“Shall I slip into something more comfortable?” is a line that’s been around almost as long as the talking picture—maybe longer. But I always associate it with the movies, especially films that seemed sophisticated to me when I was a kid. I wanted desperately to be a night owl, and I’d stay up late to watch the old movies that came on after “Saturday Night Live” (and before the days of SNL, “The Midnight Special”).
My body clock had other ideas, and I usually fell asleep about halfway through the movie, but not before a glamorous actress invited a handsome actor up to her apartment for a nightcap (another concept that struck me as urbane) and uttered the seductive words, “Shall I slip into something more comfortable?”
The actress would disappear into her bedroom while the actor prepared the nightcaps, and she would reappear in something like a diaphanous white negligee and spike-heeled mules with ostrich feathers on the toes.
How, I ask, are stilettos more comfortable? To be fair, they are more comfortable than, say, having horseshoes nailed to your feet, and I suppose the actress couldn’t say, “Shall I slip into something more slutty?” especially in those 1950s-era movies, but after a night of dinner and dancing (that’s what people did in these movies. They had dinner in a dark, intimate little restaurant with tiny lamps glowing on the tables, and then they went dancing in a surprisingly well-lit nightclub), I can guarantee you that stilettos, while they are many things, are not more comfortable. At least, they are not what I find more comfortable after a night of dark dinners and brightly lit dancing.
Years ago the boyfriend and I worked with a woman named Rita whose fashion sense was appalling. We’re not talking about the comparatively minor transgressions you might characterize as Glamour Don’ts or see on “What Not to Wear.” We’re talking about green and blue polka-dot pants with a yellow and chartreuse floral blouse, flip flops, and socks. We’re talking about a purple and white striped skirt and an orange paisley turtleneck.
“Do you think she’s really bad at putting outfits together, or is she just more evolved than the rest of us?” a coworker asked me once.
I wanted to believe Rita was evolved, or at least daring and edgy, but—lovely person though she was—I think the truth was that she simply didn’t have any sense of color or pattern.
No one in the office spent time gossiping about what Rita wore on any given day, but it was impossible for her remarkably mismatched clothing to escape notice—and privately, the boyfriend and I began to refer to any odd combination of clothing as RitaWear. We even developed the Rules of RitaWear, seeking reason where none existed. For example, if we saw someone in a lime green sweater and olive green leggings, the associated RitaWear rule was, “Green goes with green.” Other examples: Stripes go with stripes, plaid goes with plaid. Stripes go with plaid. Brown goes with fuchsia. All of the above, in any combination. The Rules of RitaWear dictate that everything goes with everything.
My own adventures in RitaWear began when we lived in a house with inadequate heat. It started innocently—sweatpants under the nightgown, topped by a robe, augmented with socks and Uggs. “Unfashionable” doesn’t begin to touch it. It was warm, though . . . and comfortable . . . and I began to understand the appeal of RitaWear.
I am relatively well put-together when I leave the house, but once I’m home for the evening and I’m thinking about slipping into something more comfortable, it’s not a negligee and stilettos. No, for me, comfortable means comfortable. It means a black-and-gray shirt printed with hieroglyphs and red flannel pajama bottoms printed with dogs chasing bones, because prints go with prints. It means RitaWear.