Friday, April 07, 2006

clothing matters

Here’s a piece of local gossip: I know an attorney in town who has his own personal clothes shopper. I once asked him whatever for and he explained that he trusted her completely to find clothes in Madison that will make him look hot.

Another little tid bit: one law faculty member I know (again, here in town) also has her own shopping service. Hers is tied to a particular store. When a new shipment comes in, the shopping assistant calls and tells her that she has clothing set aside, appropriate for her size and tastes.

Then there is my friend Ed. He does not have a personal shopper. Indeed, most often, he tells me that he picks up Levis and socks and shirts at the same time that he picks up parts for the machines he designs, both readily obtainable right here:

Madison Mar 06 289

Okay, truthfully they would not be off this particular rack. But it is the only photo I could take. For some reason the management at Farm & Fleet worries that people like me are out to steal their fashion ideas and so I was asked to put away my camera.

Please do not write and tell me that I am a complete clothes snob. The last pair of shoes I bought were $29 off the Net. With them, I threw in a t-shirt for $19. I intend to wear both for teaching and traveling purposes.

But still, I cannot get excited by the selection at Farm & Fleet. I could if I were to spend time at a farm or on a fleet, but traveling around Europe? And indeed, Ed is a frequent traveling companion of mine. When I mentioned that perhaps he could evaluate his wardrobe before we next took off, I got a hurt look and the following question:

Can I take my St. Vinnies stuff? Would that work?

I contemplated this for a while, then offered my personal shopper services. I can do this: I can direct the man to proper attire.

Inspired, I carefully selected shirts, pants and shorts (the latter for hiking purposes; I warned that I will not be seen in a European city with anyone over the age of five wearing shorts). I brought them for his review.

I get these reactions: the shirt is too short and too baggy; the shorts are too tight and too clothy; the t-shirt makes him look too heavy...

The man dresses in St. Vinnies stuff and refuses to let go of shorts that have more holes than there are lakes in Minnesota and I am told that the beautiful espresso-mocha shorts with delicately frayed seams that I identified at Banana Republic do not fit the bill???

I stopped. My talents as a personal clothes spotter were on the line. I suggested we sort through his existing apparel. Surely something would present itself.

And it did. I pointed to acceptable pairs of shorts and pants and I okayed the three t-shirts I personally had forced on him many months back. I gave a loud NO to his favorite -- the frayed t-shirt with a huge drop of blood and an American flag inside, even if he told me enthusiastically that it was a free gift for giving blood. I said it made him look like a walking commercial for the proposition that Americans are out for blood in this world, which, even if true, was not something we would want to advertise when traveling in Sicily. You know, home of the Mafia. Blood has different meaning there.

Ed looked puzzled. Why had I selected as many as three pairs of pants and two shorts? Why does anyone take more than one pair of each (one on the body and one in a back pack) for a two week trip to Europe?

I have no answer to that. Truly, I am stumped. I am inclined to say – one just does.