I recently realized that I'd given so many things to my daughters and granddaughters that my usually overstuffed closet was bare.

So there I was, perusing the store aisles for items that I would not just love at first or second sight, but that would bring me  joy.

My daughters tell me the latest social mantra is to buy and keep only that which brings one joy. Who knew? My instinct always had been to buy what's seductively on sale.

But then I spotted them. They were hard to miss.

A pair of purple pants. Depending on your definition, they were jeans/pants/leggings: able to pass for denim but made of the kind of fabric that feels nice against your skin. I think that makes them jeggings.

I rushed to the fitting room to give them a chance to bring me joy. One reason was already covered: They were a size smaller than I usually wear, and if they fit, it would be an omen.

And they did fit! (Reason two: They were on sale!)

But there were some red flags. The color purple, while it describes a wonderful book and film, is not as safe as my usual choices — beige, black, an occasional navy and/or jeans that look like jeans.

There's something about being alone in a fitting room, weighing  alternatives, that always makes me anxious. As in nervous.

So often, I had heard my mother say, "too youthful," about anything even inching toward flamboyant. And as I've wondered so many times in my life now that my mother is gone: "What would mom say?"

I knew the answer. A flat-out no.

But still.

I'd never owned purple pants, even though, once, years ago, I was color-analyzed and the analyst insisted that I was a purple and blue person. I understood the blue, but not the purple, and never did act on that advice.

In the dressing room, I studied myself in the three-way mirror with my glasses on. And I made my decision. The purple pants came home with me.

I left them in the bag for several days, not at all characteristic of my usual, let-me-at-'em style.

Then one day, I gingerly took them out of the bag and did the deed. I tried them on in front of our own bedroom mirror.

Sally Friedman, at home, in her purple pants.
Courtesy Sally Friedman
Sally Friedman, at home, in her purple pants.

My first thought: What had I been thinking?

My second thought: Life is short. Fashion should be fun. And purple — well, it's memorable.

My husband was the first to see me in my purple pants. He did a double-take, uttered the immortal words, "Are those yours?" and then had to spend the next 15 minutes explaining that he hadn't meant anything by that question. "I was just wondering," was his disclaimer. "I just never saw you in stuff like that."

So it came to pass that the purple pants went into the closet next to my absolutely safe wardrobe choices. And there they stayed for days, then weeks. Every time I reached for them, I chickened out. And every time that happened, I felt like a wimp.

And then, on a brisk spring day, I donned a black shirt to calm down the purple pants. I promised myself I would go out in public wearing that ensemble.

Nobody fainted at the supermarket. Or at the cleaners or the library.

(As you can see, I live an exciting life.)

So here's the update: I've gotten my courage up and worn the purple pants some more.

My sister loved them. One of my daughters asked me what I had been thinking. Another gave me the dubious compliment of looking me over and telling me I looked — ahem — "brave."

I will try to remember that what we wear is in some ways a symbol of how we see ourselves. And, at least for now, I'm not surrendering to the "too youthful" label.

I will wear my purple pants as a reminder that maybe there's spunk — and room enough for purple  — in this old girl yet.

pinegander@aol.com Sally Friedman writes from Moorestown.