Friday, February 18, 2011

Red Dress Club: Power Suit


This weeks writing prompt from The Red Dress Club: “Write a piece - 600 word limit - about finding a forgotten item of clothing in the back of a drawer or closet. Let us know how the item was found, what it is, and why it's so meaningful to you or your character.”

Power Suit
I open the closet door looking for something appropriate for a funeral—something that fits. My current uniform of well-worn Levi’s, an old school Patriot’s hoodie, and graying Saucony running shoes aren’t going to work today. In the far left hand corner of the closet I find a leftover from my corporate days—a black wool suit. The jacket has hidden placket buttons and the skirt falls just above the knee with a three-inch slit on the left side. I used to wear it with an ice blue silk blouse and pearls or a red shell with a bold printed scarf. It was my uniform many years ago.
I look dubiously at the label—size six. I’m no heavier than I was before I had kids. According to the scale I am a few pounds lighter than I was in my suit wearing days. But my waistline has never quite recovered from making room for my nine and a half pound baby boy. My jeans are a size six too, but clothes are cut differently these days. When I worked in the corporate world, no one wore low-rise jeans except aging hippies. I’m not sure the term “mom jeans” had even been coined yet.
I try on the jacket first and I’m surprised by how tight it is. Apparently spending my days lifting children has broadened my shoulders and back. Maybe I didn’t need the freedom to move my arms when I worked in an office or perhaps I’ve grown accustomed to wearing looser clothes. Whatever the reason, I decide it fits well enough to wear for an hour or two—assuming the skirt fits.  
I steel my ego as I zip the skirt. It fits, but the fabric digs into my softened midsection. Then I realize that I’ve forgotten a part of the old uniform. I rummage through a box at the top of my closet. I find it still in the package—one pair of sheer, black, sandal toe, control top pantyhose.  I take off the skirt and pull on the hose. It feels so foreign to encase my legs in Lycra and nylon and yet there was a time I did it every day. The skirt is no more comfortable now, but it looks better. I decide it’s worth the discomfort.
I stare at myself in the mirror. This was my “power suit”. If I was meeting a client or running a training class I would wear this suit. It always felt confident and professional. It fit so well I bought two of them—one black and one red. I don’t remember what happened to the red one—probably long gone during a ruthless spring-cleaning. Donated to Big Brother Big Sister along with the blue pinstripe and gray flannel pants suits and the burgundy gabardine suit with the long straight skirt. Given away to make room in the closet for the Pack and Play and an extra case of diapers.
The suit fits well enough, but something doesn’t look right. Maybe my shoes aren’t the right height for the skirt. I try on every pair of black shoes and boots I own trying to make it work and I still feel like I’m wearing a costume.
My son comes in while I’m looking at myself in the mirror. “Mommy, you look pretty,” he says.
“Thanks sweetie,” I say.
“But you don’t look like Mommy. Can you put your regular clothes back on?”  His chubby finger points to the pile on my bed. It’s my power suit these days—jeans, a sweatshirt and shoes made for running.