directrice, I think your teal bag would be happy living with my colorful new fair trade accessories from local craftspeople.

    (And although it’s not relevant to the bag contest, I just wanted to mention how impressive and moving it is to see how the local fair trade efforts are paying off. Many of the resources go to education, and the Mayan village nearest our retreat now has its first-ever female college graduate).

  20. I like the Coach satchel but I am not a free lancer writer, rats. I have commented before so I am safe in that respect. Thanks for your blog! I know I have commented on your purses before, smile. Will be interesting to see who gets which purse.

  21. I’m not sure this response qualifies as I showed up for something three days in a row and never did realize what was wrong with my outfit! I was invited to join someone in India who was traveling to spiritual leaders to pray for the recovery of his son. We went to an ashram to meet with Sai Baba. Day one I was rejected (no western wear allowed). Day two my new Indian garb was deemed too close fitting across my shoulders (though in my defense, I was covered from head to toe). Day three I arrived with a shawl I had purchased nearby on the shop owner’s recommendation. I was even more shamed and rejected and this time waved off without explanation. Upon arriving home and telling the story, my Indian friend asked to see the shawl. It was a dish towel. I thought it was very pretty.

  22. I love these kinds of stories. I have certainly been wrongly dressed many, many times in my life, but I’m inspired by the Halloween stories, so I’ll share this: in the 4th grade, for Halloween at school, I decided to wear a dress I had found in my grandmother’s closet, a silky, low-cut polyester number with a psychedelic print barely concealing the naked people cavorting all over it. With a skinny white scarf tied around my neck, a quilted black bag with a gold chain strap, and some insane high heels, I was……a streetwalker. And I told everyone that I was…….a streetwalker. No, I didn’t know what a streetwalker was. Surely some the adults I talked to did?

  23. Before heading back to university, my darling daughter helped me to clean out my closet. It was a wonderfully cleansing event. Bin bags full of perfectly good, but little worn items were happily given to a charity store and will, hopefully, end up in new homes. My daughter took a selection of shoes and handbags down to her college to give away to other students. I have always hated shopping, but as a former dressmaker was always tempted by another interesting pattern, another interesting fabric. I’ve realised that much of my closet existed as the result of enjoying the creative process rather than the desire for something new to wear. So…this year I am endeavouring to redirect my creative urges in new ways and live with fewer clothes. Fingers crossed!
    As for being I appropriately dressed…well, I remember dropping my children off at their little country school one day many, many years ago. I happened to be wearing a dress – just a simple, cotton dress, but I was asked more than once if I was off to a job interview. Apparently shorts and flip flops were the norm.

  24. I’m late to this page, but the stories are so good that I want to join in! I remember my very first job interview as a teenager. It was at Marshall Fields, the highest-rated department store in the area. I proudly wore a coral-colored long skirt and matching jacket and thought I looked great. In hindsight, I’m sure I looked like a dowdy matron, not a stylish teen! No wonder I didn’t get the job.

But what do you think?