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The mannequin in the window was what I wasn't: confident, self-assured and a touch assertive

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It hangs limply now, looking almost as classic as it did when I first purchased it. Not so much because of its outstanding quality, but more because of its lack of use. I spy it in the back of my closet, dangling above a clump of old shoes. I push my way through the tightly packed, uneven row of clothes that make up my wardrobe and yank it out.

A few years ago, before my divorce and just after I discovered the second infidelity, I found myself inside our town's upscale clothing boutique. I'm not sure what compelled me to walk through the door into the foreign world of designer work wear and trendy, overpriced casual fare. Perhaps it was something in the gesture of the mannequin in the window, her hand placed confidently on her hip, a slight flip in her hair and the almost challenging look to her pose that said, "Hey, do you think you're up for it? Wanna look like me?" Something in her steady gaze and direct eye contact lured me in.

She was what I wasn't – confident, self-assured and a touch assertive.

And so I entered, unsuspecting. Under the eyes of the aloof but watchful sales clerk, I wandered through the neatly stacked designer piles of wool pullovers, silky blouses and tailored, long-sleeved T-shirts. The conservative, business-style fashion was alien to me, but I was swayed by the organized and colourful piles, the racks of accessories, and the funky but high-end casual wear.

I fondled the angora and fumbled through piles in search of price tags, which, once found, boggled my mind. I unfolded complex geometric patterns and struggled to return them discreetly to the pile. The eagle-eyed clerk followed in my trail, tidying after me and uttering tiny sighs as she refolded and restacked the items I had touched.

Soon, my curious wandering took me to racks of tailored pantsuits. Standing in my tattered and baggy mom-jeans, scuffed boots and outdated winter coat, I was suddenly transfixed. Curiously comforting, the solid navies and blacks, pinstripes and neat collars, beckoned to me. Assertive, professional, confident. I sneaked a glance at the mannequin in the window. Frumpy and forlorn no more! The navy pinstriped suit with a pair of sexy pumps was all I needed to drag myself out of the doldrums.

Celia Krampien for The Globe and Mail

I imagined my immediate transformation – the addition of a kind of male energy tempered by the hint of a lacy camisole to highlight the feminine edge.

And then I knew, even after gulping at the exorbitant price tag, exactly what it would take to get over my husband's midlife crisis. No matter that I lacked the accessories and panache to actually pull off the look, no matter that everything about my ultra-liberal workplace screamed against the values that went along with a pinstriped suit.

Something in my gesture, in the straightening of my back as I imagined the click-click of the heels and the subtle swing of the single-breasted jacket must have caught the salesperson's attention. Suddenly she was there beside me, gushing at what I had pulled off the rack. She assured me, with just a touch of urgency in her tone, that I'd chosen a beautiful piece. A true classic, in fact. "Pinstripes are back in – did you know?" she asked.

I shrunk back, but followed her to the change room, dubious for only a second about what I was about to do.

"Let's start with this," she said firmly, ignoring my insecurities.

Soon I was gazing in the mirror at my transformed self. Form-fitting navy trousers with a subtle and classic grey double pinstripe. The jacket – long and somewhat baggy – was appealingly masculine. I felt taller and more powerful in it. As the salesclerk fussed around me, pinning and gushing, I realized I was soon to be the somewhat ambivalent owner of a navy pinstriped suit, the ultimate tool of feminine wile.

A week or two later, I returned to pick it up, altered and wrapped in its designer garment bag. On the car ride home, I listened with smugness to a radio interview in which a fashion consultant deemed the classic pinstriped pantsuit as the essential item for every woman's wardrobe. In fact, what every woman needs! But months later, the suit hung in my closet, untouched, and I laughed with a girlfriend over the impulsive, almost obsessive need that overcame me that day.

It wasn't until a year or so after the purchase that I rediscovered it, tucked away in the back of my closet, and was suddenly struck with an image I had tried for so long to avoid. It was of a woman I had met once – an unfortunate encounter. She was the lover of my husband. The image was sharp and vivid, and left me feeling slightly breathless: head thrown back in laughter, she walks, clicking across the sidewalk – confident and self-assured in her black heels and navy pinstriped suit.

And so the suit has hung, almost tauntingly, for years.

But today, I pull it from its hanger at the back of the closet where it has served as a reminder of who I am – or perhaps of who I am not. It's time to let go of old hurts. Today I am ready to say goodbye to a more vulnerable self, who fleetingly believed she could transform by pretending to be somebody else.

I take a deep breath, open a big green garbage bag, and firmly stuff it in.

Nancy de Guerre lives in Hamilton.