Red Lipstick and Halloween

Halloween is a big deal at my company. For most of my tenure there I’ve begrudgingly played along with whatever theme our department conjures up to try to win a pizza lunch or movie tickets for the elusive “Best Department” or “Scariest Costumes” awards.

This year we decided on a Great Gatsby theme. I agreed simply because I have dress in my closet that I knew would work perfectly. It’s black lace with a blush underslip and it definitely looks twenties. When I arrived at work I was accosted by my co-workers who felt it necessary to exclaim over and over again that I looked beautiful.

In fairness, I only wear dresses and red lipstick on Halloween. Last year our theme was 70’s and I went as Mary Tyler Moore. I also wore a red dress, which is forbidden because, as I was told as a teenager, I am a SUMMER and SUMMERS never ever wear red. I realize that I was also accosted last year. The comments were about the red dress, of course, but also about the red lipstick and the fact that I had used hot rollers in my hair.

I used to wear red lipstick all the time. My sister regularly warned potential suitors that I could take up to half an hour applying said red lipstick. The ones who made it, of course, were the ones who understood that that’s how long it takes. Applying red lipstick today is a little more challenging. I realized this morning that the lip landscape has changed.

This year the comments were all about this black lace dress and how it made me look more feminine. I admit, I usually wear a black t-shirt and one of the six pairs of technical black pants I bought to take to Africa- the classic designer uniform.

What stunned me, however, was how adamant the comments were. One person suggested I change the way I dress altogether- not that the way I usually dress is bad, but the way I dressed today could attract a husband. A male co-worker made a comment that if I approached his desk in that dress that he would have no choice but to ask me out to dinner.

I have to say that all the attention and the comments made me really uncomfortable. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so aware that people are looking at ME- that people are thinking about the way I look or what I am wearing or how I walk in a dress. I think I’ve been under the impression that I am sort of invisible. That when I don my uniform every morning that other people can’t really see me, that I am invisible.

But of course, I am not invisible. People see me everyday, whether I’m wearing a lace dress or my standard Africa-ready black technical pants. Isn’t the real issue how I see myself? Have I buried myself in a uniform because it’s easy or have I buried myself in a uniform because I’m hiding from something? I just moved 8 hanging garment boxes full of clothes. Regardless of the fact that I realize I need to simplify and edit the fact remains that I don’t wear the majority of the clothes in my closet.

I don’t know what this all means for me, but I do now this- I think I’m going to wear red lipstick on a random Tuesday and see what happens. I also think that I can take a risk and wear a dress on a day totally unassociated with sugar overconsumption and ghoulish behavior. I think I’m ready for a change.

  • Amy Jubrey Baxter

    Enjoyed your story. Clothes in the closet, well that certainly is relateable to the vast majority of FB and the world. In order to keep the economy moving I have the Rule of 32! That is the exact number of shoe boxes that fit on the closet shelf. In order to justify the purchase of something new I need to purge a pair. This doesn’t include boots and the 2 slide out shelves under the bed that house summer sandals and fancy house shoes. (A throw back to my youth when hostess dresses and slippers were a part of every Jackie “O”
    generation, pre and post.) I say slip into the Glamour Mode every week, start a Dress Trend at work. You have the figure and style, so what are you waiting for???

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