Finding their way through closets, fashion

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller use this space to offer their views on everyday issues.

SHE SAID: "I don't like black," Bob said, in the obstinate tone he uses when I try to get him to eat peas.

"What do you mean, 'I don't like black?' Since when?"

Always, apparently. I will admit, Bob's taste in clothes has long been a mystery to me. After we'd dated for a while, he essentially turned his wardrobe over to me. I immediately purged it of most corduroy apparel (he argued but eventually gave in). He has a penchant for interesting color combinations. Like a lime green T-shirt under a red sweater (green and red are opposites on the color wheel, he tells me every time I question it).

We recently reorganized our closet. As I was helpfully color coding Bob's dress shirts, I noticed a theme. The theme was blue. Of the 20 or so dress shirts he owns, about 60 percent are some variation of blue. And if you just went by the color of his dress pants, you'd think he worked for UPS.

So I set out to expand his fashion horizons. I started with two new pairs of pants. Basic black -- because what professional doesn't need a nice pair of black pants? -- and a pair of gray pinstripes. He did a double-take over the gray pair, and has flat-out refused to wear the black pants because -- as he patiently explained to me -- black isn't a color he can wear to work.

You can wear black pants to church, he told me, but not to work. Where is this logic coming from?

Though skeptical, he did wear the gray pants. I commissioned folks around the office to compliment him on that day. He decided he liked the pants. And that's when my real strategy kicked in.

"Wouldn't a nice purple dress shirt look great with that color gray?" I asked. (Innocently, I thought.)

He didn't say no, so I set out to find a purple shirt. When he came home from work, there it was in all its purple majesty, complete with purple tie.

Last week, as he was donning the purple shirt again, I had to point out to him that purple isn't the kind of color you can wear once a week; maybe not even once every two weeks. You have to space it out with more manly hues.

"But wouldn't the black pants look great with..."

"No."

"How about peas for dinner tonight, hon?"

HE SAID: My cute and talented wife watches all the shows, you know, which means she's an expert on all things fashion, house flipping, surviving shark attacks and interior decorating.

So I've caved in to many of Callie's whims when it comes to her expertise. I have not yet been shark-bitten nor have I lost thousands on a house flip, mainly because I have not explored any of those waters.

Still, Callie has way more style than me, a style that is her own. She can pull off any look she chooses, including the snazzy professional look, the artsy magazine editor look, even the casual, I'm-just-hanging-out-while-still-looking-good look.

When it comes to my clothes, I have succumbed to many of her fancies. Pleated pants are gone, for example. According to her, they're outdated and make me look like I have a wide rear end, which coincidentally I do.

But her fashion advice has come with consequences. I have developed my own personal taste. She usually brings home clothes that very nearly match that taste, but sometimes I surprise her with my objections.

No, I don't prefer black in the middle of the summer, thank you. It is hot. Yes, my cute and talented wife, I want to look nice at work, but some gray or brown dress pants are fine, thank you. I need not look like I'm attending a Christmas church service or a funeral.

I don't think this is too difficult to understand. I prefer brown to black. I prefer light to dark. I prefer blue to all other colors. I will try others, purple for example. Give me color: orange, green, sure. But black is formal. Sometimes stuffy. Dark. She laughs at me, saying I don't know what I'm talking about, and obviously I don't because my nonpleated pants make me look SO much slimmer.

But at the end of the day, the two most important things about a pair of pants is that they fit over my wide rear end and that they are clean. And if black's all I got, then by golly I'll put them on and pretend my office is a funeral parlor.

Callie Clark Miller is the special publications managing editor for the Southeast Missourian and is out shopping for Bob Miller, the Southeast Missourian managing editor (the one in the purple shirt). Reach them at cmiller@semissourian.com and bmiller@semissourian.com.

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