Culottes Aren’t Out of the Question
Next month I’m going to a wedding, which is a mixed bag: I’m thrilled that two people who love each other have invited me to acknowledge their union. I’m a sucker for the spectacle, and I’m a not-so-secret romantic. What kills me—absolutely makes me dread RSVPing yes—is that I have to show up in formal attire.
I dislike formal attire, I always have, in part because it tends to reflect the kind of people who’ve been wearing formal attire for generations. Which is to say, the first thought I have when I put on a suit that compliments my skin tone is not do I look professional, but rather how do I tone this thing down? This is followed by what I’ve always assumed are typical concerns by people who wear suits: Do I look too stiff? Am I going to sweat through half a grand’s worth of clothes in two hours? Do I start the food stain countdown now, or does it start when I leave the store? What if I gain/lose weight between now and the next time I have to put this thing on? Do I look like I’m overcompensating for something, such as identifying as a sales representative in a customer service position, or a consistent penchant for poster décor? How can I tie my shoes without bending over? You know. Garden variety concerns.
My aversion to suits runs even deeper than this; every conscious fashion decision I’ve ever made has been a step away from a suit, in any direction. I wore overalls in high school so often that I became known to fellow students as “Farmer Bob.” I grew up around sailors whose dress whites flared like bell bottoms that seemed made for Studio 54. I only stopped wearing hoodies two sizes too large when I loaned my favorite one to a girl so free-spirited that when she said she spent the last six months living in people’s barns in the American southwest I didn’t so much as raise an eyebrow; I knew, when I extended my arms with my black-turned-grey-with-age hoodie, folded neatly despite the rip in the neck from when I tried to wear a scarf underneath it, that I wasn’t going to see it ever again. Wearing a suit was representing myself as something I was not. None of my role models wore suits; in fact, I didn’t even learn how to tie a tie until I turned 25.
But really, it comes down to body image and math. I’m a short guy with a linebacker’s build who looks just like his mother. (I have pictures of her in evening gowns with biceps that would make a personal trainer drool.) I’m wearing a body shape that my grandmother has tagged as an inverted triangle. And, not being tall or lean offers certain setbacks and hangups when dressing traditionally. Then tell me that I need to find a stranger to throw measuring tape around me and see how I’m feeling after that wonderful interaction—I was measured recently and the guy who measured me actively looked away in between readings. I felt dazed and a little offended; was he being polite by not making eye contact or was the experience cheapened by it? It was all the movements of being hugged with the expressions of “I left the money on the nightstand, and I regret every dollar spent.” I was at such a loss I forgot to ask for the measurements he took. And not wanting to repeat the experience I decided to measure myself at home. I measured myself three times and got three different readings, which goes to show the value of someone with experience doing it for you.
Since this couple is getting married in August, in New Hampshire, in the evening, I do wonder if gingham, suspenders and jeans is truly out of the question.