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Rich: It’s color, not style, that dictates a wardrobe

POSTED: August 26, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Being a child of the '70s, television has a powerful influence on me. It can even test the core of my Southern woman being, as it did recently.

If I watch a shopping network long enough, I will buy something. If I watch a self-help or reality show, I will believe it.

So when one of those fashion make-over shows insisted that a woman should go through her closet and select 10 core pieces and build her wardrobe from there, I was willing to try.

How foolish I grow as I grow older. Foolish people, though, are foolish enough to think that foolish is sensible.

Many will be surprised to know that the first core piece I knew I couldn't live without were my Levi 514 jeans. It's my No. 1 pick in my wardrobe. Though Mama would be loathe to read this: I think they're sexy. And comfortable. Plus they look terrific with every pair of high heels I own. Those jeans are core to my genes.

Next I thought of a wonderful little black evening dress I bought almost 10 years ago. It's backless, elegant and by a noted designer who managed to make it absolutely timeless. Every time I wear it, I think it's perfect.

To the list, I added a black turtleneck and that mod knee-length hot pink overcoat that I adore. I knew that practically speaking I should select a dress, one or two skirts, dress slacks and probably a suit.

That's when I threw my hands up.

There wasn't anything timeless, perfect or necessary in any of those selections in my closet. There was, instead, plenty of what every decent Southern woman insists on: variety, color and sentiment with a bit of whimsy thrown in.

In the South, bright color is important to our women. Yes, black is durable, elegant and basic. But a little bit of it is like collard greens in our diet. It goes a long way.

A writer from one of those glossy women magazines once asked me in an interview, "How can you spot a Southern woman in a room full of New York women?"

My reply was quick. "She'll be the only one in the room wearing color."

A Southern woman cannot live by black alone. We must have a palette of color in our closet that would make Monet green with envy.

Then as it does in every aspect of our Southern life, sentiment plays a big part in what stays in our closet. There was the skirt and top I was wearing the night that Daddy died. Getting rid of it didn't seem right. I just couldn't. I will never wear it again but I won't throw it out.

When it came to shoes, it was hopeless. I have dedicated myself to finding high heels in every color possible including various shades of blue, pink and green. Then there are boots and casual shoes. Un-uh. None were going.

I thought of Mama with four closets stuffed with clothes, most she hasn't worn in 10 or 15 years. Those closets are so tight that there are clothes hanging there without benefit of a hanger.

I counted my closets and realized that two have practically nothing hanging in them. I've still got lots of room. There's no necessity in cleaning out any of my clothes. Besides, all those clothes are upholding my vow to Southern womanhood: Plenty of color, lots of variety, a bow to sentiment and a touch of whimsy.

I smiled contentedly.

Too, I am happy to discover that while television can lure me into buying a robot that vacuums, a spot remover that doesn't, overpriced and oversized vitamins, it cannot deter me from my normal course of Southern womanhood.

Completely happy, I did what every Southern woman does when she wants to celebrate.

I went shopping.

Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)." Sign up for her newsletter.



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