Free Fashion Advice

As I stood at the front door ready to take my daily walk, I thought of Coco Chanel’s famous advice: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” I’ve acted on this bit of advice many times, since I love all the accessories.

But here’s the thing: I couldn’t take off anything for my walk because everything is necessary. Whereas I used to take long summer walks with nary a hat or sunscreen, I now wear a super-cautious wide-brim hat with a hole in back for my ponytail. Not only that, it has a chin strap to keep from blowing off my head with the slightest gust of wind. Wide brims love to catch air, you see.

I resisted the chin strap, due to an aversion to the elastic chin straps of my childhood Easter bonnets slicing across my throat. Those things were deadly serious about keeping the straw hat on your head until the final Amen. I now yield to the chin strap because I hate chasing this hat down the sidewalk.

Draped across my chin strap is another eyesore, the cord to my earbuds. When I bought a new cell phone, it turns out my old phone trade-in was only worth a cheap pair of earbuds, not the fancy wireless kind. These earbuds work just fine, though, as I rock out to National Public Radio whilst on my daily rounds.

The only downside is they won’t stay in my ears, so I clipped the cord together—right in front of my chin strap—with a metal binder clip. I’m pretty sure this is the kind of thing Coco had in mind when she advised taking one thing off. But I need my earbuds to stay in my ears, so the binder clip is here to stay. Office supplies are so versatile.

This all sounds tragic (is probably what you’re thinking), but maybe I could compensate with some cool shoes. Well, that’s not gonna happen. After years of wearing poorly fitting shoes and toe-pinching heels, my feet desperately need a comfy pair, and the brand that best fits the ol’ water skis is a venerable sneaker beloved by boomer dads. I buy the cheapest ones in my size, which means I rarely have cool colors on my feet.

Lastly, there’s the accessory that brought Coco Chanel’s advice to mind: my elbow brace. The doctor says my chronic pain is tennis elbow, although I’ve never played tennis in my life. Still, the pain is real, so I wear a fancy black Velcro band around my left arm. Standing at the front door, I seriously considered taking this off because I’m just vain enough to fear it’ll give me some deeply weird tan lines. However, elbow pain edged out vanity, so I kept it on.

Donning my prescription sunglasses, I turned to Phil and said, “I feel like my walking outfit just gets weirder and weirder.”

“It’s not just a feeling,” he said, without looking up from the computer. “Tomorrow, you’ll put on a tutu.”          

Little does he know, I have no reason to add a tutu to my ensemble. Knee socks and ankle weights, maybe. We’ll see. Getting older is truly liberating.

Strutting out into the glorious sunshine, I tighten my chin strap, adjust my binder clip, and crank NPR like a real, live twenty-first century Coco Chanel.