This morning as I reached for a faded T-shirt to go with my frayed jeans, I had one of those mother images that chill the bone. She was looking at me sadly and shaking her head, and you know what that means.
My mother was a true southern lady. She didn’t perspire, she didn’t wrinkle, she didn’t swear, and she never, ever dressed in anything sloppy. Clothes were important to her, not to impress other people but to uphold a standard of respectability. When she died, her sisters and I — all of us expert seamstresses like my mother —had already made smart black silk suits for her funeral. Turned out like fashion plates with shiny black straw hats to go with our suits, we eyed one another and nodded approval. We didn’t give a damn what other people thought of what we wore, we did it so my mother would approve.
For a long time, the fashion gene I inherited from my mother was dominant. I could get orgasmic over the feel of silk crepe or crisp linen, and things like cut and drape and line were extremely important to me. I don’t know if it was age or a change of profession that changed all that, but now that I’m a writer my only requirement of clothing is that it be comfortable, clean, and washable.
This morning’s mother-memory didn’t change what I put on, but it did make me wonder if I’m on a downhill slope. Will there come a moment when I have regressed into utter, irremedial slobbery? Will I show up at the supermarket wearing bunny slippers? I doubt that I’d be a better writer just because my jeans didn’t have shaggy edges, but I think I’ll toss some of the worst-looking T-shirts. I may even do a major closet overhaul and replace half the crap in there. Just in case Oprah wants me on her show and I only have 24 hours to get ready. Or so, if my mother comes back and looks at my wardrobe, she won’t be disappointed in me.