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Encore Consignment & Bridal Boutique owner Kim Stanton is ready to meet your dog-walking style needs.

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Ann Fee Rosenquist 

DEAR ANN: I just bought a new skirt for walking my dog. I said it out loud to everyone in Encore Consignment & Bridal Boutique: “This is my new dog-walking skirt.” The cashier smiled supportively. Someone else in the store said “yes!” I felt triumphant. What has happened to me?

DEAR READER: It happened to us all, and it was 2020! And thank goodness, because how else could we have gained a real-life grasp of historical tropes like “the Civil War tore families apart?” Or “rodent control and sanitation can help plague from spreading?”

Obviously the trope that came true for you, Reader, was the one about people dressing up to walk in the forest or a pasture. That’s not from a particular history lesson but it’s definitely a thing in art and literature — characters talking about the finery they’ll need starched or pressed or whatever to wear as they walk slowly through a garden or field or knoll. Or European olden-times paintings of people in bustles and hats and gloves, all for the special occasion of standing in a park.

If you thought anything about these vignettes prior to the quarantine of 2020, it was probably, “I guess that’s all they had to wear” or “I guess they were just nonstop fancy.” Turns out, no. Turns out that when the main highlight of your day is a constitutional in the green space closest to your home, and nothing else in your schedule requires getting dressed at all, turns out you dress for the park. You give thought to what to wear in the company of nature because it’s one way to keep the planning and color-coordinating parts of your brain from going slack. And suddenly those women in those paintings don’t seem like such fripperies. They seem steely, like high priestesses of personal care and resilience, bearing the traditions of foremothers before them who did the same thing in even more olden times with animal skins and laurel leaves.

Good on you, Reader, for carrying on that legacy. For dressing like the day matters, for shopping local, and for delighting onlookers as you stride in the finery known as your dog-walking skirt.

DEAR ANN: My extended family used the weirdness of 2020 to finally do the thing we’ve talked about for years, i.e., not exchanging holiday gifts. On one hand, I’m still feeling the happy relief of not having to think up gifts for people I don’t see all that often. On the other hand, for the first time in my adult life I’m facing January without a new stash of soaps and lip balms in holiday gift packaging. How do I move forward?

DEAR READER: Congratulations on receiving the great gift of agency over your own self-care routine! For the first time in your adult life, you’re going to choose your very own textures and fragrances, the things that determine your daily disposition. And if you don’t think your disposition was affected by using a gift soap you secretly found gaudy-smelling, you are wrong, because I guarantee you that for the whole life of that soap, you emitted traces of snobby disdain wherever you went.

But no longer. As the chooser of your own hand soap and shower gel and lip protectant and whatever else you didn’t get in the family gift exchange you didn’t have, you’re entirely responsible for the fragrance you inhale and the resulting attitude you effuse.

Be on your guard around post-holiday clearance sales, because as logical as it might seem to grab yourself a 70%-off glitter-boxed 12-pack of cake-smelling product, that’ll only send you right back to where you started, rolling your eyes, this time with only yourself to blame. Seize the weirdness of 2020 one step further. Move forward. Be the boss of your balm.

Got a question? Submit it at annrosenquistfee.com (click on Ann’s Fashion Fortunes).

Ann Rosenquist Fee is executive director of the Arts Center of Saint Peter and host of Live from the Arts Center, a music and interview show Thursdays 1-2 p.m. on KMSU 89.7FM.

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