And not only because my birthday is Halloween.

I am intoxicated by patterns and textures, bags and shoes, silk and corduroy. I delight in surveying, and selecting, just the right combination of my garments. I array myself with clothes like armor and go to face the world thus protected, or exposed, depending on my aim.

Each occasion calling for a mode of dress of a particular type is met with giddy anticipation.Ii relish planning for myself, I revel in making selections for others. and I have always taken considerable pride in my ability to portray myself in any manner I please in this way. I am just as easily the hipster as the harlot, jock or jade. I have an especial fondness for what I like to call Naughty Librarian Chic; fine fabrics, skirts just a shade too short, shoes just a bit too tall and pointy, tailored shirts with one button too many undone. I feel each of these choices communicates certain things about me to the people around me. And in most cases, I feel bolstered and safe behind the persona I don along with my clothes.

I hadn’t spent much time thinking about why I have such an obsession with clothes until recently. I could say readily that the utter lack of any choices about how I looked or what I wore as a child left me feeling exposed and vulnerable and was one of the most difficult aspects of growing up unsure of myself. I have somehow always associated being well dressed with confidence, security, and success. It was only when I began to notice a compulsive tendency to feel as though if only I could find just the right outfit, that all would be well, when my acquisition of habiliments became such as focus as to border upon addiction. I was putting the expansion of my wardrobe ahead of other more pressing priorities, and eventually, had to stop buying clothes altogether for a period of time.

Even now, that I am thinking about it consci0usly, I still have trouble controlling this impulse. Moreover, the more I think about it, the stranger my ideas about clothing seem. Recently it occurred to me that I always imagined that wardrobe was a fundamental focus for, if not every then certainly most, sophisticated attractive people with the means to dress as they pleased. Having made several friends in the last few years who are unquestionably all of those things, but have little or no interest in clothing, has forced me to examine my biases about the subject.

As I do so, I am forced to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth of what I suppose I know already; that when I refer to my clothing as armor, I am utterly serious about this comparison. I have not heretofore felt sure enough of myself to present indifferent dress. I can never dress solely for comfort or without considering exactly the perception of myself I am hoping to promote. the notion that people might see something I did not carefully craft sends me into a cold sweat.

Which is not to imply I am always perfectly dressed, it is merely to say that I am never carelessly dressed. There is always significant thought invested in the selection of whatever I wear. and so too, in what it is I am attempting to communicate via my levi’s and low cut sweater, my capri’s and twinset, the exquisitely tailored cocktail dress, the tank top and peasant skirt.

And I have begun to try and emulate these happy few dear friends of mine who seem so utterly at ease in their skin. who are radiant and appealing no matter what they wear. Who do not have to look down at their outfit to tell them who they are today, who they want to be instead. I can see myself in those terms for the first time, I feel immediately liberated by this realization.

Now, to undress…