i mentioned previously that i was going to give the wardrobe architect developed by sarai of colette patterns some serious thinking after completing me-made-may. sarai has really synthesized a lot of what is out there about ‘the perfect wardrobe’ and how to build it into something compact but still helpful. i’m particularly intrigued by the worksheets. this post is a riff on the wardrobe architect ‘week one – making style more personal’ worksheet.
so, i went shopping today. should i be apologetic? proud? agnostic? i can’t pretend i don’t have enough stuff, right? can any of us? but do we obsess too much over how much stuff we do – or don’t – have?
i don’t know the answers to any of these questions. i don’t now, and i didn’t as i stood in the checkout queue with my four items (two shorts, a skirt, and a blouse) while an over-entitled woman and her daughter stood in front of me and addressed the sales rep with barely veiled contempt. but that is another story entirely.
what this story is about is what i wear, and how i got here.
so, truth: i never used to care much about what i wore. not really. my style, growing up, and especially as i got old enough to have a say in my wardrobe, was a mixture of whatever-mom-hates and whatever-my-friends-are-wearing.
you know what i mean: the saturday outing with friends where everyone planned ahead of time to wear a plaid, pleated skirt (hello 90s). the day at school where my best friend and i accidentally wore exactly the same outfit (a blue chambray button down and khaki shorts, if you were wondering). the over-sized boys’ polo shirt that my mom hated so much she hid it under her bed so i would stop wearing it; the red sneakers and clam-digger jeans that were my first foray into wearing the unexpected. the pride mixed with shame the first day i was ‘brave’ enough to wear my sailormoon t-shirt to high school.
my crowning sartorial moment in high school was the day that a friend in chem lab had me stand up when he walked in to see if i was wearing funky enough sneakers. his friends – who dubbed themselves the ‘social outcasts’ – never outwardly cared who was cool or not, and yet i was oddly flattered by the expectation that i was interesting enough to not care either.
college was much the same. t-shirts, jeans, and my precious red sneakers. a quidditch golden snitch as my dorm room key chain. a refusal to wear the tight black trousers and skin-baring halter tops that seemed to be the norm at fraternity parties – because, really, in january in baltimore i am not leaving a coat in some grody frat house so that the drunkards in the living room can admire my assets. they can take me in my butterfly track suit bottoms or leave me happily in my own room doing my own thing.
i did start to feel stymied by my own lack of initiative at a certain point – refusing to conform became synonymous with a refusal to create my own standards. i branched out a bit – to colors, to halter tops, to cuter jeans, tighter t-shirts. i was proud of my legs, my figure, my still-blonde hair and more willing to show them off with confidence.
but i kept my red sneakers.
i spent six months living in london and learned to appreciate the subtle differences in european and american styles of dress, marching up and down the embankment in my red raincoat with my yellow umbrella. i moved back to new york and took daily walks with my best friend, trolling sample sales and soho shops. and you know what they say about new york – tolerant of your beliefs; judgmental about your shoes. i started to explore. i started to care. i started to plan outfits for travel and secretly delight that i could ‘pass’ for european. i started commuting to new jersey and learned that people in the suburbs can be boring and easily shaken up by an unexpected outfit.
i found freedom. is it weird to find freedom in, essentially, a series of possessions? shoes, bags, coats, tops, skirts and most especially boots? but what is more freeing than creating a fresh persona every day?
i don’t want a uniform. i want a costume closet.
maybe i’ve outgrown a lot of the fun, printed and vintage-inspired makes of my early sewing days. i find that i yearn to go back to something equally unexpected but with more sophistication.
i live a double life: dressing and over-dressing for workaday occasions and the very rare social outing, but mostly spending time in and around my home. and i don’t have any costumes for that role.