My entire life is one long series of strung-together wardrobe malfunctions. Jumping a fence in high school, I split my shorts down the ass crack like a cartoon character. I threw a 25-block buttcheek parade down Broadway once when my dress was pinned underneath my thong. In Vegas, I once got trapped in a crowd over an air duct and was unable to keep my dress down so I just stood there, giving in to my embarrassing situation. My boss once told me I looked like a wench in our morning staff meeting. I am numb to wardrobe mistakes and they no longer embarrass me. When a woman comes up to me and in a hushed voice says, “excuse me, I noticed your dress is riding up and I can see your underwear,” I look at her like, “congratulations. Are you okay? I am okay.” But there was one wardrobe incident that truly embarrassed me. And it doesn’t even involve buttcheeks or underwear.
My friend Monty and I met in Central Park to run a loop. It was raining and the park was relatively empty. Before I left, I had noticed my running shorts needed to be cleaned so I washed them in the bathtub. New Yorkers generally do not clean their own clothes so I was unaware that I had used way too much soap. I was standing at the park entrance on 59th street when Monty jogged up.
“Hey, there, LP. Looks like you’ve got some suds-action down there.”
I looked down to see that my shorts had completely sudsed up in the rain, and it looked like I was wearing bubble bikini bottoms or like my thighs were made of foam. It was as if I wasn’t wearing shorts at all—the suds stood inches over my body.
I ran behind a bush, grabbed some leaves, and started wiping the suds off.
“Phew, there,” I said. “Let’s go.”
But as we started to run, my thighs started rubbing the shorts together, lathering the bubbles into an even larger mass. We ran the first mile with brief interruptions so I could wipe down the bubbles but they always resurfaced. Eventually I said you know what fuck it, and continued running in my bubble bikini bottoms.
Every time we ran by someone, they laughed and pointed, and Monty would say something like, “gee, LP, those shorts are really generating lots of attention!”
I know, Monty.
Out of all the embarrassing things I’ve done in my life, for some reason, this made me the most uncomfortable. I think it’s because all those underwear mishaps, skirt flips, and short rips—they’re things that happen to normal people. They’re understandable. When a woman comes up and whispers about your skirt, she’s also saying, “I know, it happens to me, too.” But this wasn’t something anyone could relate to.
“People probably think I’m completely retarded,” I told Monty. “Like I still need to be living with my mother. How do I make it through my day?”
How do I make it through my day? It’s something I ask myself often, but that time, I had announced my inability to dress myself in clean clothes to the entire park.
These stories are all about wardrobe malfunctions—Stupid Fresh: The Feel Good Story Of The Year by Rich Santos, Friday Night Vanity by Evelyn Frison, and Dr. Seuss’ Slutty Christmas Party by Emily White.
Stupid Fresh: The Feel Good Story of the Year
by Rich Santos
In Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne makes his heroic escape from prison by smuggling the Warden’s shoes in order to appear as a civilian on the outside. Morgan Freeman’s elegant voiceover explains: “how often do you look at a man’s shoes?”
Unfortunately, this mantra did not carry over for me at a recent client meeting. I drove along with a Rachel, my anxious co-worker from New York City down to Reading, PA to meet with the client to present a media plan. We were visiting to tell them how we were spending their advertising budget, so step one of the endeavor: be taken seriously (something I’ve struggled with my entire life).
The nature of the agency-client relationship is similar to that of the busboy who approaches the diner to clear their plate. To put it simply: client–top, Agency—bottom.
I was headed down the New Jersey turnpike in my favorite J Crew suit—a thin cut piece that would make me a suave male paper doll spawned from the urban teeth of NYC. I would look especially glamorous to the suburbanite clients.
Having grown up in Maryland, I could still show some down-to-earth flare to bounce off my teetering-on-the-edge-of-douche appearance. I didn’t think too much about the shoes I wore with the suit (“how often do you look at a man’s shoes?”)
Well, maybe I did think about my shoes a bit. Due to a sprained ankle I sustained a few days before the presentation, I followed advice I had read on Google: keep sprained ankle in a high top for added support to speed up healing time.
The high top I chose wasn’t just any high top. It my own design from a work event at the Nike store’s custom shop. My desire was to go late ‘80’s hip hop, an initiative that quickly attracted two employees at Nike who were eager to help.
Forged from the minds of my attendants and me it was a fluorescent pink shoe with bright yellow trim and a rainbow patch on the back with thick black laces. Across the tongues of the shoes we ordered stitched wording:
Stupid (left shoe)
Fresh (right shoe)
I could appear in any De La Soul or Fat Boys video with these shoes.
They were indeed Stupid Fresh.
In the interest of time that day—I was running 45 minutes late to pick up Rachel—I grabbed the right hightop (Fresh) to support my ailing ankle for the two hour drive to Reading, where I would swap it out for the other black shoe that I had thrown in the back of the rental car.
Total shoes planned for trip: 3
One pair of black business shoes, and Fresh—the right late 80s hip hop hightop.
We arrived at the client’s building ten minutes before the meeting was set to begin. This is where things got interesting.
I rifled through the back seat area for my other black shoe but didn’t find it. Then, I went through the following increasing panicky checklist:
I put it in the trunk, and not the back seat? No.
I forgot it? No.
It slid under one of the passenger seats while driving. Objects are prone to shifting while in transit, right? No.
I put it in my bag. No.
I forgot it. No. No way.
My co-worker is playing a joke on me. No.
I forgot it.
Fortunately, this was one of those times when I had no choice to complicate the matter: I had to go into the meeting with one late ‘80s rap-inspired high top on one foot, and a black dress shoe on the other.
Rachel in her sky-is-falling way looked on with a look of horror: “you’re actually going to do that?”
I let Rachel lead us in in her heels. They made a much better impression. But, it was my rap-shoe that really stole the shoe whenever we went anywhere on this day.
“I’ll let them know you’re here,” the front desk person said with a quizzical glance at Fresh.
I longed for the client to come greet us instead of us having to walk in to make an entrance (this meeting would have 6 clients and 6 other people from my Agency who drove from our other office, unaware of my shoe situation). Sadly, we had to make an entrance.
I walked in confidently—I’ve learned through PR gaffes (think “I did not/did have sex with that woman”) or nature (think the platypus with its duck bill on beaver body just going about its day as if nothing is weird), it’s best to proceed as if nothing is awry.
But the blazing colors of Fresh just wouldn’t be denied.
Five minutes after we entered, one of the clients piped up with a tone a sports reporter has when he asks the grumpy losing coach the million dollar question:
“So I gotta ask—what’s with the shoe?”
I had been sent to the Principal’s office many times before in my youth. The great thing about my particular Principal’s office was that there was a bench outside of it where I’d wait until the Principal could see me—in those days I had no idea he had other responsibilities beyond dealing with my shenanigans.
This glorious time outside the Principal’s office allowed me to:
- Develop an explanation for why I did something bad again despite previous visits
- Get out of “that was funny/fun” mode and into “that was bad and I’m remorseful” mode
- Think of a proactive strategy to offer the Principal that would pave the way for self-improvement
But this time, with no time to think, I was forced to be honest. I leaned on my injury to appear human and invite the clients to identify with me:
“Well I sprained my ankle. I read that I should keep it in a high top whenever possible. So my plan was to wear it to drive and then switch it with the black shoe for the meeting. But—“
I was cut off for the best possible audience participation from the client:
“YOU FORGOT THE OTHER SHOE!”
It was said with such loop-closing satisfaction that must have been similar to how the pioneers felt when they found a gold nugget after 3,000 miles of westward trudging hell.
The crowd burst into laughter—and one client commented, “that’s amazing,” with enlightenment and glee. Clearly they had been internally trying to work out Fresh’s involvement here, and the sheer stupidity the whole thing was enough to entertain them.
“I love that you didn’t just bring two entire pairs of shoes. You actually meant to just bring one shoe in addition to the pair. Priceless.” The client disregarded that my brain is not able to absorb such math.
By the time the meeting ended, the client had complimented me almost to the point of suggesting that I should turn it into a fad—sort of a pedal mullet: Business on the left, party on the right.
In my old age, I had forgotten my ability to fall ass-backwards into good fortune. And this fall got a cherry on top.
After the meeting, as we said our goodbyes, one of the clients approached and—with an art critic/fashion guru tone opined:
“That shoe is sort of a late 80’s hip hop thing isn’t it?”
He was the first person who actually knew what I was going for with that shoe that fateful day with those two Nike employees. Who knew it would take an accidental fashion faux pax, with a mismatched business shoe and suit to get that point across?
Saturday Night Vanity
by Evelyn Frison
Wardrobe Malfunctions mostly seem to happen when you are wearing clothes that are meant to show off your body to begin with. Something goes wrong because your chosen outfit is too flowy, short, tight, or see-through. My case is no different, therefore, my story isn’t that special. But, my story is study of saturday night vanity, determination, the serious responsibility of being a wingwoman, and why you should listen to your roommate.
One of my friends came to visit me in New York City for the first time and we planned on taking full advantage of New York City’s saturday nightlife with some handsome men by our side.
By that I mean she was here to hook up with someone in particular and I was to play the role of wingwoman, who would be paired up with a corresponding wingman. This saturday night was planned out with more effort and attention than I normally gave my job. This included where we were meeting for drinks, eating dinner, drinking, and dancing. The planning also included our outfits of course. We were headed to fancy places in meatpacking, so time to pull out all the stops
I put something together that I thought was a winner—tight white skirt, silk blouse, heels, etc. I think I even did my nails. My roommate saw this going down and warned that the threads in the back seam of the skirt were already loose, and it was likely to split higher if I did anything that required more movement than taking tiny steps in heels. But there is no power like vanity and a saturday night, so I ignored this advice and proceeded to dress. In my head, this was the ONLY outfit that would work for the night.
Everything was fine until we were getting out of a cab to visit our first club. Stepping out of the cab, I heard THE rip. You know what kind of rip noise that is. It only means one thing. Total destruction. I got out of the cab trying to assess the damage when I realized there was nothing to assess because the damage was too great–where there should have been fabric “to assess” was my purple undied-ass. This was an emergency.
The rip along the back center seam went all the way from the bottom of the skirt to the waistband. I had to hold it together with two hands, and that still wasn’t enough. Normally, I am a very modest person. You may not think so because of the “tight white skirt.” But this was a pencil skirt. It almost came down to my knees. I probably should have headed home. But the lure of saturday night was too strong for my friend to bear. She championed the initiative to pick up a sewing kit at a nearby convenience store and just fix it there on the spot. She NEEDED me to fix my skirt and stay out. She was determined to go out, and I was determined to be the best wingwoman I could, so we made due.
The rip was so long (and sewing kit so tiny – normally used for small tears I imagine), that I ran out of thread before I could fully stitch the skirt. Undeterred, my friend grabbed my skirt and swung the rip to above my right leg. Now it was no longer a tear. It was a slit. A very sexy saturday night slit I might add. I actually fit into the meatpacking crowd better now.
After fixing the skirt, we danced, drank and stayed out way too long. But all-in-all, a happy ending to a rather severe wardrobe malfunction. I will not be taking chances like that again however, so now when I choose clothing too tight, or shoes too high, I stop and listen to the voice of my roommate.
Dr. Seuss’ Sluttly Christmas Party
by Emily White
Catering kept me employed, housed and nourished throughout college. The swing shifts and on call hours were perfect for my busy class schedule. The bags of food and boxes of wine I often took home after events were other perks I thoroughly appreciated. For a while I was catering for several different companies. I made my way around the industry and considered myself a little bit of a catering whore. I wasn’t saving myself for any one party or small business. I wanted to see and taste a little bit of everything. With experience came opportunity to work for more upscale, fancy pants companies that definitely paid more and fed us better. One such company, for this story we’ll call them AC Catering, called me in for an interview after a friend of mine sent over a good reference. I was apparently what they were looking for and was scheduled for many high end, big events with bigger tips to keep me coming back. The work was hard and my whole body usually ached after we set up, served several courses and serviced multiple bars, and broke down an event for hundreds to a thousand people. The last event I worked with AC Catering was a Christmas party (expensive extravaganza) at a private residence (mansion) way up in the rich hills.
From the beginning I knew it would be a rough night and was astonished that they didn’t just send me home. Clearly, I was out of my league now and should be dismissed. I also developed the awareness that I don’t enjoy being subservient to rich people. The extravagance was so blatant and captivating that I felt a little nauseated. Hence, catering to get me through school and now to social work, helping those with next to nothing.
You don’t need a car to live in Portland and I haven’t owned one in my eight years here. Getting around, especially to strange new locations for work that starts on time, requires a strong working knowledge of the bus lines or other means of public transit. I’ve developed this in time but that took time and error. I felt lost and unsure on my trip to this rich house up in the hills and got off the bus too soon, which required me to walk alon dark roads with no sidewalks or shoulders before finally finding the place I was supposed to be. There was a thirty foot Christmas tree in the front yard, spectacularly lit, with drill team dancers practicing their routines for the opening ceremonies—for the Christmas party. I walked in and looked around for the catering crew and stations. Inside the enormous front doors of the house, with their crystal windows and brass knocker, was a marble foyer entrance with another Christmas tree, also elegantly decorated and with presents underneath. The house was decorated with a Dr. Suess theme. Everything was a little wonky, colorful, and wild in subtle ways. The glassware came in different colors, shapes and sizes. Some were skewed, crooked, twisted, lopsided. Nothing was what it seemed. Someone came out dressed as the Cat in the Hat. The Grinch showed up and Thing 1 and Thing 2 could be seen running about the place throughout the night. It was kind of a surreal evening.
A few hours before the event, it was clear that things looked great but there was plenty more work to be done. I found my boss and checked in. He told me where to get dressed and where to report to next. The bathroom was beautiful and I laid out my clothes, straight from the dry cleaners, required uniform for the evening. Pressed, button up white shirt and black pants with black shoes and socks. The shirt so clean, I noticed. But when I went to tuck it into my tuxedo pants, there was not enough of it. The shirt had shrunk apparently because it would barely tuck into my pants and if I moved at all it was out again. AC Catering was not okay with this. We must look our best always and everyone needs to look the same. It is a uniform. I tied the apron a little high on my waist to hold the shirt in place and told my boss of my predicament. He was amused but not pleased. What could be done though? No one had an extra shirt and the show must go on. It turned out not to be a huge deal as long as I was serving and working in the kitchen.
The party was getting started with people showing up by the carload. My boss had me move over to the role of greeter and gift taker. I had to take off my apron and stand over by the front door to welcome guests and take their gifts. Apparently each party-goer brought a gift, which I thought strange. In my mind I pretended that they were all new shiny toys that were going to be donated to less fortunate little kids with no Dr. Suess characters at their Christmas parties. There was no gift exchange or anything so I have no idea what the gifts were for otherwise. But my job wasn’t to be the moralizer, my job was to smile, welcome, take the gift and place it under the tree. Anxiety filled my belly immediately. I was wearing a shirt that didn’t tuck in, with no cami underneath and no apron to keep myself together. After bending down the very first time, I realized that my pants were not staying put but rather sliding with each bend and twist and lean. That hot pink stripper thong I put on earlier in the day that I thought nobody would see? On display tonight with each gift delivery! I awas mortified and horrified and smiling and saying thank you and happy holidays all at the same time, meanwhile considering running straight out that door all the way down to my humble home that is clean and free of Dr. Suess characters.
Somehow I made it through that experience. I developed a technique of waiting to place the package until the guest made their way past me and into the party. If they brought a child I would excitedly ask if the kid wanted to put the present under the tree. More than a few times, I would turn my back to the tree, with gift in hand, and then place the package in front of me. I’d then step over it and lightly scoot it under the tree with my foot. When enough gifts showed up I began stacking them so that less bending was required. Despite my attempts to adapt to the situation and the obvious complications, I know that hot pink thong, contrasted against my starch white shirt, black pants and exposed skin, was on display for too many people at the party. I didn’t bother to confirm it but suspect that the host as well as my boss witnessed or were informed of this wardrobe malfunction. Eventually they let me do something else. I got back in the kitchen and put an apron on immediately and would have argued to keep it on if necessary. No one asked me to remove it again though. I began gathering glasses, and bussing the place, cleaning up. This took up hours of my time and it felt amazing to do. I got to be more invisible and just carry dirty things to be racked and washed and stacked. It’s a monotonous task that requires little human interaction. I’d been humiliated enough that night, even though no one said anything about my attire to me directly. AC Catering has standards and I was appalled to be so unprepared and unprofessional. I don’t regret the hot slutty pink underwear at all but rather that I regret that I didn’t have what I needed to keep it all together. Speaking of, I wonder where those underwear went… I certainly don’t have them now.
I was never called for another shift with AC Catering and I never called them to ask for more work. It was clear that it just wasn’t going to work between us. They should have sent me home as soon as my shirt wasn’t tucked in. Instead I became a part of the holiday entertainment. From that day forward I always tried on the outfit I was to wear before a shift, first at home, to make sure all the pieces were fitting and accounted for. It’s best to save the slut-wear for another kind of party.