25 November 2009

Thanksgiving's Sartorial Dilemmas

Ah, the holiday season is upon us again: a time for merriment, glee, and bonhomie. A time to see distant relatives, revel over extravagant meals - or, depending on your point of view, the time of year when seasonal affective disorder combines with consumerist hype to ensure that the rest of the year will be a soggy slushball of misery.

For the fashion theorist in the crowd, there's an extra layer of sartorial terror. How to put together outfits for a variety of holiday gatherings that combine style, sufficient comfort, and just the right series of mixed messages (which could include "Why, yes, my career is going smashingly" to your oneupsmanish second cousin at the same time as "Sure, Ma, I'd love to help in the kitchen!")?

Once we get into the winter-solstice holiday round, it gets easier: it's hard to go wrong with something tastefully sparkly in late December. Thanksgiving, though.... Thanksgiving's a real landmine.

For most, it's a holiday devoted to two things: family and food. I am in the very lucky position of having an excellent relationship with both. However, the emphasis on the eating (and, for many of us, preparing) of an extensive meal dictates fashion choices somewhat, as does the presence of seldom-seen relatives. You want to look your best in front of your aunt the business tycoon and the other side's terribly stylish cousins, but there's also all that food to prepare - and eat, and you can't possibly offend anyone by refusing at least a little taste of their signature once-a-year dish. For many of us, there's also significant travel time involved, which means anything that won't stand up to a long car ride or squishing into a carry-on suitcase (who wants to wait for the baggage carousel at this time of year?) gets invited to another party.

Just to give you an idea, here's my outline for tomorrow:
6 a.m.: Whimper as alarm goes off. Roll out of bed, put up water for coffee. While it's boiling, drain the turkey out of the brine it's been sitting in since Monday. Consume coffee, pack self, husband, smoker, hardwood charcoal, a few vegetable dishes in various states of preparation, turkey, and a cheesecake into car.
6.30 a.m.: Drive from our perch in the mid-Hudson valley down into Darkest Suburbia - Westchester County, home of country clubs, malls, and entitled drivers. And my wonderful parents, who are somewhat atypical for the area.
8-ish: Arrive at parents' house. Unload everything. Drink more coffee, this time my mom's cinnamon-scented brew. Get the smoker kicking. For anyone who's never cooked in a smoker, it's a long-term process: the turkey takes a good eight hours to cook. During this time, it'll need plenty of tending - more wood, more charcoal, more water. Husband usually parks himself and a flask of Scotch under the pergola and stays there all morning and much of the afternoon. I flit back and forth, finishing up those vegetable dishes I mentioned earlier and helping Mum out with whatever last-minute stuff needs doing, visiting man and bird in the great outdoors when possible. At some point, someone's got to pick up my bestie, who traditionally spends the holiday with us, from the train station.
4-ish: Everyone who didn't show up super-early to cook starts to arrive. This year we're only a dozen or so: in recent years, there have been more than twenty of us. Appetizers have to be out, wine has to be ready to pour, and the last of the cooking has to happen.
6-ish: The turkey comes out of the smoker, joins its oven-roasted companion inside, and we start the meal proper. In addition to two turkeys, we're having wild rice dressing, at least four vegetable dishes, three types of cranberry relish, pickled grapes, and an untold quorum of desserts - and that's a deliberate effort on all our parts not to make too much food.

Wow, that's a long day. At least it's not supposed to be raining much: in years past, we've tended the smoker through near-freezing rain. However, there's no way to hang out near a smoky fire, outdoors, for eight hours without getting incredibly smoke-scented oneself, not to mention inevitably schmutzy.  There's also no way I'm getting dressed for the family-gathering part of the day at 6 a.m. (an hour I haven't seen much of lately), especially for a full day of turkey-schlepping, fire-tending, veggie roasting, and who knows what else. As a result, I'm most likely rolling out of bed into yoga pants and a disreputable top, and packing a bag with another outfit that I'm willing to be seen in - a simple long-sleeve, knee-length knit dress (stretchy for comfort after lots of turkey! black to hide any wayward gravy!), bright purple tights, and my favorite high-heel boots. Sometime around 3.15, I'll realize in a panic that I'm still in the ratty morning clothes, the family members who always show up super-early will be there in fifteen minutes, and I still smell of smoke. I'll panic, throw on the dress, hope I can get mascara on straight, and try to pass the woodsmoke off as an exotic perfume.

So, a question for you, Fabulous Readers: on a day when everyone's thinking about what's on their plates, what are you thinking about what's on your body? Planning on wearing anything special - or not - tomorrow? How do you deal with the sartorial demands of Thanksgiving?

1 comment:

  1. Great article.
    Since I was going to my friend's home and not cooking this Thanksgiving (aside from bringing the cocktails), my only concern was what to wear.
    I had the usual dilemma - style vs. comfort - for some reason they rarely go hand in hand. In this case though, I did manage to have both.
    I wore a vintage printed silk dress with a loose, forgiving waistline, which I promptly belted anyway. Over the dress, which was short-sleeved and thin, I wore a very oversized handknit cardigan. It came in mighty handy for that after-dinner smoke behind the barn.
    The most important part of the outfit - fabulous shoes.



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