Monday, 4 May 2015

About clothes

Clothes. What is it with clothes? I choose things carefully – online, offline. I can buy cheap, I can buy expensive. I think it through. I think it over. I consider, I draft in cunning reasoning, I’m careful, I’m thoughtful. I imagine the circumstances in which I might wear this garment, I bear in mind the colour-me-beautiful shades my friend identified for me, I take into account the kind of fabric it is, the drape, the weight. I check the measurements – twice, three times, metric, imperial. I check my bank account, bills coming up, can I afford this? Is it suitable for my age group, for my activities? Can I walk in it easily – for more than two miles? And run for the bus in it? Will it wash? Will it shrink? Is this colour something I can sustain in real life? Not something that suits me but I won’t really wear?

And then I decide. It comes in the post, and I try it on before accepting it. Or, in a shop, I try it on before buying it. At least once. I keep it at home with the labels on (if it’s a new garment) for a fortnight. I try it on again. Okay: it’s wonderful. This is just what I’ve always been looking for.

Two months passes. A small, insistent, whining voice starts to say ‘I don’t like it.’ And nothing I can do will change its mind.

I have a few things that have stood the test of time. Oh. Quite a lot actually. Here is what they are:

  • Four ribbed cotton vests (as in, underwear), two grey, one black, one white.
  • A big brown boiled wool winter coat with no buttons and a huge collar
  • Two pairs of fingerless mittens our Alice knitted me – one grey, one black
  • Several pairs of Brora cashmere socks our Rosie gave me as Christmas presents
  • Two pairs of big socks – like slipper-socks or bed-socks – our Alice knitted me; one airforce blue, one green-and-brown striped
  • A pair of sheepskin slippers the Badger bought me
  • A Howies cotton hoodie cardigan (blue) handed on from our Fi
  • Brown Birkenstock sandals
  • Black Ask The Missus ‘Jazz’ shoes (men’s)
  • Gabor footwear – brown winter boots, black winter boots, grey-brown nubuck slides for summer
  • Some big old PJs snitched from my sweetie
  • Orvis longsleeved crew-neck t-shirts, in grey, burgundy
  • Evans t-shirts, one purple, one green
  • Lands End polo necked fleeces, one navy, one black
  • Lands End grey fleeces – one quarter-zip, one shawl collar
  • A waistcoat in Herdwick wool our Alice knitted me, with amber buttons
  • Four pairs of leggings, one brown, one grey, one black, one red.
  • Two pairs of black tights
  • A black dress for funerals
  • A soft, light, big scarf with reindeers on it in grey/green/brown
  • An airforce blue big canvas handbag with tin white polka dots that reminds me of snow falling on a sombre day
  • A handknitted soft lumpy hat in khaki and grey muddly wool
  • Various pairs of earrings made of silver and semiprecious stones – carnelian, labradorite, amethyst, jet, coral, pearl.
  • A very special prayer shawl in myriad colours mainly purples and greens that Rebecca made for me. It has prayers in it and poems, thoughts, philosophy, love, also Quaker silence, birdsong and the air of the woods at Hopewell.
  • Four essential pairs of glasses, for seeing things near to, far away, and in the dusk.
  • Underwear. Obviously.

Right now, I also have three skirts – dark green, charcoal grey, and one in faded browns with a black batik pattern on. I have three trousers – 2 black, one grey. Some grey Gabor loafers. A huge fluffy sweater just returned from a stay with Buzz. A grey fluffy cardigan. 2 black boiled wool jackets I really like and never wear. A blue-green t-shirt I really like, got recently, and so far haven’t worn. A nude/pale apricot scarf that suits me a lot but I’ve never worn. A Harris tweed and leather big handbag. A faux white leather overnight bag. I really hope these will adhere to me and I won’t start the slow commencement of complete aversion.

I also have a quarantine bag of clothes in the attic to raid as an alternative to discontented shopping.

I have a neat and tidy dark grey sweater that looks really nice but I hate it already. And a Lands End polo necked t-shirt that’s very useful but I sort of hate it.

I hope I don’t get fatter or thinner. I hope I manage to keep these things. I hope I don’t drop tinned mackerel in tomato sauce on them, or bleach.

Forever I eschew these stupid paroxysms of desire for florals, for orange, for shorter skirts, for normal blouses.

Let me wrap myself in earth, in moorland, in shadows, in evergreens, in twigs, in clothing of sparrows and doves.

Ooh! I know what else I have! Talking of wrapping. Oh, such a snuggly and easy thing to wear! I have this humungous cardi, a wrap-round woolly about two sizes too big, soft and slightly hairy, in a quiet grey/lilac heathery peaceful colour of fading day. I wear it at night and it keeps me all cosy even when the night is cold.

I have a pair of black Vivobarefoots too. Surely should be a pair of black Vivobarefeet.


Suze said...

Clothing is a bugbear of mine. I am quite happy to ahve a very small and repetitive wardrobe. Most of my skirts are handmade from quilting fabrics. I team these with simple tees. This suits our climate and is easy.

Good for you for thinking it through and keeping it as simple as you can.

Rapunzel said...

From now on when I see a picture of you from the chest up I just know I'm going to imagine you're wearing the red leggings and striped socks,
and I will smile.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hey Suze - quilting fabrica are really good for skirts; I like the homespun, like its texture.

Rapunzel - yes, the perfect combination, if a little devilish.


Deborah said... have all of the clothes in the universe


Pen Wilcock said...

I *do*. That's why other women can never find anything to wear!



Jenna said...

I've just been peering into my own armoire, Pen, thinking I've not a thing much to wear this spring/summer in the Mid-Atlantic. How is this even possible with all the concern I expend on clothing? I shall take a page from your book--er, blog--I think, and inventory and tabulate. Maybe then the choices will appear more numerous in their enumeration.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) I think the secret of it lies in the stream-lining - establishing what is sometimes (though I dislike the word) described as a 'uniform'. Like Suze with her skirts and tees - which I imagine is similar to your own style (?)

I notice a couple of things that stop me getting my own wardrobe right down to a small amount of things:
1) Feet
2) Temperature

I have problem feet and shoes are hard to find. So, though I don't have many shoes I dare not dispose of any I do have, because shoes that work for me are as rare as hens' teeth. Therefore I have at least 2 pairs I wouldn't keep if they weren't so hard to replace once my favourites wear out.

About temperature - I often work in our attic (freezing in winter, hot in summer). I also often work in our front room, cold all year round, to be handy for tradesmen and delivery men (we do most of our shopping online).
England has a lot of temperature variation anyway, even in one day. So I find I need more sweaters of varying weights than most people who inventories minimalist wardrobes online. Rare are the days when a t-shirt is the only top I need from 5.30 am when I get up to 10.30pm when I go to bed. During that time I may need any variations on a vest (underwear) underneath, a gilet, a cardigan or a big sweater. And/or a coat. Or I may not. I have to layer a lot.
When I think of cutting down the number of clothes I have, I know that in reality I have only one change of clothes for any of the various temperature possibilities in my life. For example, I really need my polo-neck fleeces in winter to keep warm; but as soon as spring comes they feel stiflingly hot, but it's still very chilly. That's when I move on to the shawl-neck and quarter-zip fleeces. And so on!
I find it very helpful indeed to stick to a small range of colours; though I love many colours *to look at*, when it comes to actually *wearing* them, I prefer to stick within a range of brown, green, blue, grey and black. With one burgundy t-shirt for variety!

Rapunzel said...

In Indiana we tell newcomers, "If you don't like the weather here, just wait ten minutes."

In 'my own' wardrobe I have issues similar to yours....dresses, but with chemises and bloomers under for warmth and shawls over, then taken off at some point in the day and put back on in the evening.
The work uniform is polyester, so not warm in winter, yet sweaty in summer. We've all taken to wearing long sleeved t shirts and longjohns underneath in winter. Summer is coming and we haven't figured out a cure for that yet.
Clothing always Seems like it should be simple, but it never quite is for most of us.

Pen Wilcock said...

Ah - polyester! I well remember when our school uniform, as nylon surged in during the 70s, went over from cotton shirts to nylon. As you said - cold in winter, sweaty in summer, what's not to like? :0\