On the Monday after I graduated from high school I started working for an East Texas law firm. On Friday of that week I got my first-ever paycheck: $47 after taxes. I paid Mother $10, the amount we'd agreed would be reasonable room and board for someone of my new "adult-working-girl" status. Because I'd never learned to drive, a neighbor who worked across the street from my office took me to and from work each day; in exchange, I gave her gas money. I went to lunch every day with another secretary, mostly to places where we could get a good, hot, plate lunch for $1. Those were my only expenses. I spent the rest of my money on clothes.
My lunch buddy, Jo, had established relationships with the owners and managers of all the best clothing stores in town. They'd call her a day or two ahead of each big sale they planned, and we'd schedule our daily lunch hours around that insider information. We'd choose a restaurant near our target store, eat as quickly as possible (I still eat too fast as a result of that training), and shop until it was time to go back to work.
During that year, I bought beautiful clothes, dresses I could sketch in detail today if I were talented in that way. I loved them all and wore them well. The sizes were consistent from label to label, so I could pick my size off the rack and it would fit as if it had been designed for me. At 50 percent off, and with the help of layaway, I bought pretty much what I wanted.
Some days we shopped only for shoes, and I had shoes in every color. The most popular shoes in the early '60s were pointed-toe pumps with stiletto heels, much like the ones I see for sale today. I remember specifically a pair of wedgwood blue pumps that were so beautiful -- and so inexpensive at their sale price -- that I bought them even though I didn't own one thing to wear with them. Over the next couple of weeks I managed to find a shirtwaist dress and a purse in that exact shade of blue. The dress and purse were not on sale, unfortunately, so those "cheap" shoes ended up costing me a sizable amount.
Are you wondering why I'm spending so many words to describe my clothing excesses of more than 40 years ago? The reason, I guess, is to help you understand how much I've changed in all those years. Today, I would rather spend an hour strapped naked to a tree in a mosquito-infested rain forest than spend that same hour shopping for clothes. Sizes are inconsistent, age-appropriate styles are limited, plus-sized fashions are generally unfashionable, and prices, in my opinion, are ridiculous.
Still, I bit the bullet earlier in the week and spent a couple of hours to supplement my deteriorating work wardrobe. You want to know what I bought? Three pairs of black pants (each cut differently to accommodate varying levels of water retention) and four sweaters, all identical except for the color. The part of me that used to be aghast at repeating a look within a two-week period has grown to embrace the idea of a "uniform."
There are advantages to growing older, not the least of which are (1) I've become more or less invisible, and (2) I couldn't care less.