Post 160

Got You Covered: Reflections on Socks

I bought some socks today, so this post is going to be about clothing.

So here are my thoughts about socks. Socks shouldn’t have wild patterns and graphics. The best part of your body is your face, and so do you really want to draw peoples’ gaze down, down, down, to your feet?

I remember a man named Dane, who later crashed his plane. He dressed with great care and you could tell, when he was sitting there in his chair, that he cared about his clothes; the man cared about his socks. They were patterned and precise and for a little while, I stopped thinking about the reason for meeting him. I was thinking about his socks, and I was wondering about them. Even now I wonder. Were the patterns chosen to entertain himself or were they selected for the benefit of others? I still remember his legs. There were the socks and there were the legs. There were the hairs on his legs.

I don’t remember how he looked, but I remember that they weren’t just ordinary socks.

Maybe he was admiring his socks when he crashed his plane. I can’t say. All I know is that he’s dead now.

(I think he’s in heaven.)

So the moral of the story is, Don’t wear socks that are Entirely Entertaining. It may cost you your life.


All done. Post 160. It’s a wrap.


Okay, I’ll begin again.


Stay focused, Mena.

Let’s see. What do I REALLY think about socks?

I think that if you don’t want to dedicate too many minutes of your life making sure that your socks are coordinating with your Outfit, then have a nice little stash of neutral-coloured socks. How about white, gray, beige, brown and/or cream? If you’re a Catholic priest and you typically need pants that are black, then I’d say the socks could match that, but otherwise, these other colours should do.

I think the retailers love the current trend of wild striped and graphic socks, because then we’ll just need more, and more, and more. It’s not as if you can Stock Up on lime green socks and work that into your wardrobe with ease.

Socks are a funny thing, actually, because they are one of the first clothing items that we neglect when things are going sideways. They are the underdogs of the closet. Parenting means kindly providing enough normal-looking socks.

You are wondering if this whole post is going to be about socks.

It could be.

I have a lot to say on the subject.

On the other hand, one could move on to other articles of clothing, and talk, for instance, about nylons and pantyhose. I’m not really a fan of those and nowadays I don’t own any pairs. I don’t entirely see the point. They are so thin that they don’t add to your warmth and they don’t really do much to change your look. They make you uncomfortable in summer, spring, winter and fall.

Assuming we’re working from inside to out, then I might as well say a word about lingerie.

My goodness, that’s quite the industry, isn’t it?

I think it’s gone a bit far.

It’s gone, as a matter of fact, Entirely Too Far.

One cannot head to the mall or go almost anywhere without being confronted with a GIGANTIC sign of a woman wearing NOT ENOUGH CLOTHES. The excuse?

Ah yes.

She’s showing you Where You Can

Buy Underwear.

Alright. I think we

Get it.

The store is Right There.

So now I can

Avoid it.

Hey retailer, LOOK!

It’s ME!

I’m AVOIDING your store! La Senza, La Vie en Rose, Victoria Secret or whatever

I can’t wait until you’re gone.

Just can’t wait.

You’re using porn to sell your wares

And me and my invisible people are not okay with that.

How dare you flash such images in every direction?

How dare you put up pictures that assault every man, woman and child?

We just can’t wait until you’re gone.

Just can’t wait.

But until then, I’ll elaborate.

Here’s what I think about all these under-clothes things.

A bra is not meant to be a Showpiece, the Central Thing about

Your Outfit.

It’s not Something to Flaunt.

So let’s just cool it with all of these Manifestations and Demonstrations and Proofs that You Just Got a New Bra.

I don’t care.

I don’t care that you now have a different colour for every Day of the Week.

You don’t need to wear a see-through shirt to prove that Your Bra is FUSCHIA, TURQUOISE, TEAL GREEN or ORANGE.

I just don’t care and I don’t need to see it or your credit-card receipt.

I don’t care if your New Bra is strapless or wireless or fiber optic or telescopic or toxic.

Bleck. Whatever.

You don’t need to wear your shirt down to there in order to Give Me a Peek of More Human Anatomy.
I was doing fine before I saw that, and my day isn’t now actually improved by Your Special Look-At-Mine Show.

Go put on a turtleneck, chick.

Take your cleavage home and come back when you’re dressed.

And speaking of turtlenecks, don’t get me wrong – I think they’re entirely fine and great for cold-weather climes, but my favorite cut of shirt is just the regular crewneck. Polos work too, though they’re a tad bit masculine most of the time.

I dislike the scoop neck because that cut of shirt is entirely unrealistic for regular life. Regular life involves leaning, bending, reaching, stooping and, well, moving.

The things I have seen!

Ladies, your body doesn’t look as good as you think it does when your shirt gapes open like that. Trust me. It doesn’t. You were aiming for a Little Bit Sexy but you got, um, a Little Bit Messy. Falling out all over the place. Not a pretty sight. Really. You should see what it actually looks like, from here.

Your dog knows this.

The v-neck can also be a problem, depending on how deep it goes. Some can work, but some are as bad as the scoop neck.

And when it comes to shirts, sleeves are always a good idea.

You know – just a finishing touch, like wheels on a car.

The most flattering length is the 3/4 sleeve, in my opinion, but those with nice arms can do a short sleeve, reaching to about the middle of the upper arm.

When you get shorter than that, things get very dicey. For one thing, the shorter sleeve doesn’t photograph well. How many times have I noticed how a group of women posing for photos in sleeveless dresses or tank tops wind up looking – how shall I put this? – bad.

I say this as someone who has taken more than a few photographs.

But more importantly, the problem with sleeveless is the accidental exposure coming from the oddest of angles. The armhole itself so often has a mind of its own, and frankly my dear, that Armity Hole is Quite the Traitor. You think you look fab, and then you raise your arm to signal the waiter. The person next to you looks over and sees, well, um, more than you’d like her to see. You don’t look so good when seen from that side. It’s not a flattering angle for any body. Looking in from the armhole is kind of like observing a theatre production from stage left – things meant to look full look rather flat and things that are meant to be seen from the front are now seen from the back.

So there you have it. The shirt is supposed to give you enough coverage that you can move comfortably and naturally without giving anybody a Show. It should be, obviously, long enough to cover you even when your arms are raised during a poorly-written homily.

I need to say a few more words about bras. You would be surprised at the amount of angst out there among women who aim for modesty for themselves and their daughters. This is because there is confusion about what is immodest and what isn’t. So I venture to add my words to something that isn’t even properly discussed.

The shape of the woman’s body isn’t something that a woman needs to hide in a smock or a gigantic muumuu. If you’ve chosen a shirt that isn’t showing yards of skin, and it’s not deliberately clingity-cling all spandex and thin, then you’re done. You don’t need to now add a shawl and a cape and a sweater or two. (Go ahead if you want, but you don’t have to.) A top and a bottom. You’re dressed. Get set and go.

And going underneath, add a bra if you please. If it makes you more comfortable, then stop at the department store. Get something regular and boring – white, beige, gray or pale pink. Something like that. (There is no need for underwear to ever be flashy. Why the stripes and polka dots? Why the words? Your body is not a Hallmark card. Let’s think about this. Either you’re single, and you aren’t showing anybody, or you’re married, and your spouse appreciates you without the lace and the smut. Since when, after all, are you someone’s Entertainer? You don’t need a costume – you’re already a Woman. Not good enough for your man? Hmm. Then what’s going on? Is he being sated elsewhere so that seeing you for real in the flesh isn’t quite good enough? I say you’re plenty fine already and Victoria’s Secret can just go take a hike. Nobody actually needs the Porn Hut around here.)

Alright, so back to the shirts. They shouldn’t have words or graphics. You are not a billboard. These ‘clothing’ items can actually demean the human person. And parents, beware. It is not funny or clever in the least to put onto your child a message of your choosing. It’s bad enough if you do it to yourself, but it’s one hundred times worse to put it on your unsuspecting child. Don’t let the retailers fool you into purchasing those, and if your sister-in-law brings one over, put it in the garbage. If she asks you about it at the next get together, tell her you put it in the garbage. If she acts Horrified, and says, Oh, my! But, why? Tell her “because it sucked.” Then go, Ha ha ha ha, and she’ll think maybe you’re Joking Around.

So: no words, no graphics at all. They’re never an improvement.

There’s a reason that human beings don’t have a history of walking around with words on their clothes. (They’re ugly and often really inane.)

The very nicest thing about your shirt is the colour. It’s refreshing and pleasant. It brings out your eyes; it looks nice with your hair.

Indeed, I have become one of Those People who latch onto a product – that all-cotton crew-neck sweater, that certain short-sleeved knit top – and then want to have it in a few different colours.

You know your size, you know the product, so here it is in blue, lilac and emerald green.

Works for me.

The thing about dignity is that it’s not actually very difficult to look dignified and rather composed. The main ‘trick,’ if you will, is to will it. In other words, you simply need to want to look sensible and you’ve pretty much got it. Don’t aim for wild, don’t aim for ‘out there,’ don’t aim for savvy, sexy, sensational or any type of stereotype. Don’t play a part. You’re not on stage, trying to impress anyone or pretending to be someone other than yourself. Why would you? You’re interesting as you are.

Just choose, as your goal, something simple and straightforward, something like: This is me, dressed and ready to begin the day.

As for skirts and pants, of course I have thoughts about those. What I find is that the more attention-getting they are, the more difficult it is to build a credible outfit. If you begin an outfit with purple pants, for instance, you’ll be hard-pressed to make a normal cross-the-line finish. I mean – really – how do you complete a story like that?

Do you continue the theme and go for purple on top?

Look out world, here comes the Big Grape?

Or do you cut yourself in half, and do, say, Yellow or Tangerine Orange?

I guess you could.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you, Joker.

The thing about pants is that they are, after all, a rather modern invention. As a species, we didn’t used to do pants. We used to habitually wear things that were more flowy (less sewing, less construction).

Sure – they are, in many ways, very practical.

On the other hand, they cannot help but look a little bit chunky, clunky and comical.

It’s not your fault; it’s just the way pants are. It’s difficult to get any kind of draping and flow going with pants.

It’s just one of those Inevitable Unavoidable Visual Tragedies of Life, like the Ford Mustang which cannot help but look like a hammerhead shark.

What can you do?

My only recommendation, in light of the nature of pants, is to avoid drawing the eye to them any more than necessary. This means: don’t add patterns and be sparing with colour.

Khaki anyone?

Something like tan or khaki will probably do fine. Gray and deeper browns can also work well.

On the other hand, skirts do lend themselves better to colour. What you cannot pull off in pants can work quite nicely in a skirt. Burgundy pants aren’t easy to do, but a burgundy skirt can be quite a lovely sight. A floral print can be dreamy on a skirt, but it would be a nightmare if splashed onto pants. You see my point. It’s the draping of fabric. The more drape, the more scope there is for colour and pattern. That’s why a priest will still look entirely fine dressed in bright red, rose, purple or green. He can wear gold from head to toe because the cloth is uncompromised, and flows uninterrupted from his neck to the floor. Add embroidery or other embellishment and it always works.

Shorts, of course, are pants that got chopped.

They are fine for here and there and so on and so forth, but please don’t wear them to church, unless, I suppose, if they’re really Quite Long. Last Sunday I saw a man bringing up the offertory wearing shorts and I thought he looked like he had wandered in from The Beach, which is not a bad look for the neighborhood block party, but rather jarring when put into the context of a thing as solemn and beautiful as the Mass. It just didn’t go.

(Nevertheless, I have been dismayed to see how the incorrectly-dressed people are treated at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. A tourist could unknowingly wait two hours in line, only to discover, upon reaching the front, that he cannot gain admittance – “no shorts allowed!”

Can’t we offer them some kind of emergency smock or tunic or toga-ish thing? I don’t know. It seems to me that with a bit of good will and a bit of ingenuity, we could whip together some outfit that could be loaned for the twenty-two minutes of walking about. You see scarves for sale everywhere in Rome, but then when a woman arrives at the Basilica with bare shoulders, none of the security staff has a scarf she can rent buy or borrow. At the very minimum, it seems like tourists could be notified, when they are still near the back of the line, that improper clothes may prevent their admission. A quick-thinking travel mate would then have quite a few minutes to devise a solution.)

So, back to the short story, these garments leave much to be desired. The shorter they are, the worse, obviously. Always purchase them longer than you think you need, because the moment you sit down, they will creep up your legs and you’ll be displaying more than you know. Heaven forbid you cross your legs (I’ll wince as I see a large swath of your thigh).

Skirts also shouldn’t be inches above the knee, because you’ll similarly lose a lot of coverage the moment you go to sit and relax. Or are you planning to stay perched like that on the chair for the entire afternoon? Suit yourself, but if it were me, I’d rather give myself a longer skirt just so that I don’t have to worry about flashing the world. The skirts that are wider at the bottom are a good design because they aren’t needlessly constrictive, which can sometimes happen with the straighter skirts.

Let’s see, what haven’t I covered?

Ah yes, dresses!

If you’ve gotten this far, I won’t be able to surprise you with anything new. Not too tight or short and you’re halfway there. Some sleeves, a bit flowy and you’ve pretty much nailed it. Looking Pretty 101.

I suppose there are all the accessories, but I don’t emphasize them as much as all the clothing experts do. I think there’s really a limit on what the accessories can do. Don’t expect that your scarf will Tie it All Together. That’s a lot to ask of a scarf. Don’t expect that the Gigantic Wild Necklace will Make a Statement. If it says anything, it will probably just say something like: “I’m a gigantic wild necklace.”

And when such an accessory goes out and about in the world, it will become entirely mute upon meeting the real thing. Indeed, it will step aside and stand at attention as WiseOne walks by, softly treading the earth and wearing her long burgundy skirt.

A graceful turn of the head, eyes brown and clear.

At her neck, two things: the cross of St. Benedict and a miraculous medal.

The real thing.

There she goes.

Look out world.

You ain’t seen nothing yet

Of course.