Thursday, January 31, 2013

(Not So) Basic Black

Except for California, every state in which I have lived (Nevada, Texas, Maryland) has embraced the cliché: "if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute and it will change". Not California, where I grew up, of course, because it’s always gorgeous there, and even when it isn’t, it is. But the weather today in Maryland particularly emphasized that old saw. Last week the temperature was in the teens here in Baltimore County where I live. Yesterday the temperature soared to over 70 degrees. Today, right now, the mercury is back in the 30s and is rapidly plunging. It will dip into the 20s tonight and by the time I rise tomorrow morning there will be snow on the ground to replace that which melted in Wednesday’s unseasonable heat wave.

A cold front, clashing with warm thermals that have visited this region for the past two days, caused violent storms throughout the Midwest and the mid-Atlantic yesterday, spawning tornadoes which killed two people in Tennessee and Georgia. Massive amounts of rain fell, flooding creeks and lakes. Powerful winds tore down trees and power lines, leaving many in the dark, though fortunately, not me. This morning, all that was left of the storm system was the wind, but it continued to blow with a mighty force all day today, with gusts exceeding 50 miles per hour.

I dressed with just such bluster in mind this morning as I prepared for my commute to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. to do research on behalf of my employer. Layers. Lots of layers. Over comfortable and toasty support hose and ski socks I pulled on my favorite stretchy black travel pants, vintage classics I bought at JCPenney back in the 1970s when I worked my way through college at the retail company. Over a ribbed-knit, long-sleeve Faded Glory Tee-shirt, I layered a very warm and equally black, tightly woven sweater by venerable skiwear maker Meister, which I bought during a ski trip with my best friend, Kari, and her parents many years ago to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The sweater is too big for me now, since losing 70 pounds in 2011. But no matter. It’s very warm, and I love the rhinestone snowflake on the yoke, and another rhinestone snowflake forming a zipper pull.

To play up the shimmer in the sweater’s crystals, I chose brilliant Cubic Zirconia earring studs, a birthday gift two years ago from Kari’s parents, and an antiqued gold-metal bracelet and fashion ring, both with rhinestone ornamentation. I pulled on short, mid-heeled booties by Pink & Pepper, a find on the clearance rack at Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW) last year, and finished my look by wrapping an antiqued gold-metal "snowflake" ear cuff around one ear to give my outfit a little edge.

The day was brisk, to say the least. My little Honda Civic was batted around by gusts both coming and going to the District of Columbia and I was thankful, once again, for the road-gripping mud-and-snow tires I bought in early December. As I made my way down a winding rural road this morning, curving through wooded countryside that eventually leads me to the interstate and the subway station just outside our nation’s capitol, I could see that the intense rains overnight had caused a normally placid stream which runs alongside the lane to far surpass its banks, actually crossing the street in a couple of places. By the time I passed by, the water had receded enough for safe passage, but state highway vehicles were still on the scene, monitoring the river’s level and its formidable current.

I wouldn’t have expected today’s "basic black" ensemble to engender compliments, let alone conversation. But, amazingly, a number of perfect strangers greeted me warmly today as I passed by them in the hallways of the Congressional Library. And someone actually asked me out on a date! Was it the rhinestones? Or the flattering slacks? My shining personality? Ha. Goes to show you that the power of black to lend sophistication to one’s appearance should never be underestimated.

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