Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Life In Clothes

From my old blog, May of 2009:

My life in clothes

I have a lot of clothing. A lot. I’ve got a nice three bedroom house with extra storage room, pantry and good-sized back yard. Since I currently live alone, that means I have three closets to spread out my clothing. And a dresser. I have a dresser.

That covers the summer clothing.

My winter clothing is stored in bins in the storage area. I’d love to use that space for a weight room or maybe a meditation room. Yup, that would rock. But I have clothes. Now, twice a year, at the changing of the seasons (a day-long project), I weed out clothes and haul a trunkful down to Goodwill. Personally, I think those clothes are mating and making more clothes. I wonder if it would work for money. Or avocados.

Some of my clothes don’t trade out. Workout clothes, sweats, suits for work when I need them (not freakin’ often thank you God) and jeans. I even have a snowmobile suit from a trip in 2004.

How is this possible? On any given day, I wear my standard clothing choice: blue jeans, black top and slip-ons. Lately, it’s been a sun dress. I’ve discovered the freedom of dresses and while I’ve never been overly girlie, I like the commando comfort of skirts and dresses.

I think a person’s life can be summed up by their clothing. For instance, I remember when I was a little girl, I loved my yellow footie pajamas. They zipped all the way from the neck to the bottom of my left foot. I felt like every time I put them on, I was donning the skin of some wonderful fuzzy yellow happy animal. It made me happy and they were warm. I hated growing out of them, but by the time I got that tall, I’d worn the feets through and had toes sticking out.

I grew into Underoos. I had Wonder Woman. We didn’t have that many strong female role models in the 70’s, and Wonder Woman had not only an invisible jet, but the lasso of truth and bracelets to deflect bullets. Not to mention the red lipstick. I had a step-brother at the time and he had the Incredible Hulk. I’m just saying that Wonder Woman kicked Hulk’s ass most of the time. Then she did Barbie’s hair.

My mom could sew, and she had four girls, two years apart. Therefore, we each got polyester jumpsuits. Mine was pink. Yvette had yellow, Patti had green and Mickie had brown. Very 70’s prints too. With the leftover materials, my mom made pillows which we kept for a long long time after the jumpsuits went away in the 80’s.

Most younger siblings hated the thought of hand-me-down clothing. Not me. I loved being like my older sisters, especially Mickie because she was the oldest and I was the youngest. By the time I was in junior high, we were all roughly the same size and I got to wear their stuff. My sisters were incredibly tolerant of my clothing raids and I stole – excuse me- borrowed their concert teeshirts and Guess jeans and especially their favorite shoes. When Patti got married to a military man and moved to Germany, she came home to visit and let me have major pieces from her wardrobe.

In my family to this day, the clothing raid is tradition and ritualistic. We’ve passed it down to our children. When I go to visit, I take a suitcase full of clothes to give my nieces. I buy them clothes and once gave my niece the sweatshirt off of my back.

My sophomore year, I was a Columbia County Fair Hostess. My mom made me a big hoop dress in red paisley. We wore white gloves and red wide-brimmed hats. When we weren’t on the float, I wore tight (we’re talking surgical removal or spray paint) black Wranglers and red Ropers. I showed sheep in my FFA jacket and worked sheep pens in my Levis. On my sixteenth birthday, it was me that had to kiss the winner of the crash ‘em up derby.

My last few years of high school, I bought a blue suit. I was in the business club as a state officer and required something that looked business-y. My mom picked it out and it was polyester. We got it from Sears. I wore navy blue flats and had a light blouse with long sleeves that tied into a big bow around my neck. When I wasn’t doing that or FFA, I hung out in too baggy or too tight jeans with oversized shirts, trying to hide my body or distort it into something you’d see in Seventeen magazine. No matter what I did though, I never looked like Alyssa Milano or Winonna Ryder.

Once, my mom made my sister Yvette and I matching outfits in exotic floral prints. Yvette’s was pink. Mine was yellow. I quickly figured out that yellow isn’t my color. It makes me disappear into washout world. There was a skirt, a shirt and a headband, obviously designed for women far past their child-bearing years. We looked like whacked out bobsy twins. I think that was the last article of clothing my mom ever made me… well. There was another, but we’ll get to that.

I wore a uniform for awhile. It was navy blue. I wore it as a desk agent at a hotel before I moved “up” to assistant desk manager- same money, more work. But I got to wear my own clothes. And scrubs. I wore scrubs when I worked for a vet in Las Vegas. Friend of John Ensign’s too. I still have my wedding dress, size 12 thank you, my graduation robes and every teeshirt and tag from running in the Oklahoma City Memorial runs. I have slinky dresses I haven’t the guts to wear and a bright pink teeshirt screen printed by Rebecca Hutchens for the class of 1991 that we all signed in blue. I have a memorial shirt with Brent Wheatley’s picture on it. I even had a jean quilt made by my sister Yvette from all the old jeans in or family- baby jeans from the kids growing up and my jeans with paint splattered on them and her jeans and mom’s and my sister’s too. It’s heavy and backed with blue flannel and I couldn’t imagine my life without its comfort.

After I was in college for a time, I decided that wardrobe was an important consideration for my career. I don’t really like wearing dresses every day. I like jeans. I like casual. Mostly, I want freedom to dress for comfort. It’s important. In thinking of this and my propensity to curse like a sailor, I decided I’d ought to teach adults. I like grown ups and mostly grown ups, and I love teaching English. And I especially like being able to wear what I like. I’m not saying this was my only consideration. After all, English teachers are expected to drink ridiculous amounts of coffee. They’re expected to be creative and a little out there and especially, they’re expected to be unconventional. Voila.

Ok, so it’s been awhile since I’ve lived in Washington. My mom moved to Oregon and my sisters have settled in their respective communities in Washington. My mom still sews and occasionally we’ll ask her for home made Christmas gifts. My sisters and I are particularly fond of the pattern my mom has for aprons that fit my grandma. They go over the head and tie around the waist. They’re hilariously too big for all of us, since my grandma is basically four feet around and four feet tall. Though my sister Yvette is beginning filling that model- four children and genetics take their toll. Plus she’s only 5’3” tall. By contrast, I’m more like my grandpa’s side of the family. Almost 5’8” tall and strong jawed. But I love those aprons and count the one my mom made for me using Grandma’s pattern to be one of my favorite things in the world. It goes around me twice.

One Christmas, my mom decided to make us girls nightgowns made of comfy flannel and trimmed with lace. It was really cute. She used Yvette as a pattern. I held it up and sort of gauged how far up my thigh that thing was going to hit. All the way up.
“Go try it on” urged my grandma.
“Not sure I want to”. I started to feel like Ralphie from A Christmas Story, contemplating a giant pink bunny suit.
“Your mom made that for you. Go try it on.” Nevermind that I’m over 30. She’s my grandma. She wins. I put it on.

It fell off of my shoulders. The bottom hem was somewhere close to the uh, nether regions. I made sure my grandpa was out of the room before creeping back to the living room, hunched over. I stood up, my face flaming, glad I was wearing underwear.
“Oh My”, said Grandma. “That thing doesn’t even cover you girlie bits”. She didn’t say girlie bits. She said the “P”’ word. I just can’t say that in a public forum.
“What was she thinking?” said my grandma.
“That we’re all built like Yvette”. This is part of the peril of not living close to my mom. I can’t be the sewing dummy when she needs me. This is part of what I love about my family. We’re so thoughtful in such weird ways and it doesn’t always work well- but the heart, the important part- is in the right place. If it’s any consolation, my other sisters all got the same nightgown. Patti is built like me, but Mickie loved hers. I think this year I’ll ask my mom for another apron.

So I’m sitting cross legged today in my lab, wearing jeans and a black top. I rode my scooter today, which heavily influences my clothing choices. No short skirts- long skirts ok. My glasses perch on my nose because I ran out of time to put in my contacts. Yes, it only takes a minute but I was 20 minutes late. I had a proposal to present and it’s always good to look extra nerdy when talking nerd stuff. I even went the extra step and rolled down my pant legs. It went ok.

That’s my life in clothes. Maybe you should come over and dig out something to wear. Raid my closet if you don’t mind cat hair. I’m sure I have something you’ll like that I once wore or bought and changed my mind or that was my favorite ever for awhile. I wear a size 6-8, though I’ve got some size 10’s just in case.

Don’t worry about me running out. It’ll give me an excuse to go shopping for more.

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