32325_10200524237241771_571497803_nI am not a huge fan of clothes shopping. When I set out, I usually have a very clear idea of what I want — so clear that what’s in my head doesn’t exist on any rack anywhere. When I do happen to find things I like (or facsimiles, at least), they tend to be black, gray, navy, purple (eggplant), blue (cobalt), or green (army/olive/moss). That’s pretty much it.

It’s not that I don’t like bright colors. I just feel weird in them. I bought an aqua blue fleece jacket that I sometimes wear over workout clothes (mostly black and gray), and it’s fine, and warm, but I feel — I don’t know — exposed. On display. Even so, I once ran into my neighbor on the street while I was wearing it, and she didn’t recognize me.

I can handle hints of color; I have a tennis-ball-colored tank top that I wear under other things. Sometimes I’ll buy brightly colored or even patterned (!) underclothes, or choose a jaunty hue for my pedicure. I do have a purple T-shirt with an orange Om design on it. But mostly, I keep things muted and dark.

I bought a few tops recently (black, gray, two olive green) and had a conversation with the salesladies about my penchant for avoiding color. “It’s spring! You need something bright!” they said, suggesting a shirt in deep coral. I could see how it might look good on me. But I know I would never wear coral.

I just wouldn’t.

Still, I keep trying to mix it up. On the recommendation of a friend, I signed up for a monthly service that sends you five pieces a month, based on a style and fit survey you take online. You try it all on, keep what you want, and send the rest back. If you choose not to buy anything, all you pay is a $20 “styling” fee.It’s sort of like having a personal shopper though the mail. (Which also means no trip to the mall, so that’s a plus.)

It also seemed like it could be fun. I decided to look at it like reading a book you’d never pick up but that someone you like suggests: It might be amazing, and you never would have known about it otherwise.

The first shipment arrived. I was mildly excited about what I might find in it. I had fantasies of sweet jewel-toned tops that had some interesting fabric treatment and would fit me perfectly.

There was a black-and-white-striped dress that was kind of cute, and it did not look bad on me — but even in the neutral shades, it still seemed too “loud.” A gray tunic-type top was more in my wheelhouse, except for the drapey pink-floral fabric peeking out below the hem (silky fabric, no, pink, no, floral pattern, no) — I didn’t even try that on. There was a blue anorak that just wasn’t something I’d ever wear — the color was fine, but it was too bulky. Some mint-green flats with little black bows. Cute, but so not me.

The only thing I decided to keep was a pair of jeans that not only fit nicely but were marked a size smaller than I’m used to. (It’s always nice to trick yourself into thinking you’re smaller than you are.) It was the first time I’d ever bought jeans through the mail, which seems like a triumph, given what jeans shopping is usually like.

But really, the only thing I could find to keep was — jeans? Am I so picky and set in my ways?

And if that’s the case — is that so wrong?

I’m still not sure. (At any rate, I decided to give the service another try. We’ll see what arrives next month.)

Clothes carry a strange weight. Finding things you like the looks of, trying them on, and choosing to wear them or not are decisions heavy with psychological undertone. It’s outwardly about how you want to present yourself to the world, but inwardly it’s about your thoughts, hopes, and fears about what you look like, and all the insecurity that comes with that.

You want to look good, but you also want to feel good. My days of buying and wearing things that aren’t comfortable just because I think they look good (or worse, because someone else thinks they do) are over. I’m experienced enough to know that if I feel uncomfortable in something, it will decidedly not look good.

See, the entire thing is exhausting. And I’m no nearer to understanding why I shy away from bright colors. Am I hiding behind muted tones? Or do I just not want (or need) to call attention to myself? Is there some deep-seated emotional reason? Even if there is, do I really need to examine it?

Maybe not. I’m certainly not the only one with this preference. Dark colors just look good on people. On me, for sure. Those greens I like make my eyes look amazing. I know that.

Still. After the conversation about the coral top, I went back to another store I’d browsed in earlier and bought a something in a blue brighter than I’d usually choose. I’d say it’s somewhere between cobalt and aqua. Vivid is a word you could use for it. It makes my hair look redder and my green-blue eyes look bluer.

I never said I was completely closed-minded. I’ll give it a try.






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