Fade To Black: What A Move To New York Did To My Closet 

Something? Anything? Just a spot of red or a splash of pink?

Something? Anything? Just a spot of red or a splash of pink?

Black, Black, Black, Black, Gray, Black. 

I frantically leaf through my closet, hoping to find a color: Something? Anything? Just a spot of red or a splash of pink? I’d even settle for a bit of blue. But no. Just more dull, drab, darkness. The best I can find is a grayish sweater that might be called mauve if you squint. Gah.  

How did this happen to me… again?

Back at work, I asked around about my wardrobe. “Do I wear a lot of black?” I said. No one even paused or had to look up from their computers. “Yes,” was the unanimous reply. 

When I first moved from New York to Los Angeles, my company paid for the relocation, so of course, I brought most of my clothes and shoes with me. Never mind that in the perennial sunny weather of L.A., there wasn’t much need for winter coats and chunky sweaters, or for any seasonal clothes at all. In fact, it took me a few years to understand that the way to change clothes from summer to winter in L.A. was just to rotate from flip flops to boots while mostly wearing the same outfits. 

But it took me a longer time to understand that my palette had to change likewise. 

“You should never wear black on a first date,” a color therapist told me. 

No, I hadn’t completely succumbed to L.A.’s heeby-jeeby hippy-dippy vibe; I was interviewing this woman for an article about her practice of chromotherapy, a holistic healing which uses light and color to influence a person’s mood and health. She provided sessions to new young brides for their trousseaus (yes, some people still have them!) and also designed religious centers. Even though I hadn’t asked for a personal assessment, she decided to focus her powers on me: I was single and not having much luck with the men of the Left Coast.

“When you wear black, you’re too intimidating,” she said — “and you’re kind of standoffish already, so wear something light and airy.” 

I wrote down what she said to be professional, but I thought she was way off the mark. I was outgoing! Friendly! Not intimidating at all! Or so I thought. On the way back to my office, I called my younger sister, who confirmed what apparently everyone else knew about me but myself.

“Well, if you don’t know someone, you can be kind of intimidating and a little unfriendly,” my sis confessed, much to my chagrin. 

Back at work, I asked around about my wardrobe. “Do I wear a lot of black?” I said. No one even paused or had to look up from their computers. “Yes,” was the unanimous reply. 

So I stopped wearing little black dresses on my first dates. Then I stopped buying little black dresses (how many do you need, anyway?). Then I forbade myself from buying dark clothes of any sort. 

My closet blossomed into a floral festival. I had a fabulous pale yellow tulle and denim skirt, a three-tiered melon dress, and an aqua/seafoam shirt with silver appliqués that would have made the color therapist proud. Once, while traveling back to New York for a visit, I wore my powder blue Juicy Couture velour sweatsuit, and my father said, “Why are you wearing pajamas? And such bright ones?” 

I realized that some clothes might be indigenous to their regions. 

That didn’t stop me from packing up all my clothes again when I moved back to New York seven years ago. Apparently, my bright wardrobe didn’t help my Californian dating life; I met my future husband on a trip home. He’ll never let me forget my first-date pink Uggs. “At least she has a style of her own,” he thought. “It’s not my style, but it’s a style.”

I wasn’t crazy about his style either — let’s just say it gave new meaning to the term 50 Shades of Gray. “It’s simpler this way,” he explained, disdaining my gifts of an orange cashmere sweater, a burgundy v-neck t-shirt, a rainbow knit scarf. Slowly, but surely, though, after two years of dating and five years of marriage, my efforts have made their way into his once-monochrome closet. He recently purchased an indigo spring suit. Score! 

But now, leafing through the desert of my closet, I notice that his affinity for dark digs has made its way into mine.

Somehow, my flair has left the building: I own four different black dresses, a myriad of indistinguishable slate shirts, and nary a pastel in sight. I’m back in black, where I started. 

We all tend to think of ourselves as fiercely independent creatures whose choices — even sartorial —are solely our own, devoid of outside influences. But I’ve noticed that in my many moves, I tend to change based on my surroundings. In California, I had to lose my edgy sarcasm, my cynical judgyness, and open myself up to new things. After color therapy, I tried reiki, acupuncture, surfing, and wearing winter white. 

Then the call of home became too strong; my closet reveals that I reverted to my old self here, imperial and intimidating, clad in my... all black. 

Life doesn’t have to be black and white.

Even living in Manhattan, I could be more open to new experiences and people. And I can wear my three-tiered melon dress or my yellow tulle/denim concoction. If they fit, that is. After love, marriage, and baby carriage — some things do change for the better.

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