Not to the Manor Born

Before heading off to college for the first time, I had saved enough summer earnings to buy a few new clothes. This was a big deal since most of my closet had been filled with clothes handed down from neighbors and relatives. I was not a shopping “pro,” to say the least. But I knew it mattered. 

So I went to a little shop that carried higher-end brands. I found what I felt was a perfect coat – slender, wool, mid-calf. Even though it would use up all the money I had – I bought it. I felt a little like Cinderella – off to a new world – a new start and this coat sealed the deal. Oh, I had so much to learn. 

I now know that a person’s class follows them. Unlike Cinderella, I didn’t suddenly know how to dance, and to greet, and to move through a crowd with skill and grace. But I had my coat and my blessed ignorance about how much the world could really see. So – when I arrived I felt ready. And, you know what? I was. 

So much of our growth – our evolution – is about pretending. Acting “as if…” The coat? It was a useful prop in the process – providing a temporary blurring of class lines – just long enough for people to see that I can be funny, that I care and that I will work hard. That’s all it takes – just a few minutes – to get a sense of connection. Sure there will be different social worlds, but we now know each other – and like each other. Preconceived notions, stereotypes be damned. People naturally want to connect.

This temporary blurring works both ways. I have known people living privileged lives who want the same opportunity. Who want to be seen, not as posh or snobby, but as people who can be funny, who care and who will work hard.

All the efforts that go into fashion are like blurbs on book jackets meant to entice us to come inside – to invest the time it takes to dig in and enjoy the stories within.

Do you have transitional garments in your story?

Read about how class is expressed in our daily lives. How do we show belonging? Status & Class.

Cliff Notes: The Prince & The Pauper, by Mark Twain

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