Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Dress sense

In a serendipitous manner, Belgian Waffle recently posted about sartorial mistakes.  Purchasing errors, really.  She asked her readers to let her know about their own such errors, which got me thinking.

It so happened that I spent a good deal of yesterday up to my oxters* in clothes, what with all the ironing that has built up.  When the weather is good, I get the all washing done, and it dries on the line really quickly.  This is great.  Except that it then turns from "washing" to "ironing" whereupon it lurks accusingly in the basket, eyeing me with big, reproachful eyes.  Yeah, eyes made of buttons**.

I cracked, finally, and yesterday, as the weather had turned a bit cooler, I decided to Do The Ironing.  Fortunately, several reruns of Star Trek DS9 were on TV, so I had a couple of hours of sci-fi nerdiness to keep me entertained while I slaved like a Victorian skivvy.

Once you've ironed everything to within an inch of its life, you have to put it away.  This leads to a whole new set of issues.  My wardrobe*** is large, and usually pretty well-organised, but of course, with the change in the weather and the impending end of formal employment, I need to rearrange everything.  I dicked about with hangers, moving "work" stuff back and forth, putting summer clothes closer to the front, and so on, until I'd had enough, and thought  "Ahhh, bugger it." 

Everything was taken out, and laid on the bed.  Lord I have a lot of black clothes.  If I were a witch, I'd be laughing.


I decided to get rid of the last remaining suit in my wardrobe.  The others were all put in the charity recycling collection skip thingy a while back, as they were too big.  This one, being a skirt suit, was less baggy, and at least I didn't run the risk of my trousers falling off, but it looked boxy and unflattering. Plus, I've had it for at least 10 years, possibly more, and despite it still looking smart and un-worn-out, I can't see myself wearing it in the near future.  Into the bag it went.

As did several cardigans (too big, too boring, too work-like), a few t-shirts which I never wear, and a couple of dull skirts I bought in ill-advised shopping sprees and then wore maybe once, probably while visiting at Christmas.  Gone, gone, gone.

I still have far too many pairs of black trousers, and at least 8 long black skirts which are really only suitable for office wear, or maybe to a formal-ish party with a really pretty top and nice shoes.  They might be going to join their friends in the skip later in the year. 

On the plus side, I found three pairs of sandals which I'd forgotten I had, lurking at the bottom of the wardrobe. I bought them in America last summer so they are already worn in, which means I can use them this summer without giving myself Medieval peasant feet for the first fortnight.

The point of all this rambling is that I don't have many clothes which I actively regret buying.  There are a few things I have bought on a whim - usually in a sale, usually at Long Tall Sally - and then never wore, but I seldom think "I wish I hadn't bought that." 

I do regret getting rid of a few things over the years. Not things that were loved to rags amd just wore out, but things I decided to sell or swap or give to charity, and now wish I hadn't.  In fact, there are some clothes that I still look for from time to time, before remembering that I don't own them any more. 

Top of the list is definitely my first leather jacket.  It was a birthday present from an ex-boyfriend when I was 18 or 19, and I loved it.  It was very 1980s, as it had long tassles along both sleeves and across the shoulders.  It was made for me by a bike shop in Brighton, so the tassels were specially commissioned - they were 8 inches long, and I adored them. 

Once I started riding motorcycles, rather than just perching decoratively on the pillion, I had to trim them to prevent them from interfering with the controls, but they were still pretty - they went in a diagonal line from elbow to wrist, from 8 inches long at the elbow to about 3 inches long at the cuff, and looked excellent.

A few years later, a very talented artistic friend painted a Celtic design across the shoulders in shades of blues, greens and purples, and it was stunning.  The same friend also painted a Green Man on the back of Mr WithaY's leather jacket, which, if I can find a picture of, I will post on here.

Anyway, time passed and I got much fatter than I had been at 19 and eventually my beautiful jacket didn't fit me any more.  I bought a "proper" bike jacket with padding and kevlar and bulletproofing and ninja protection and my tassely painted jacket languished at the back of a cupboard. 

Years later, another friend (hello Fiona!) who is a dressmaking GENIUS accepted the painted jacket as part payment for some fabulous item of clothing she made for me - a ballgown or a seventeenth century corset or something - so it went to a good home.  I assume it emigrated to Canada with them when they went.  I am too fat for it, without a doubt, but I still miss it.

Another garment I pine for is my kaftan. Yes, yes, I know.

It was a floor length dress, with dozens of small fabric buttons and rouleau loops all down the front from throat to navel, and long sleeves that had faux historical pointed bits, meaning that when you held your arms out you looked like a pre-Raphaelite lady.  In a kaftan.  It was made of ultra soft Indian cotton, printed all over with a small paisley-esque design in shades of red, amber, gold, brown and black.  I adored it. 

I bought it in a second-hand shop in the Lanes in Brighton, for something ridiculous like £3.50.  Nowadays it would be classed as a "vintage" dress, and would probably cost about fifty times that much.

I loved it, and whenever I wore it - almost constantly in my first year at college, as I recall - I felt like someone slightly exotic and offbeat.  I looked, as my family will attest, like a girl with very little dress sense and a lot of colourful second hand clothes, but that's neither here nor there.

My mate Martin, now a respected and media-friendly archaeologist**** told me that the first time he saw me - Freshers Week at college, when I was a first year and he was a worldy-wise second year - he said to his mate "Oooh, she's statuesque." 

I was almost certainly wearing my kaftan, and probably several Indian silk scarves artfully draped and tied all over me.   We still talk about it now, more than 20 years later.  Gah.

I might have to recreate that look when I am not having to look smart for work.


*Just for you, badgerdaddy

**Neil Gaiman has a lot to answer for

***Mr WithaY's clothes are left in neat heaps on the bed for him to stash away as he pleases.  He lacks my anal "everything has a place to be" mindset.

****He's on Time Team a lot.  Media darling.


badgerdaddy said...

Thanks for that. I'm up to my oxters in oxters now.

Middle Sis said...

Your wardrobe has made a lot of people very happy over the years. OH! how we laughed (with you, of course, not at you). Enjoy your kaftan summer.