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Suit Yourself -- or Someone Else

Hanging in my office is a black-and-white-plaid suit jacket with big pearl buttons. It's the sort of jacket a suburban matron might wear to an opera matinee -- or a newspaper editor might wear to court.

That was the first and last time I'd worn the jacket until this past Halloween, when I donned it to play Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave. The costume was much more successful than my court appearance.

In retrospect, I might have been better off -- and certainly more comfortable -- ignoring the advice of my attorney, who'd sternly advised: "Madam, the cowboy boots must go." But go they did, along with the cowgirl regalia, in favor of that Talbots jacket (bought five minutes before the store closed on the eve of my day in court), sensible pumps and the dreaded pantyhose.

Pantyhose have long been the curse of the working woman, who's frequently ordered to keep her legs sheathed in disgusting nylon products lest she appear unprofessional. But while sandals have made bare legs acceptable at many workplaces, at Mi Casa Resource Center for Women, a 27-year-old program that advances the self-sufficiency of primarily low-income Latinas and youth, pantyhose are still recommended. "We encourage them to wear them," says Patty Shaw Castilian, fund developer for Mi Casa. "I know it's 2003, but if you go to an interview with bare legs, that makes an impression that you're not professional."

Pantyhose may be the only items of "gently used women's clothing" missing from Mi Casa's Business Suit Sale, which is set for June 7 in the program's new building at 360 Acoma Street. (As anyone who's wrestled with those leg irons knows, it's impossible to use them gently.) The sale, now in its eighth year, "was originally started to give women just entering the work force -- namely, our participants -- an opportunity to get work clothes at discounted prices," says Castilian. "Now it's open to the public." And Mi Casa is still accepting clothing donations (no shoes or accessories).

"There's something for everyone," Castilian promises. "There's even a wedding dress."

And by Saturday, there will be one black-and-white-plaid jacket, very gently used.


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