I knew I had a problem the moment my husband came home from work and pointed out that I wasn’t wearing any pants. “Any particular reason?” he asked. I turned around from the sink where I’d been washing dishes, and shrugged. I hadn’t really given it much thought, save for a minute when — after getting out of the shower that morning — I’d somewhat subconsciously passed over my jeans in favor of a long, slouchy sweater and granny panties, before crawling back into bed with my laptop and cup of tea.
About two years ago, I started working from home as a freelance writer. Health insurance, smealth insurance — I was going to be Carrie Bradshaw! I put on my cutest I-couldn’t-help-but-wonder outfit, and I transformed the dead space that was the landing at the top of my staircase into an office. An IKEA desk went here, a mason jar for pens went there, and a horseshoe-shaped holder for extra business cards went next to that.
But sometime during my first week on the job, that ceramic horseshoe got lost in a sea of unopened mail and half-drunk cans of Seltzer. And my cute IKEA desk chair started hurting my back. Through the door on my right, I could see the edge of my bed — my cozy, sheets-fresh-out-of-the-dryer bed — and I thought it wouldn’t hurt if I, just for a moment, set up temporary camp between pillows. As I pulled back the covers, my childhood teddy bear stared at me with beady, judgmental eyes, so I buried him under the comforter and set about meeting the day’s deadline from bed (after vowing to get back to my desk the following day, of course).
But the next morning, I woke up to rain. Diagonal, driving rain. And something about the sound of water hitting the window above my headboard made getting up at all feel silly. Criminal, even. My husband had left for work before sunrise, so I figured no one would know if I simply skipped the shower and stayed put. Besides, my flannel pajama bottoms were very comfortable, and wasn’t comfort conducive to writing?
Thus began a list of rationalizations so long and detailed that I probably could have sold that to some editor, somewhere as a type of think-piece: Flannel Pajamas: The Gateway Drug of Attire. Because after this moment, all I could see were reasons to forgo my grown-up clothes — and real furniture — for a more Tempurpedic-style existence.
Never mind the science behind dressing for the job you want. Never mind the “halo effect” phenomenon that suggests that how you dress can make other people perceive you as a better person, lover, and friend. And never mind that, most importantly, a kickass ensemble raises a person’s own sense of self worth. Out loud to the German Shepherd resting his head on my stomach — and my elastic waistband du jour — I pondered: Isn’t cozy clothing a perk of the freelance lifestyle I’d signed up for? And why would I want to risk wrinkling my real wardrobe if no one is even going to see it? Blow-drying my hair isn’t really good for it, anyway, I thought. High heels are bad for my feet, tight pants are bad for fertility, and Spanx are bad for feminism! In a week, I’d gone from Carrie Bradshaw to phony women’s libber; I’d shunned my bra not really as a bold political statement, but because the underwire poked.
The worst part is that I didn’t take ownership of my sweatpant spiral. I started showering, dressing, and looking impossibly fresh for late afternoon at approximately 5:45, just in time for my husband to get home. Because while I may have been spending inordinate hours in ratty slippers and the ripped uniform tee-shirt I wore as a member of my high school’s JV softball team circa 2000, I didn’t want anyone to know it.
And then, I forgot. One day, I simply forgot to look presentable at all. I was outed — a woman sans pants. A woman who had (I was forced to admit) taken her new job’s lack of dress code just a bit too literally. And in the process, I’m pretty sure my work suffered. Because — while I’m all for a girl dressing the way she wants to and not the way society tells her she should — it’s hard to be productive when you’ve steamrolled right over the "chic" part of "disheveled chic," or the "couture" in "grunge couture." Bottom line: Leaning in doesn’t happen in lime green fuzzy socks.
So the next day, I spent $100 on dry-cleaning, traded my tee-shirt for a big-girl blouse, and made my bed — first thing in the morning. And you know what? I felt a whole lot better — a whole lot more productive — for it.
Images: Author; Giphy