Friday, December 23, 2011

Swaddling Clothes—the Clothing Budget. Financial Fridays.

It’s two days until we celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world and somehow it just seems wrong to post about shopping…except it’s something that we all indulge in…something that some of us do with exaggerated excess. Since I’m tired of shopping, I’m going to write about something that I know very little about it and try to relate it to something I’m far too familiar with.

Jesus, through Mary, his natural born mother and Joseph, his adoptive father, was of royal blood and would have been king if Israel hadn’t been under Roman rule (see Matthew 1:17) According to Jewish custom, the swaddling clothes, the strips of cloth Mary used to wrap her baby, bore the symbols of her royal heritage. When the shepherds came to worship the baby Jesus, they would have immediately recognized him as their rightful king by the markings on his swaddling clothes.

Which brings me to the question—are we recognized for who we are by the clothes we wear? (Bloggers looking for financial advice are now clicking away in disgust—please wait before you click—this isn’t a lesson on modest dress, I promise.) There are plenty of ways to save money on clothes—garage sales, thrift stores, second hand shops, season end sales, coupons and group-ons, but remember, it’s two days before Christmas and I’m tired of shopping…

One of the few lectures I attended and enjoyed with my husband when he was in graduate school was given by a professor of organizational behavior on “dress for success--” a popular buzzphrase in the 1980s. (Remember power ties?) He said that the reason the business world wears dark boring suits is so that nothing in their appearance would detract from their ideas. What you wear should never call attention from what you have to say. Your shoes should never receive more admiration than your thoughts.

When Larry worked in Midtown New York, we lived in the commuter town, Darien, Ct. A hefty portion of the town’s population daily commuted to the city. We lived about two blocks from the train station and Larry walked to and from the station, but sometimes he would run. Not because he was late, but because he was cold and running was much faster than walking. After awhile, he learned to stop and walk if he saw a car approaching because, inevitably, the driver of the car would assume he was late for his train and stop and offer him a ride. Since he is unsocial by nature, this embarrassed him. Darien is a beautiful community—we had wonderful neighbors there, but I wondered if Larry had replaced his suit, tie and brief case for jeans, a corduroy jacket and a backpack—would the cars of Darien have stopped and offered him a ride? No, probably not. Right or wrong, assumptions are made by the clothes we wear.
New York City investment bankers follow a strict uniform code. The earlier the commute, the stricter the code. In the fall—raincoats--and then one late autumn day wool overcoats replace the raincoats…their attire is far more predictable than the stock markets. For a good reason, remember the advice of the organizational behavior professor--never let your appearance detract from what you have to say. Don’t try to hide behind your clothes.

In New York City, I saw women wearing tea length fur coats to the Macy Day Thanksgiving parade. I have never seen women wearing fur to the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. Again, for a variety of good reasons, but the overriding reason, the one I want to talk about, is that a fur coat in California would be as out of place as a pair of flip-flops on the stock exchange floor.

If you’re a den mother, wear the lemon yellow shirt with pride. If you’re a yogi, wear your leotard. It’s worth the cost—whatever that is--to let the world know who you are, what your purpose is, and that you need to be taken seriously, because your daily work is seriously important.

Fortunately, for me, I write novels. This means that I get to spend the day in fuzzy pajamas. On the days I wear clothes, I can slouch in pants with holes in the knees and sweaters that grow fuzz balls, but, every once in awhile, I need to look like a respectable, contributing member of society. Sometimes, although usually not, I want to be taken seriously and when I do—I dust off my best clothes and put them on. And although the suit doesn’t change who I am inside and underneath, I can move and act with confidence, knowing that the skirt won’t slip and show my white belly, or that the blouse won’t shift and expose my bra strap. Well cut clothes can do that for you and when you need them, it’s nice to know you have them at the ready. I’ve heard it said that fashion is all about what doesn’t itch, but sometimes, every once in awhile, it’s also about looking your best so that you can share your most brilliant ideas without worrying about your outward appearance—which should never outshine who you are on the inside.

If you don’t already have the power suit, save your money and invest in two good outfits--one for summer and one for winter. Make sure they fit and are well cut. Buy matching shoes. (Maybe I’m not as tired of shopping as I thought.)


  1. You are correct. Because the Jews lived in a society divided by a system of casts, their clothing made it immediately aware to all as to what sector of society they came from. That is why the Bible described people so often as "a sinner" it was not so much a label of their spiritual progression as much as it labeled where in society they came from. Jesus not only was here to complete his spiritual role, he stated many times he was here for the sinners not the righteous, this would have been instantly recognized by those around him as saying he wasn't here to associate with the upper crust. He also made statements about being "no respecter of persons" and had no taste for it as he built his following by ignoring the cast system (his followers came from all casts and other cultures as well). The cast he was born into gave him the privilege of moving freely among them all. It also gave him presence to be listened to by all but those Romans who felt that Jews were beneath them and wouldn't have accepted his message anyways.

    We can do the same, make ourselves listened to or not by our attire. It is the nature of humans.

    Very good post!!! Thank you, even though most are aware of this at a social level, few are conscious of it. Once conscious of it, we can make it work to our advantage.

    Have a fabulous Christmas and a very good Holiday! ;D

  2. Thanks for adding this. I think it says so much about Jesus' character that he was of earthly royal lineage, as well as divine, and that he still was "no respecter of persons"...or clothes.