My Husband, the Perfect Accessory

It’s amazing to me how a man who considers khaki to be an actual color managed to fulfill my mother’s warning and change my wardrobe. Such is the power of DH.

When I was thirteen, as soon as I got home from school, I’d drop my plaid book bag under the front table next to the dog bed, hoping that Henry our terrier would choose it for his evening snack. He never did. Clearly Henry had trendier tastes too, preferring to chew the heads off my Barbie dolls. Things from Harrods I decided, were too uncool, even for the dog.

One my mother’s friends had sent me the book bag from London. The last package my mother’s friend had sent me contained three cashmere cardigan sweaters in three of the most anti-preadolescent colors possible: navy, cream and grey. My mother coo’d and awe’d and threatened me with house confinement until college if I didn’t write a thank-you note. The same fate awaited me when I received the satchel.

At the time, I was convinced the bag was the sole icon of dorkiness. At school, the contingent of cool all carried shiny vinyl backpacks in totally awesome day-glow colors. Each pack bore the badge of allegiance to the latest pre-teen heartthrob who defined our shared fantasies. I yearned for a plastic stamped image of the Monkees and Velcro.

My satchel from Harrods, I couldn’t care less about Harrods, was a large shoulder bag with a red and navy blue plaid flaps that you had to secure  by buckling two leather straps.  As my friends velcro’d their bags and ran off as soon as school was dismissed, I was busy aligning the straps so my books and pencils didn’t tumble down the street as I walked home. I felt like I was an orphan from the old reruns of the Little Rascals.  My solace came from knowing that the bag came from the same country as the Rolling Stones. In my mind, I knew that Mick Jagger had probably suffered with the same type of dorky bag too.

For some reason, I was surrounded with relatives and family friends who thought it was totally fitting to give children gifts that only grown ups appreciated. Gratification, it seemed, was something to be delayed. “One day, you’ll appreciate this,” was my mother’s constant mantra. Once, my grandmother gave me a velvet box that opened like a clam shell for my 10th birthday. I slowly pried open the box and smiled politely. A thin string of tiny cream colored pearls were splayed on a bed of navy satin. I had wanted a pewter peace sign that hung on a leather cord, like the one my best friend, Robin wore. That would have been cool. My family envisioned a miniature Grace Kelly, while I saw myself more like a Joan Baez meets Janis Joplin.

The other day, I was looking in the mirror and it hit me. I was wearing a creamy pink colored cardigan and a navy skirt.  Around my neck were the pearls DH had given to me. My mother had been right.  I did appreciate the sweater’s softness and the way the pearls looked.   What happened?  Had I indeed developed good taste?

DH is a Preppy engineer. He wears broadcloth shirts and khaki slacks. He is Mr. Conservative who has been known to judge a navy blue sweater that I had bought for him as “a little loud” (actually,  it was the red collar and matching cuffs that threw him). DH’s sartorial philosophy is “It is better to buy one good item, instead of ten cheap ones.” This was a nice counterpoint to my own philosophy, “Whoever said money doesn’t buy happiness, clearly doesn’t know what a sale is.”

When I was in Paris, one of my favorite things to do was to sit and watch the women.  Almost to the point of stalking,  I’d watch them, I was fascinated by trying to discern what it was that made them look Parisian.  They were thin, this goes without saying. At that time, when I was back home, I could fit into a size 2 with room to spare. However, translated into French clothing, I wore a jaw dropping “Grande” – Large. Another aspect was their general dislike for many colors…actually, navy and black, like NYC, spans the spectrum for them. No need to look like a clown… I also discovered that they were très chic because, instead of buying four lesser made skirts, they’d buy only one really good elegantly constructed skirt.

I could agree with French women and DH in theory, but my trend-hungry adolescent self with its penchant for volume shopping is still alive and kicking…or so I thought.   Had a diet of wine, nibbles of brie and life with handsome French men caused these elegant women to be thrifty chic creatures?

Actually, I think real estate has a lot to do with it. Closet space doesn’t exist in most Parisian homes. It makes sense to only have a couple of Dior skirts when that is all you have room for. Whereas, I think most American women would take to the streets if we had to give up our closet space. Nature and closets abhor a vacuum.

The truth is, I think Parisian women just don’t want to clash with their male companions.  Parisian men are just as elegantly subdued in their fashion sense as the women.  Which came first is the ubiquitous chicken and egg question.  What I am finding though is that since I got married, I am wearing less and less variety of outfits.

Why?  Husbands are like walking accessories. Think of them as giant handbags. If I am carrying a demure Fendi Baguette, my outfit will consist of a simple, but elegant navy sheath dress and matching cropped jacket.  Whereas, if I am going to carry a more rebellious Prada bag, then leopard jeans and a lacey tank top are in order.

The down side is that, unfortunately, husbands, unlike a decent collection of handbags, aren’t as easy to rotate. I figure the universe decided I could pick only one handbag, so it will be, DH is my one Chanel bag that I am going to carry from now on.

When we go out together, DH usually dresses like a prep school graduate, no matter how I try to point him towards more Euro-chic styles….leather jeans and black turtleneck sweaters make him break into fits of giggles. I’m stuck with classic American.

So, in order not to clash or to look like, shall we say, a ‘paid companion’ I have toned down my preference for leopard and short skirts. I find myself reaching for that pencil skirt and cardigan over and over. Volume-wise, fourteen pale pink cashmere cardigans or an abundance of pencil skirts makes no sense.  Besides, I find DH less concerned when I buy one pricey piece than if I come home everyday with something new like a dribbling faucet.

DH has even influenced my accessories. DH gave me pearls for my birthday one year.  They reminded me of the set my grandmother had given me — clam shell box, navy satin.  This time I was a little intimidated by their delicacy, so I carefully put them away, pulling them out for ‘special occasions.’   The other day, it struck me how well they went with my outfit I was wearing.  I was even more struck by how sturdy they were in their elegance and beauty.  My mother was right, I did appreciate that.

Published in: Uncategorized on November 29, 2009 at 4:57 AM  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Your writing is devine!! And so is your blog. It makes me feel like I’ve gotten to visit the hip side of town.

    And as a mom to two young boys, living in Dallas suburbia hell, that’s a very nice feeling.


    For what it’s worth, I would have totally envied you that Harrods satchel – sounds too cute. Then again, I grew up during The Preppy Handbook time.

    Stopping by from SiTS, but will be back…Em

  2. Welcome to the SITS community – it’s nice to meet you!

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