“I have nothing to wear.” You’ve thought it, you’ve said it, but have you ever really meant it? Have you ever really had absolutely nothing to wear?

This story first appeared in the June 26, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Usually, the nothing-to-wear mantra relates to a dress-to-impress event — a wedding, a black-tie shindig, perhaps a job interview or class reunion. You claim to have nothing to wear, but really, you have something to wear. Maybe not something as chic/current/flattering/interesting/other adjective as you’d like, but you have something to wear. The classic (read boring) column or its antithesis, last year’s major runway look that screams (at least to a fashion crowd) its date of origin. The sheath that’s gotten a little too tight or (if you’re lucky) a little too loose, but is manageable either way. The career suit you can’t believe you ever bought, let alone kept. Really, you have something to wear.

Unlike you, I have nothing to wear. I say that sans exaggeration. Honestly, for what I now realize is the first time ever (despite countless past invocations of the phrase), I have nothing to wear. Nothing.

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I’m writing this on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning [today], along with several colleagues, I’m scheduled to walk through the Westfield World Trade Center. The date has been set for a while, and we’ve all known about it.

On Monday came word of a slight time change — no problem — and wardrobe requirements. The Westfield World Trade Center is still a construction site and as such requires the donning of certain protective gear by all who enter. Read the informational e-mail:

1. Hard hat (provided by Westfield WTC).
2. Reflective safety vest or coat (provided by Westfield WTC).
3. Work shoe or boot (provided by Westfield WTC).
4. Safety glasses or goggles (provided by Westfield WTC).
5. Long pants (shorts or skirts are not permitted for safety reasons).

Item two — no problem. Items one, three, four — not thrilled with the notion of much-circulated hat, shoes and eyewear, but for the sake of the job and an interesting excursion, I’ll work through the germ phobia.

Item five, bolded by the sender — big problem, and not a psychological one. Pants. I have no pants. Literally, I have no pants. Not no pants that I like, or no pants that don’t make my rear end look huge (I’m not delusional; it wouldn’t be the pants’ fault). Or no pants that I fancy as a smart option for a construction site. I have no pants. None. Not a single pair. I used to have pants. Twelve, maybe 15 years ago, I bought a pair of Yohji pants. They were fluid, in black silk. Even if I still had them, they wouldn’t fit. But they’re gone.

I have nothing to wear, the Cinderella of construction sites. This trumps my lost-luggage-at-the-couture fiasco. Then, I had arrival day to shop, and Lanvin is a three-minute stroll (albeit an expensive one) from Fairchild’s Paris office. Now, on equally short notice, I find myself with nothing to wear and on deadline, with possibly no time to procure the essential.

(I just realized while typing that this could be interpreted as a plea for some kindly market types to send me some pants. Oh no, no, no. Believe me, there is nothing I want less than for any of you to guess at my pants size, which, by the way, I don’t know.)

I am left with two options: Get off deadline early enough to run to a store or miss the walk-through, as I doubt the Westfield security staff will make an exception for me.

Either way, the situation leaves me to ponder at least one glaring inadequacy of my wardrobe; I seriously may have to pass on a work commitment for want of a pair of pants. “Wardrobe essentials?” Suddenly they’re not just a clichéd topic for breezy magazine features. My pants problem triggers, too, a conversation with myself on language and the hyperbole of fashion speak, my own included. You have nothing to wear? Tell me about it.