ST. PATRICK'S DAY & THE EMERALD
It was the late nineties and the sales’ season beckoned me to Filene’s Basement on my lunch hour. I spotted an emerald, satin jacket on the Super Sales’ Rack. It was collarless, fitted, short-waisted, with shoulder pads, and opened up into a chic upside-down V when all buttoned up. With matching cigarette pants, it screamed Lady Diana. It was designed in Italy, a country I’d dreamed of living in one day. If I couldn’t be in Italy, why not wear it?
Just as I stretched to snatch it, I felt a tug on its left shoulder pad. My eyes caught my opponent’s on the other side of the rack, and declared war. She let go. It was a New York victory. That emerald green Giorgio Armani pantsuit was mine.
Back then, I was 23 and working at an auction house in Manhattan. Occasionally, I had to dress up for cocktail parties swarmed by clients who wore Armani as casually as I wore Banana Republic. On the night of a blockbuster auction, I would slip into my Armani pantsuit that I nicknamed The Emerald, feel transformed, and hoped that I sashayed through the crowd like Sofia Loren. I smelled of Clinique in a room full of Chanel.
Over the past twenty years, my Filene’s snatch has weathered our moves around the world from Italy to Belgium to Israel and, most recently, to America. But I have only worn the Emerald on a couple of occasions, as it has always felt either too old or too fancy or, dare I admit, too dated.
A couple months after we moved to California for my husband’s new job, we were invited to a welcome luncheon hosted by Armani’s retail team. This was it: the time had come for The Emerald’s debut in the 21st Century.
Two pregnancies later, I couldn’t fit into the cigarette pants anymore but I could still squeeze into the jacket. I threw on a Land’s End black V-neck, silk jumpsuit, the backdrop to The Emerald. If Michele Obama could mix J. Crew with Isabel Toledo, then why couldn’t I combine American sportswear with Italian luxury? A pair of Alberto Ferretti two-inch gold-heeled shoes with snakeskin tips pulled it all together.
My husband and I drove to the luncheon together on St. Patrick’s Day. His rumpled suit swam on him and my jacket felt tighter than ever. I took his hand, smiled at the man who has been my best friend for two decades, and wondered when we had grown up.
While the Armani team greeted us, I prayed that my thicker mid-section that had blossomed after pregnancy wouldn’t cause a satin button to pop and ricochet off the hostess’s Armani sunglasses.
“How stunning, my dear,” she said, taking me in head to toe, fondling the suit’s fabric. “Vintage Armani?! You must have found that in Milan.”
I tucked my hair behind my ear, and prayed that I had torn off the Filene’s 50% discount price tag attached to the jacket’s inner label.
At the end of the luncheon, I drove straight to my kids’ school to pick them up. I was late, and didn’t have time to change into my daily mom uniform of jeans, a blazer and Superga sneakers. So many outfits, I thought as I drove, that I have grown up and into over the years as wife, mother, and traveling spouse.
I raced up the staircase of the school in my stilettos, and ran into my son’s best friend. Holding his four-leaf clover artwork in one hand, he looked up at me with sand dollar eyes, and said, "That is the best Leprechaun costume I’ve ever seen.”