I watched the tragedy unfold in slow motion: our waitress smiling as she perched the overflowing pitcher of beer on our table, my friend’s hand reaching over to pour some into a plastic cup, a menacing wave of foam creeping toward the edge, and finally, a generous slosh of liquid landing squarely on my left foot.
Normally I don’t cry over spilt beverages (beer, milk, or otherwise), but it just so happened that I was wearing my new pair of olive green suede platform sandals that night. I had recently acquired them at Bergdorf Goodman’s shoe sale to the sweet tune of 50% off. Even with the discount, they were still an investment. I justified it by convincing myself that I would wear them all the time because they were a unicorn combination of beautiful and comfortable.
And now — beer-stained.
I frantically glanced around for a paper towel or spare bottle of suede cleaner or time travel device that I could use to rewind the past 30 seconds. But then I remembered that I was in the basement of a sketchy karaoke bar, not Hogwarts.
Wiping away excess liquid with my hand, I cursed myself for thinking I could get away with wearing nice shoes in the presence of alcohol. Had college taught me nothing?
It struck me that while other expressions of creativity are relegated to museums or safely admired from behind velvet ropes, fashion is not limited to the removed voyeurism of its runway shows and glossy magazine spreads. On the contrary, our relationship to fashion is often distinctly up-close-and-personal because we literally live inside of our clothing, whether we’re swaddling our necks in an oversized scarf or zipping ourselves into the fashionable confines of a denim romper.
In the past, I’ve been tempted to hoard prized belongings on the top shelf of my closet, reserving them for mess-free special occasions like Election Day or Winter solstice. But even extreme caution is not immune to risk. I learned that the hard way in sixth grade when I saved a new blue-and-yellow striped polo shirt to debut the weekend my middle school crush was visiting with his family. After finally wearing it for the first time, I discovered the shirt had been tos sed into my sister’s mildew-ridden sleep-away camp laundry bag, leaving its blue-and-yellow striping covered in tiny dots of mold. Basically, it resembled a preppy incarnation of the Bubonic plague. My mom took one look and handed me the garbage bin.
No matter what we do, our tangible relationship with what we wear can result in a bit of messiness. Beer spills on suede shoes, lipstick smears on shirt collars, buttons pop off cherished cardigans, and eating a burrito for lunch makes you look slightly preggo in your high waist jeans. But dammit, that burrito was probably delicious. That party was probably fun, that smooch was likely worth it. Joie de vivre exists whether dressed or not — so why not go all out?
Consider stains evidence of a life well-lived in clothes well-loved.
And maybe carry a Tide-to-go pen.