Une femme and Navy (the color, not the branch of Armed Services) started off on the wrong foot and have mostly been at odds for the last few decades. I’ll admit, it’s entirely guilt by association, but then the associations were pretty strong.
First, there was my great-grandmother, who in my mind’s eye is always wearing navy dresses and orthopedic shoes. Don’t get me wrong, she was a lovely lady, but the connection between “navy” and “old” was firmly cemented early on and not easily dislodged.
Then there was the high-school Frenemy, a prissy, sanctimonious type who was fond of crested navy blazers (this in public school in the 70’s) and light blue shirts because they brought out her blue eyes (which she never failed to remind anyone within earshot). Her style was total Brooks Brothers before any of us in California knew what Brooks Brothers was. Her hair (blonde, natch!) was always in a perfect flip, her eyelids graced with blue shadow, and she only ate small salads on dates so the guy “wouldn’t think [she] was a pig.” She was horrified by denim. I learned a few months after we finally fell out that her parents always thought I was a bad influence because my mother was a divorcée, and were not sorry to see me go.
The 1980’s brought us “Dress For Success” and skirted navy pinstripe suits with the floppy bow tie blouses. Enough said.
And then there were so many damn *rules* about navy, specifically about all of the other things you couldn’t wear with it. No black, no brown, no patent leather, no green, ad infinitum. Navy was Serious and Stodgy and played by all the rules. Sort of like Miss Frenemy, come to think of it. Navy was a demanding boss. Navy was pedestrian. I regarded black and a smattering of browns and greys as my neutrals of choice. I avoided anything navy (or even blue for that matter) like the plague, with the singular exception of jeans. Strangely, I never thought of my denim jeans as “navy” perhaps because of MF’s abhorrence of them, and have always had a pair or four rotating through the wardrobe since my teen years.
I surprised myself when I was drawn to a navy Italian wool jacket at Talbot’s a few years ago. “I could wear this with jeans,” I thought. I tried it on and it fit like a dream. I bought it on the spot and brought it home where it mostly languished in my closet, at least until Karen laid eyes on it. She pointed out how flattering the cut is, and how easily it works with just about everything else I own (including black…take THAT, you outdated rules!). I was finally able to see that it didn’t make me look like Thurston Howell III, or even my high-school nemesis. And navy, while providing the same slimming advantages of black, is a much softer color against the skin, and quite a bit easier to coordinate with other colors.
So Navy and I have declared a truce, and are in the process of getting to know each other a little better. I’m not giving up my black, but I’ve recently purchased a t-shirt in navy, and a cream marinière with navy stripes. While we may never be BFF’s, I think this may be the start of a solid friendship.
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