I rolled on each sheer burgundy leg of pantyhose and hiked the waistband over my hips. I slid on the sheer halter-neck slip dress, over which I layered the sheer polka-dot pencil skirt. Over all of that: a matching sheer button-down. It was look No. 11 from Miu Miu’s fall ’23 show. On the runway, the collection featured models with windswept hair clutching their keys and holding handbags in the crooks of their arms — this, ostensibly, is what they would wear going about such mundane tasks as grabbing an iced coffee or picking up the dry cleaning.
So I set out on my own day of errands in this lasagna of chiffon. I strapped in to the pointy kitten heels (a sample pair four sizes too large, mind you) and, keys in hand, headed out the door to Downtown Brooklyn.
Before my day had even really begun, my ride on the subway — which brought about more attention than any single commuter should aim to attract — was an indication of what was to come. My first stop was the optometrist’s. The receptionist barely reacted. I got the impression they had seen far more remarkable getups, and I personally couldn’t have felt more at ease. Not until I was asked to take my contacts out and return to my seat in the waiting area did I begin to feel a little funny; because my eyesight is terrible, I couldn’t gauge the expressions or even the faces of those who walked in. I assumed the blurry shapes milling about the cases of sunglasses were looking at me, judging me. I clutched the delicate cardigan closer. When the doctor called my name for my vision exam, I couldn’t shuffle through the door fast enough.
With contacts back in and an updated prescription in hand, I scurried out on my next errand: grocery shopping. New Yorkers, myself included, roam the city half-naked regularly and no one bats an eye. As I walked down Atlantic Avenue, I realized the overall effect of piling on so much sheerness was actually fairly conservative; put on enough sheers and you’ll find yourself at the opposite end of the suggestive spectrum altogether. But what it wasn’t — with its top-to-bottom polka dots and tights in August and size 10 heels — was subtle. I found myself the subject of many different types of peeks and stares: the double take followed by blindered eyes ahead, the ogles from drivers and bikers zipping quickly by, the wait-till-you’re-just-about-to-pass up-and-down survey, the she’s-looking-to-see-if-he’s-looking look. I popped into Dragon Tea for a boba, and the cashier seemed set on avoiding eye contact with me entirely, as if he’d seen enough already.
The energy switched again when I reached Trader Joe’s. Shoppers were downright glaring at me as I considered whole-wheat pasta next to them. God forbid I needed to reach for the Greek yogurt in someone’s vicinity — all this over an outfit? It was as though I had broken some social contract and my marginally unusual appearance was disturbing my fellow man in this public forum. To them, I might as well have been wearing a full face of Violet Beauregarde blue makeup or a clown suit like it was 2016. You don’t understand this is Miu Miu runway!!!, I whined to myself in my head.
When it began to feel like a bit too much, I slunk to the back of the checkout line. So far, amid all of the energy exchange and nonverbal communication, no one had actually said anything to me about the look. So when the 20-something girl wearing a pearl-studded headband helping me bag my groceries said, “I like your outfit! Sooo cute,” I actually melted a bit. After that, nothing could have bothered me, and nothing did. A group of teen boys wished me a nice day on my walk to the G train. Thanks, guys!