by Elise Seyfried
My daughters are home for a visit, which can mean only one thing: a marathon viewing of reruns of TLC’s epic TV show, “What Not to Wear.” For the uninitiated, WNTW style mavens Stacy and Clinton staged televised interventions involving hopelessly frumpy/sloppy/trashy-looking women.
Their sad wardrobes were examined (as Stacy and Clinton held their collective nose) and, mostly, thrown away. Then the unfortunately attired subjects were handed $5,000 and coached through a shopping spree. At the end of the show, after being more suitably clad and given dramatic hair and makeup transformations, the Lucky Ladies paraded in front of their applauding friends.
My favorite episode that aired the other day starred Denise, a flight attendant given to wearing a big blonde bouffant hairdo, teensy-weensy skirts, most with sequins or frills, and enough makeup to stock a branch of Sephora (a French chain of cosmetics stores). Denise thought she looked “super cute” and wondered why she wasn’t attracting the right kind of attention.
Denise almost burst into tears as her glitzy costumes were flung into the trash can, her hair extensions were discarded, and her huge globs of foundation and eye shadow were wiped off. When she appeared as the “new” Denise, actually looking nice, she was clearly not a happy camper. Once the cameras stopped rolling, you could just tell that she would revert to spiked heels and big bows in her hair within the week.
Which got me thinking. What kind of attention am I attracting with my appearance? My wardrobe is chock-full of items from LOFT, a relatively stylish store. My hair is regularly colored and cut. I am already a makeup minimalist. (Lipstick is reserved for special occasions.) So why do I feel certain I would not pass muster with Stacy and Clinton?
Well, I don’t exactly have a track record of dressing well. My fashion faux pas go back in time — way back. As a child in the ’60s, I shamelessly copied my teenage elders with their loops of love beads and their VERY wide bell bottoms. (This was my out-of-school attire; my in-Catholic school uniform was, well, a uniform.)
Later, I was the 1970s’ gal with the gladiator sandals. (They strapped all the way up the calf and completely cut off circulation. No wonder the gladiators were always in such a bad mood!) In the early ’80s, the shoulders of my jackets were so padded that they could hang in my closet without hangers. This was also the unfortunate decade when I permed my hair and ended up channeling Shirley Temple. (And even she was smart enough to change hairdos when she grew up.)
The next 30 years were a blur of intense parenthood. Photos of those un-chic days feature me in a parade of “mom” jeans and shapeless sweats, each outfit easily adding a decade to my age.
How to explain my “look” nowadays? I think it’s my laziness at play, for the most part. My hair only really looks good during the 24 hours immediately following my salon appointment because flat ironing my tresses makes my arm hurt. My clothes only attract the attention of spots and stains, which leap onto me as soon as I exit my bedroom, a situation only made worse since the arrival of baby grandson Aiden, who regularly baptizes me with smushed banana and goldfish cracker crumbs, and it’s too much bother to change.
And speaking of change, I haven’t replaced my mascara since 2013. (I think you are supposed to do so every couple of months; no?) I like to think I exude insouciance and a certain bohemian flair, but I fear I most resemble someone who does not own a mirror.
It’s so easy to laugh at the hapless Denise and the other misfits on “What Not to Wear.” It’s harder to think of myself as one of their ilk. The odds of my snagging a reality TV show and five grand in mad money are slim to none, so I’m going to need to go DIY and stage my own intervention. Starting today!
Out go the ancient blush and ink-spotted pants. I pledge to fuss with the hair again and wear lipstick on a more regular basis. And as I slowly climb out of my fashion rut, I will intone my own version of the Serenity Prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the age (almost 60!) I cannot change, the courage to change the sloppiness I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.
Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children as well as of her self-published book, “Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life,” a collection of essays, humorous but with a spiritual focus, based on her life as a mom and church worker. The book can be purchased for $15 plus shipping through www.eliseseyfried.com. (Also from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble bn.com, although they add an extra charge.)