The Queen of My Self

I am a clothes horse. I love clothes. I love dressing up. I love putting outfits together. I love the treasure hunt of shopping for treasures in thrift stores, which I do whenever I can and wherever I am. I love the color of clothes, the feel of them on my skin or on someone else’s. I love the art, the presentation, the subliminal messages, and sublime effect of clothes and how they are worn.

I come from a family of women who love clothes and men who know about and appreciate clothes – both on women and on themselves. Dandies, if you will. I guess we come by our “apparelphilia” legitimately. My maternal grandfather was a tailor in Russian Poland, and he continued his trade when he arrived in Cleveland as a political refugee by way of Siberia (where he and my Gramma were activist prisoners after the 1905 revolution). He helped to organize the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the ILGWU. Though I never saw him in person, in his pictures he is a Dapper Dan

As was my grandmother. I never saw my gramma when she wasn’t fully dressed in a corset, a dress, stockings, fluffy coif, clip on earrings, and lipstick. My favorite rainy day occupation when I stayed with her over school vacations was going through her dresser drawers – with her approval, of course. What a treasure trove! A sacred altar of Self-decoration. Her drawers were fragrant with sachet and powder. Exploring them was the height of sensual delight as I opened each silk box filled with perfectly pressed hankies, with gloves, with jewelry, all to be caressed ever so carefully. I still have and still wear much of her jewelry.

When I was in junior high school I babysat for the 3-year old son of the couple across the street. He was a chef and owner of the only French restaurant in town. She was the hostess. It was a fancy restaurant in the late 50s, which meant that she wore the elegant cocktail dresses of the era. She was French, wore a chignon and a single pearl in each ear, and was the epitome of sophisticated French chic. And her closet! Yes, I admit it. As soon as they drove off I stood in rapture worshipping at the shrine of her gigantic collection of silk, satin, crepe, organza, sequin cocktail dresses. I enjoyed that indulgence more than the little chocolate bon bons her husband would leave for me.

My mother, too, was meticulous in her presentation. Every time we went out together she would spend a great deal of time accessorizing,choosing the perfect earring or necklace or shoe to complete her outfit. Sometimes it was fun and sometimes irritating, but I have to admit I do the same thing. It is not  about being matchy matchy, but about finding just the right subtle balance and flow, creating an empowering energy, that expresses your best Self. This focus on external affect is not about fashion nor vanity, but about stepping into the world with intention and with confidence and centeredness. It is about not hiding, wearing your true spirit on the outside.

To Be Continued….Part 2 of The Queen’s Clothes on Friday

Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to

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