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What Not to Wear

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By Heidi Julavits '96SOA, who teaches fiction writing at Columbia's School of the Arts, from the 2014 anthology Women in Clothes (Blue Rider Press), written by Julavits, Sheila Heti, Leanne Shapton, "& 639 others."


OCCASION:
Funeral for a close family friend, rural New Hampshire, February. The bedroom floor displays the following tried and discarded items:

1. Liz Claiborne silk jumpsuit. The woman who died was sexy into her seventies. I want to look sexy in her honor, but also because I’ll be seeing her favorite nephew at the service. I’ve had a crush on him since 1983, i.e., since the year this jumpsuit was produced. I believe she would be happy if I’d married him, so I might dress as though this is still a possibility (even though he and I are happily married to other people). 2. Sixties double-knit wool jersey dress (Karlana) with white leather trim and belt. Last time I wore it was to a wedding and the couple is now divorced. 3. Comme des Garçons black tulle skirt. Too bleak-girl-at-the-prom. Too like I’m trying to perform, before an audience, my sadness. 4. A Détacher kimono-sleeved jacket. I bought this a few years ago at a sample sale thinking, “I’ll wear this a lot when I’m older.” I guess I am not yet old enough. 5. Vintage B. Altman ankle-length knit wool dress. Also sixties. I wore this with Miu Miu nautical sandals to a literary awards ceremony. I did not win, but Uma Thurman checked me out approvingly and I took that as the greater honor. 6. Sixties French sailor pants. Fear I might look like an extra in Guy Maddin’s “Sissy-Boy Slap-Party.” Also, the funeral is in the mountains and nowhere near the sea. There will be enough cognitive dissonance with this woman now gone. 7. Another sixties knit wool dress (Cordon of Philadelphia). Black and brown stripes. I feel bouncy like Snoopy whenever I put it on. This is either the best or the worst thing to wear when one plans to cry a lot.

WORN: Agnes B. dress, black cardigan, long wool socks, white pleather ankle boots.

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