Tuesday, August 20, 2013


The art of blending in with one’s background has been studied for centuries.  At some point prior to 322 B.C., Aristotle wrote about the ability of the octopus to change its color to match its background.  Charles Darwin remarked in 1859 that when insects like the katydid, whose wings resemble leaves, and birds such as the grouse, which grows reddish feathers when in heather and black when in peat, are able to avoid the detection of keen-sighted birds of prey, their survival rates increase and the color-changing trait is carried forward in the species.   

In 1892, British zoologist Frank Evers Beddard noted that parrots, iguanas and green tree frogs are all examples of animals whose coloring is very similar to that of their habitat – trees.  I suppose you could have put me in that category with today’s attire.  I don’t dwell in trees, although I love them dearly and fell in love with my ancient farmhouse largely because of the gigantic 150-year-old oak and tulip poplar trees which dot my two acres in northwest Baltimore County, Maryland.   But today’s outfit was not chosen so much for my love of greenery as it was for the way these two Worthington pieces caught my attention when I saw them on a mannequin at my local JCPenney store a few weeks ago.  I haven’t owned any pencil skirts, although I love the look.  And the soft, cowl-neck top with its jungle leaf print struck me as something I’d be able to pair with several items already in my closet.  The fact that both garments were on sale (and I had a coupon on top of that) pretty much sold me.  I now own a sage-hued pencil skirt and a leaf-patterned blouse.

I paired my new, knee-length lungi with some olive and cognac high-heeled sandals by Guess for today’s commute to the Library of Congress to conduct research for my employer, adding a necklace, bracelet and earrings of freshwater pearls in cream, brown and green by Fire & Ice Jewelers of Baltimore.  It didn’t occur to me until I looked at the photos I’d taken of my new outfit that the color of the thicket I used as a backdrop in my yard was practically identical to my choice of the day’s apparel. 

This flounder is practically invisible against the
sandy ocean bottom where it makes its home
My general objective in life has been to not blend in with my surroundings.  When I was a little girl, my mother told me to march to the beat of my own drummer and make a point not to dress like everyone else at school.  This was due, in large part, to the fact that my family could not afford the preppy clothes worn by the other kids at the schools I attended in Moraga and Orinda, California.   My brother and I routinely wore items purchased from local second-hand stores.  Even my junior and senior high school prom dresses came from consignment shops.  But my mother’s wisdom nevertheless instilled in me a lifelong desire to stand slightly apart from the crowd, something wildly-colored hair and imaginative piercings seem to be doing for subsequent generations.

Beddard noted that pelagic fish like the mackerel are dark-colored on top and almost white on their bellies so as to disappear into their backgrounds whether viewed from above or below. Sheer genius (and a matter of survival) for the mackerel.  Not so much my intent, however, when set against a backdrop of Washington D.C. subway stations and steamy city sidewalks.

Stand out from today's crowd, most of whom sported sweatpants and T-shirts?  You bet I did.

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