First of all, let me say that self-image can be a tricky thing, especially when tainted by more than a tinge of self-delusion.

Secondly, let me add that life was a whole lot simpler back in the days when I had no full-length mirror hanging on my wall.

That being said, let me go back to last Sunday morning when I finally realized all the above.

I had been invited to go down and spend the day with my daughter Barbara at her place in Somerset and maybe go out to dinner if the spirit so moved us.

I had planned ahead and already knew exactly what I wanted to wear when I rolled out of bed that morning. The weather had finally turned cool enough to dip into my fall wardrobe, so layering was the way to go. Not really heavy winter layering, of course, but more of a knit shirt topped with a sweater and coupled with a pair of slacks, comfortable yet casual.

Jeans would have been my preference, but a post-back surgery problem with sciatica aggravated by a few hours of yard work earlier that week had put paid to that idea. The snug fit of the denim against my posterior tends to put pressure, gentle though it may be, on the poor beleaguered sciatic nerve until it screams for mercy. That narrowed the choice to either loose-fitting slacks or the old pandemic-standby, knit pants.

My planned ensemble-de-jour called for slim black knit pants, white turtleneck shirt, and a dark green sweater/sweatshirt, coupled with black socks and shoes. All good until I looked in the mirror and didn’t like the looks of the tight cuffs on the pants, so off came the pants, replaced by gray straight-leg pants.

No, now the green sweater was all wrong, so I replaced it with my well loved but old hand-knit Fair Isle sweater, but that looked too heavy.

And so began the marathon run of wardrobe changes that eventually involved, in various combinations, three different pairs of pants, two sweaters, four shirts, socks vs. no socks, and still nothing looked right when I looked in the mirror.

Annoying as it was, it made me chuckle as I suddenly remembered a day several years earlier when I was hosting a get-away weekend here for the Porch People (two of my sisters, my two daughters, my niece and myself.) It was a chilly morning, so I nipped into my room to find something warmer to wear and engaged in similar dithering, that time involving various sweatpants, shirts, and sweatshirts until a quick glance in the mirror made me laugh out loud at the mismatched disaster I was wearing. Unable to keep the ridiculousness of it to myself, I stepped out into the living room. The reaction did not disappoint. They howled, “You look like you’ve been dressed by the Red Cross after a fire!” They still bring it up and laugh about it every now and then.

But getting back to my dilemma Sunday morning, no matter what I tried on, it didn’t look right.

I finally opted for plain straight leg black knit pants and a gray knit shirt, the words, “neat and clean” running through my head, as in: At my age, neat and clean can be good enough.

Upon further reflection later in the day, once the angst of getting myself kitted out had finally subsided, I came to the realization that the problem wasn’t so much with the clothes as it was with the way they fit. They made me look short and dumpy (which I unfortunately am) when the look I was struggling to achieve was more along the lines of tall and slender, which would have required me to be about 5 or 6 inches taller and 10 pounds lighter.

Realistically, I recognize the futility and the fantasy of it all.


But deep down inside, where I am still tall and blond (I was a tall child) there is that niggling little certainty that if I just try hard enough and find just the right clothes, I might just be able to pull it off.

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.

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