Above: féileacán (butterfly) printed silk by Irish designer Jennifer Rothwell: jenniferrothwell.com
I’m a Gen-Xer, which means I can remember a time when my wardrobe was mostly black. I listened to The Cure for hours back then, and I also had Depeche Mode and Siouxsie and the Banshees on heavy rotation via the cassette player in my car. I wasn’t a goth; still, I had so much black clothing that every few months, I put all of my things in the washer, and after running them through a cycle with detergent, I’d wash them a second time with 2 bottles of Rit dye in #2025, a sooty, deep black. My jeans, cardigans and Ts always looked as saturated as I could get them, never faded or gray.
I didn’t love wearing black, and it never worked that well for me. Dog hair was part of the problem. I’ve always had animal companions. Over the years, I’ve removed so much fuzz from dark clothing I could build myself a herd of Jack Russell Terriers. Wearing inky garments in the 80’s meant lint rollers and fabric brushes, and obsessing in front of the mirror to make sure my blacks were the same shade. I’ve got a keen eye for color gradations and it drives me mad when solids worn together are a near match, but not exact..
I don’t know how I got so wrapped up in wearing black, but suffice it to say I am a naturally awkward person, and one of my early strategies to fit in was to mimic the people around me. In my early 20’s, everyone was wearing black, so I did too. It was a form of camouflage, I suppose.
It’s strange to think back to that time; now, my closet is full of jewel box hues. I have a completely different clothing strategy, which is not only that I wear whatever the f*ck I want, but I acknowledge how much I love color. Cobalt blue. Ruby red. Teal and its cousin turquoise. Orange. Mustard yellow. I have all of these colors and more in my wardrobe. And I rarely wear solids, choosing instead vibrant patterns. I am especially fond of the dresses and accessories I’ve bought from Jennifer Rothwell, an Irish designer who creates gorgeous silk clothing in her signature prints.
I also have a different strategy for dealing with my social anxiety. When I wear something brightly colored and eye-catching, I see it as a different type of camouflage; I hide in plain sight by standing out in a crowd. What I mean by this is my colorful dresses gives me something to talk about, an icebreaker of sorts. I can chat about my clothes and not about myself. This is one of the reasons why I wore my JRothwell “Madeline” frock to a party last Saturday night.
I was nervous about attending the event because, like everyone, I’ve lost some of my communication skills during the pandemic. And, I always feel panicky at gatherings where I only know a few people. So I donned my gorgeous amethyst dress, and sure enough, it opened the door to conversations. Several people commented on the frock, and the detail in Jennifer’s silk textiles. I got to talk a bit about her designs, which gave me something to share beyond comments about the weather, COVID, and the upcoming holidays. I left the party feeling like I had tamed my social awkwardness with a purple dress, which is a total win in my book.
Here’s to color love!