I reported for the photo shoot in a brown pantsuit with wide-leg pants and a short jacket with three-quarter sleeves. I love this suit because it makes me look taller than I am and slim, but I think it’s only in my head that this is true. A lot of my fashion decisions come from the dream world, not reality. The local paper once asked for a head shot to accompany a long opinion piece and I sent them a photo that I thought made me look great. That I was wearing a bathrobe at the time (you could only see the neckline of it) has brought scorn from at least one influential corner of my family, her raised highbrow is sometimes felt across country.
Anyway, under the beloved brown pantsuit – now 12 years old – I wore a new white, boat neck, jersey from Target that I loved because it had gold grommets on the shoulders. I thought the white would make me look vivid. Seriously, I thought that. Vivid. And I loved the grommets like a kid would love Batman band-aids. But can clothing actually have grommets or is that just something for sailing vessels and flags?
It doesn’t matter because when I got to the botanical gardens that was the site of the photo shoot, the photographer right away said, “Keep your jacket on,” like he’d spied tomato soup I’d spilled on my shirt. He would have been right to look because my alternate shirt was a really beautiful sleeveless brocade number on which someone had spilled wine a few days before, knocking it out of photo shoot contention.
So I kept the jacket on and the photographer had me stand here and then there, sit on the bench, hold my glasses in my right hand, look down, tilt left, then right. “Pull your shirt down,” he directed. “No, give it a good tug.” I worried that there would be a two-inch rim of white below my jacket like I’d mistakenly grabbed my husband’s t-shirt walking out the door. Maybe I should tuck it in, I thought, but lord, no one has tucked in a shirt since 1953. I would be the first. At one point, he walked over and straightened my jacket. “Your shoulder pads are making little wrinkles here.”
Shoulder pads. I forgot. I was wearing a suit with shoulder pads. Little ones. But still. I felt in that moment like I had come in my bathrobe.
The photographer would shoot and then look at the photo in his camera. “Beautiful!” he’d say and I teased him that he probably said that about everyone’s photos. “No,” he said, “when they’re terrible, I don’t say anything.” He was businesslike and kind. He himself wore dark jeans and a very form-fitting short-sleeved button shirt with a very faint yellow plaid pattern.
As he clicked shot after shot, I decided not to worry about my shirt or my suit and do two things: be my tallest self (which is something I always say when I walk into scary situations) and beam, beam from the deepest inside out. I may be in a bathrobe but I want to glow. (I forgot to say I wore my red, pointy-toed, faux alligator heels. Which should probably be the end of the essay. The original ‘enough said.’)
So I went from the photo shoot to the video taping where I sat on a stool in front of a green backdrop and answered a lot of questions related to my being recognized as a 2018 Woman of Influence by the Milwaukee Business Journal. It is a wonderful and big deal which took me 70 years to earn (most of the awardees are half my age) so I won’t for a moment say I don’t deserve it. But it’s mind-blowing, nonetheless.
The photos and the video will be shown to a lot of people at a big luncheon in June. There are 29 of us Women of Influence though so it won’t be like an hour-long documentary on Jan. Maybe a minute or two. I can cover my eyes and it will all be over. For better or worse, the photo shoot is done.
Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash