It is 7:13 a.m. and I am in my bedroom changing out of a nightgown into not much else. Without thinking too hard, or really at all, I reach in one direction for pink cotton shorts and in another for a grey T-shirt with blue writing on it. I slip into the yellow slippers that linger at my bedside, right shoe positioned two inches ahead of the left, which is exactly how I left them the morning before. I grab the same small basket I used as a bag yesterday and walk towards the door. It is now 7:16 a.m., which means it took the whole of three minutes to change into this outfit. That isn’t much time (and the outfit’s not much either) but I love how I look. I think it’s the best that I’ll feel all day.
Lately, I have noticed that these early morning outfits, innocuous by all accounts, often devoid of any fashion statement, certainly unconcerned with the nuances of high style, and worn for the sole purpose of going out to get a coffee, are becoming among the most thrilling occasions for which I dress. Perhaps not by the standard of a stranger’s observation, or even according to the inner dialogue I have developed on style, but there is an ease and intimacy and honesty and therefore integrity about these looks. And next to the outfits that have me standing in front of my closet, pondering a flap neck or a boatneck, chartreuse or faille shorts and whether it’s a wedge or a block heel that will really nail my point, early morning coffee dressing is also, functionally speaking, relieving as hell.
I do this every day — wake up, get dressed, leave home around 7:20, get back by 7:30 and don’t leave again until mid-morning when I’ve changed. That means that the lifespan of these clothes is really no more than 15 minutes — 20 if I am stretching it. Is it their briefness that makes them so special? That they are put on to perform my single favorite task — transitioning from alive to !alive!, the most visceral, contrasting change I’ll experience in my temperament all day? That’s part of it, definitely, but I’m more concerned with the role the clothes play in the public domain.
They are rarely acknowledged by my one-legged selfie mirror (or any photo-documenting opportunity at all), come in contact with no more than five people depending on the day and therefore remain rather private, even though this is not by design. I could interpret the privacy inferred by the outfit’s lack of spectators as a shame considering how much I like the clothes, but to do that would lean on former conceptions I have held about what value my clothing possesses.
These changing conceptions (still undetermined to be sure) are further punctuated by the impossibility that they will somehow land on Instagram because I never photograph them. This infers that their purpose in practice is to serve no one but me. Sure I can argue that this is true of all the clothes I wear but I ‘ve invited so much of my private to become public and with that invariably comes an understanding that whether or not I am willing to admit, there is always a third party gaze at play. My circumstance may be extreme, but anyone who makes a semblance of their personal data public is liable to find themselves a victim of the third party gaze.
And this gaze is tricky, because sometimes it belongs to another person, but other times, because of our cameras, they might actually be our own. How is this possible? I’m so glad you asked! A camera’s purpose is to freeze a moment and present the illusion that its memory will live on, but through this lens (see what I did there?), the problem of whether that’s possible arises. The way that I absorb the meaning of memory requires that you see it as an organism made up of and impossible to exist without its appendages. These appendages are actually the sum of the memory: where you were, who you were, what you thought, how you managed and so forth. All of this information is so mutable that almost immediately after a photo is taken, it has changed. And just like that, you are now the sum of a different gaze. Consequently, this notion affords my morning coffee outfits the flexibility to exist without record. They get to be — just be — without any imposition, imparted bias, or implication. Ah, freedom!
Of course, these outfits are actually a metaphor for my thoughts — this much I can gather without hesitation — but I don’t think I’m ready to accept what that will mean. I don’t think I even actually know. What I see is that I’m beginning to treasure the slices of my life that happen without a broadcasting mechanism nearby. That, for the time being, these slices remain inconsequential in the grand scheme of my work — wrapped up in cotton shorts, or a set of pink pajamas accompanied by expensive slippers — but that as I challenge myself to question the nuances of what thrills me and why, how it’s changing or staying the same, I luxuriate ever more in time that passes without having any of it chiseled into my diary, private or public. Have you experienced this at all?