(Photo: Jenna Briand)
Wardrobe-wise, I was ready. My family bought me a handful of great new skirts, knowing 30 days without pants was going to be tough. I dug up a snug pencil skirt from the back of the closet. Pulled out a dress or two to dress down for everyday use. And shut the drawer on my jeans with a tiny whimper and a pathetic wave. “See ya next month, old friends.”
Who knew that so trivial a resolution would take me to the heights of polished sophisticate and to the lows of mid-life neurotic with such deft ease? Who knew that an A-line skirt could make me beeline so quickly to either fabulous or fussy?
Insight #1: If giving up an article of clothing can make such waves in my life, fear for me, friends, should I ever try to give up anything more serious. As I sit writing this today, cross-legged, in sweats (a position I sorely missed!), these are my top revelations from a January without jeans. The good, the bad and the superficial.
1. Going without pants is a great conversation starter.
In the beginning, I really couldn’t help myself from announcing to anyone within earshot that I had taken on a 30-day no-pants challenge. I was convinced that everyone, even total strangers, could actually see how odd it was for me to be wearing a flowy skirt instead of skinny jeans, and I felt the need to explain myself immediately. Of course this was all in my overactive, seemingly narcissistic mind. I had not lost a limb. I did not have a tattoo on my neck. Most people thought nothing of it at all, until I voluntarily assaulted them with the information. They would politely chuckle, and I would then quickly ask if they’d make any New Year resolutions, too.
2. No one should bowl in a skirt. Ever.
There are a number of occasions when, I’ve realized, skirts and dresses should be non-optional. Bowling is one of them. Turns out all that fabric is really hazardous to one’s form. Grocery shopping is another. And I’d argue “Saturday.” But I skirted my way through all those events nonetheless. Working out and sleeping, however, were tricky. I hadn’t fully defined how far I was taking this stunt. Early on I purchased what I’d once proclaimed to be the Stupidest Item of Clothing Ever Invented — the one-piece skirt-over-leggings-yoga-thingie — but ultimately could not leave the house wearing it. So, a confession: I slept in PJ’s and worked out in my Lululemons. And I decided that wasn’t cheating.
3. Playing dress-up can be fun.
It’s hard to not feel polished in a skirt. For me, the act of slipping a skirt onto my body prompted a nearly Pavlovian response of feminine preening. I put on makeup, heels, and jewelry with a flair my jeans-wearing self does not normally possess. I had better posture, a friend observed, and spoke in meetings with a bit more bravado. I was complimented for my “look” by a stranger in the airport, called “ladylike” by a mom at school and actually inspired a colleague to ditch her jeans, too. I felt like I was a character in a play and my role was a 40-something woman who actually dressed and acted her age.
4. Playing dress-up can prompt existential angst.
I am generally uncomfortable being a 40-something woman who actually dresses or acts her age. But why should a skirt — a pretty, youthful item of clothing, by most accounts — make me feel so matronly? Why did I feel so physically constrained and awkwardly formal? I developed one theory (after dismissing my husband’s likening it to the “exposed tackle” of men in kilts) that when I was younger and lacking confidence, I over-dressed so people would take me seriously. And now, having taken far too many things too seriously in life, I underdress so people will know I’m relaxed. So I feel relaxed. That, or I’m just a tomboy who is finally at peace.
5. Everything in moderation.
In the end, I’ve concluded that giving up pants for a month was a good idea. I may forever be a jeans girl, but skirts are for me, they’re just not for me every day. And now I know that on those days when I need some extra polish, some sartorial armor, or a boost of bravado, I’ve got recent experience — and a better wardrobe — to help get me on my way.
Check out part one of Jenna’s 30-Day Challenge here.
Find out how the rest of our participants did: