Archive for July, 2011

Week Seven of Why So Many Clothes : Because Clothes Tell the Wearer Stories

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Fairytales With Endings We Change

At twenty-two, I’d been working in a clothes shop, put on full make up every morning, and bought into trends for their own sake.  By this, I mean I bought into the idea that wearing clothes marked in magazines as ‘Bohemian’ (this was 2004) and ‘Gypsy’ actually transported me into these imaginary lives. The much-parodied fashion talk about buying into dreams was a waking reality for me.

This Monday, I’m wearing my satin, aqua blue vest, with mesh trim, bought in Warehouse in 2003 at full price (about £15), layered under the white shirt.  I rushed out to buy it after seeing it in a glossy, in a section marked ‘Mermaids’, showing all sorts of watery, oceanic textures and colours.  I wore it first to a house party, with a statement, beaded necklace in more sea colours, fitted blue jeans, and stilettos.  Another wavy-haired brunette was wearing the same, Warehouse vest, in more of a sea-green, with a different, beaded, statement necklace, tight jeans, and heels.  We took a photo together: two mermaids.

Of course, this didn’t consign me to a life with my too-human legs bound forever in tight denim, my feet stabbed at each step, much unlike the sad, original Little Mermaid – although I didn’t ensnare any handsome young men either, at that party.  The vest lives on in different guises, most recently, today, as part of a quite pantomimey ensemble.

11.07.11

Clothes With Little Lives

I’ve written a few times about realising, through this blog and looking more closely at my wardrobe, that quite a few of my clothes are worn out.  Looking at this white, tuxedo shirt, I can see it’s past its best: rusty drops on the shoulder where I’ve brushed past lily stamens, coffee and very faded red wine on the front, if you look – and I don’t iron (once, my wonderful friend and ex-housemate KR ironed it for me, and I went unrecognised, honestly, at work the next day).  Love this shirt, though. Keeping.

The shorts are a favourite, although they don’t have any specific sentimental value.  I just like them.

I’d miss each of these items. I realise: I keep some, if not many, clothes because of how they look to me, and not how they look on me – as if they have lives of their own and I want to keep them in mine because they tell some sort of story to me as I wear them, rather than their always meaning something to my own life story or simply looking good.  It reminds me of looking at a picture book recently that I’d loved as a child: Angelo, by Quentin Blake.  I’d spent hours reading it, then adult me looked again and realised there were no words, and wondered where everything I remembered had gone.  I’m still at the dreaming stage with clothes.

I wonder if I should worry about this?

Adult Clothes

12.07.11

There is a large degree of adult fantasy, too.  The stripy top under Tuesday’s dress has a deep V on the chest and back, and I bought it as a reference to Brigitte Bardot.  It sits very high on the waist and looks very sixties French movie chic with high-waisted drainpipes or pencil skirts.  Today, though, I’m working practical chic, with the black dress.  Fifty cents from another Irish charity shop, and too comfy and easy (good sensible length, nice smooth, tactile fabric, sensible neckline) to Not Keep.  The strappy red sandals slip off different parts of the foot, but I want to keep them.  ZH pops up in my head, saying, as she did while we shopped on King’s Road a few years ago, that adult sandals are always a good investment.  Keep all. Except the embroidered coat – I love it, but it’s just too tight on my arms. It’s taken me four years to admit that.

Duvet Days

Wednesday is a genuine duvet day.  Really not feeling well.  Thursday I still feel unwell, but need to go out for a couple of hours to keep a promise to help a friend, before curling up in bed again.  The long-sleeved maxi feels like the closest thing to a duvet.  This dress is pure story.  I bought it in tribute to a friend’s poem for a poetry theatre event, Peter Ebsworth’s ‘The Very Brief Rise and Fall of Andy the Amoeba and his Contribution to Popular Music in the Late 1960s’ (about an amoeba who inspired the Cellular Song) and it became my Incredible String Band dress.  I wore it to my mum’s 60th birthday shortly after, because of her love of the song and band, and my wish for her, as the song says: May the long time sun shine on you and all love surround you and the pure light within you guide you all the way home.  Like a duvet, like clothes, the dress is enveloping, comforting and full of dreams and stories.

14.07.11

Weathering a Storm

15.07.11

On Friday, I need to wear all grey and practical clothes to shift things about for a performance of The Tempest, with puppets.  The grey dress makes me feel strong and shaped, although it shows my tummy.  Back in Week Two, I gave a green dress to a craft group to become a puppet. Today, that puppet is coming to life, as Caliban.  Seeing the dress in its new role, in a beautiful performance, triggered a poem, which is on a new page in its first drafty form.

16.07.11

On Saturday, the Wolf and I travel to Manchester to see Bjork’s Biophilia  (yes yes, now equal to Bob Dylan for best gig ever) with the Wolf’s lovely parents.  I seem to be in storm colours, still, appropriate because it doesn’t stop raining.  I do love rain.  At the concert, people’s buttons and zips catch on the extraordinarily loose-knit jumper.  They are all very friendly about it, and one man asks if it’s a net for catching people, new friends.  Perhaps it is.  Fisherwoman is more effective than mermaid.

One man also says he would wear jumpsuits if he was a girl, as they look so comfy.  Quite right.  I knew catsuits and holey jumpers were useful.

The Dream is Over

Bjork is wearing a short, gold, leatherette dress, with a foumphy multi-coloured top and a wavy, orange wig.  She looks stunning and glorious.  Her dress reminds me of a gold bandeau dress, very similar to hers, I didn’t buy in a Glasgow charity shop.  Longing.  Did I mention Bjork is amazing?  I want to go home and dress like her.

Sunday’s dress is, like the white shirt, way past its best but still too loved to Not Keep.  Ink stains on the bottom, mottled with light bleach, and once offered the compliment: ‘I like your dress, it reminds me of my kitchen curtains.’  The velvet leggings, however, are a failed fantasy.  I’ll keep them only to keep me warm in winter, under high boots and long skirts.

17.07.11

Here’s the link the old green dress poem http://saranesbitt.co.uk/poems/

 

by Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

 

 

 

 

 

Week Six of Why So Many Clothes: Coming Up Daisies

 

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I like it

04.07.11

That black vest peeking out from under Monday’s plum Warehouse (90% off) dress is one of the most sentimentally valuable things in the wardrobe.  It was a bold buy for eighteen-year-old me, when living in Bangkok.  It has a red wiggle across the waist and tummy, and a brown and red cubist design on the back.  I can’t wear it on its own now, because it has white marks, bobbles, tears, faded patches.  It’s almost offensive. I can’t get rid of it.  It’s long past its days as a really trendy item in Bangkok fashion, when I bought it in a swanky department store from ‘Fly2K’ after months of saving up the bottle.  Back then, a colleague in my office, a Thai woman of about 28 (about two years younger than I am now), used to wear the most intriguing and diverse outfits to work.  She was beautiful, with big eyes, face-framing black hair, a slim but curvy figure which she thought was fat.  She leaps to mind in a sheer, rusty and golden, printed tunic, belted with a silver threaded plait, and tight, charcoal flares, somehow officey and out of this world all at once.  When I asked her where she got all her clothes from, she laughed and said not to worry, by the time I was her age, I’d have as many choices in my wardrobe – just to keep collecting if I wanted to have that variety.  Sometimes I’ve caught a glimpse of her in the mirror, and smiled.

So, to the Warehouse dress.  I didn’t specifically like it when I bought it, but it reminded me vaguely of the shapes Ossie Clarke made.  I go in and out of phases of liking it or wondering why I have it in the first place.  Today, I like it.  The colour, comfort and relative work-worthiness.  So many clothes because sometimes I need to wait until I like them again?

I like it not

05.07.11

Oh dear, I’m fickle.  I didn’t like Tuesday’s green skirt when I put it on. I wanted to, but didn’t.  This was its first wear.  I thought I’d cheer it up with the rusty tights and the black corsage on the puff-sleeved tee shirt.  My mum’s staying and she says I look really good. My boss compliments the skirt.  I start to like it.  A colleague says he thinks the skirt is great but a real winner with the tights. Oh, dear. Keep.

I like it

I had an email (thank you!) asking how it felt to be thinking about my clothes every day, while writing this blog, and whether it made me tired.  The Wolf and I are talking about this experiment, on Tuesday evening, and I realise that, at this stage, I feel differently than I’d anticipated: six weeks in, not having duplicated an item of clothing, as I go through the labyrinth of wearing all my clothes.  Not oppressed, as feared, by my clothes nor by a stealthy, creeping awareness that some insidious notion of femininity and style and status ruled my life without me knowing it. Phew.  What I’m learning is that there are very few things in Not Keep because I love my clothes and clothes.

I’m increasingly finding confidence and self-expression through this experiment.  This has a lot to do with the Wolf’s camera eye and my mum’s generosity and friends’ and readers’ support.  I’ve also realised that I haven’t spent a lot of money on this magnarvellous wardrobe.

Is this too soon?  There are still drawers that don’t shut to wear through, that mysterious pile on top of the cupboard, a few bags, clothes on hangers and a pile of handwashing to do.  There are still a lot of shoes.  Still those luminous green shorts. Still so many questions.

Clothes as a magnifying glass

06.07.11

Wednesday’s outfit begins with one little pin. It’s a crow playing a saxophone, made by a childhood friend, for Dingwalls in Camden.  The crow’s wearing a red mac and he’s black and white with a bit of brown.  So – red halterback, black and white pirate top (Dingwalls is by the water, Camden Lock – now a very different place to when the Crow pin was made), chocolate leather jacket, black, high-waisted drainpipes, vintage Italian brogues from the 1960s, black lace socks.  The whole outfit is a magnified version of the pin, and its tone: through this, a magnified expression of feeling for the memory and the living, present person, who designed the pin back in the 1980s.

I like it not

Hmm. Thursday’s clothes are comfy, bright and playful but I’m not really playing.  I feel silly.  Always wanted to like the spotty, grey dress but one giggle from my mum and I have to admit – it doesn’t work for me.  I don’t like it, just liked the idea of dressing as a spotty librarian, the image in my head when I blew 50p on it in a Commercial Street Charity Shop. On Friday, a lady on my route to work is in a similar get together.  I narcissistically flatter myself that someone was inspired during our daily train ride but really, I think it just works for her.  As for me – Not Keep. The pink tights and lace hoodie stay though! Just maybe not together.

07.07.11

I like life!

Friday is a day for celebrating and showing change.  The black, slinky cocktail dress was from the sales in the clothes shop I worked in during my BA.  Now I’ve earned it: I absolutely need it to wear for an informal prize-giving, for a poetry competition.  It’s raining and I’m working outside of home all day so I need layers.  I started with a pink tee shirt but that went back in the drawer and on with Mum Style – the loose, retro shirt with fruit and flowers.  I’ve been looking for a reason and the bravery to wear this.  A rainy world needs a dose of my mum’s bright hand-me-downs to lift moods up.  Shoe-wise, the black wellies (my mum looked at them and said, ‘Not Keep?’, but I love them) are alternated with cute Lulu Guinness platforms (Irish Charity Shop).  The pink mac feels very right.  All Keep.

08.07.11

More magnified moods

09.07.11

Saturday: why can’t I just stay in the garden with my mum in the sunshine all day? She’s heading home and I have to go out to work before she leaves. Hmmph. This calls for my favourite tee shirt, bright red Jigsaw one, over ten years old and still keeping its colour.  It looks a bit stubborn against the Whistles top (hand me down from ZH), matching my childish, inner strop.  Not Keeping the skirt as it makes me feel flooby and wet – although I spent a couple of years eyeing these up in shops before getting my sticky paws on it.  It sits so high, it looks like my tummy’s been bandaged with corduroy.

I like it, I like it not

Very excited about seeing wonderful KR for roast Sunday lunch, want to match excitement with clothes.  The kilt carries the mental image of women I idolised when eleven or twelve, in the time mini-kilts and red and black combos were popular.  I really didn’t want to admit this skirt, bought on impulse in an Upper Street charity shop without trying it on, just didn’t fit right.  The reason I didn’t want to admit it is that the Wolf grumbled about the skirt and leather skirts in general, when I bought it, and that made me want to like it even more.  However, all day today I feel like I’m mid-parachute, showing my bottom as I descend on the embarrassed post box, winking petrol station, fired-up oven.  I don’t like the studs on the pockets, either.  Not Keep.  If I were to end the week on a stubborn note: I know what I like, can be convinced to like clothes with a few compliments… but not to dislike them!

10.07.11

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

Week Five: I Have So Many Clothes Because So Many Occasions Are Special… And So Many Women

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Petticoats in Paris

Like the gorgeous, silk, cherry skirt I wore in the first week of my Why So Many Clothes experiment, ZH convinced me to buy the red, patchy, floral dress nearly ten years ago. This time, it was for a specific reason, rather than her brilliant ability to make me think of a piece of beautiful silk as a practical investment (she was right there, mind!): to wear on a trip to Paris for an old boyfriend’s birthday.  Twenty-one year old me sauntered round with nowt but a matching bra.  My sense of how much skin to show changed considerably when I worked in Lebanon, some years ago, and so, although I don’t cover up in the way I would have done in Lebanon, now I find I often can’t quite shake the feeling I need a bit of modesty.  Sometimes this is reflective of a way I learned to express and value myself – but sometimes I worry whether I’m expressing my past experiences with clothes, and what they show about how I value myself, or whether I feel dutiful, but not genuinely expressive.  It’s a question that might need asking.

27.06.11

The sheer top, like the dress, I bought new in the sales; the dress from House of Fraser, the top from Monsoon.  I haven’t worn the dress for a couple of years, and don’t feel as fab in it as I was expecting to when I pulled it off the hanger.   I’m not sure it sits quite right, although the concept of the different layers is appealing.  An older, Irish woman of about ninety approaches me, in Camden later today, with a horrified expression: she tells me my petticoat is hanging down.  She finds it hilarious when I explain it’s the design of the dress.  While the dress is a valued artefact of that Paris holiday, I have other, better, souvenirs – a pretty ring, metro billets, a concert ticket.  This dress, though pretty, doesn’t feel quite me anymore…  Not Keep.

So Many Women to Celebrate With Clothes

The asymmetric Lipsy skirt has only been worn twice in over ten years, because I get antsy about the hemline showing sudden flashes of upper thigh.   Both times I wore it, I wanted to nod to Marilyn Monroe: firstly with a cream, feather-collared cardigan, then peeking out from under an off-the-shoulder jumper dress.  This Tuesday, I’m wearing it with leggings and layers to channel the hotties in the British Library: women of all ages, working with rare books, wearing themselves inside out in thoughful, unpredictable and beautiful outfits.  I’ll keep the Lipsy skirt, tricky though it is, because it allows me to dress up as female icons.  The mask was made by my very talented friend MG, an inspiring woman who finds ideas everywhere.

28.06.11

Modesty comes into play genuinely on Wednesday. The pinky orange silk skirt is a classic ‘Clothes Make Me Happier’ specimen.  The grey jumper is, I have to admit, exhausted.  It has an unshiftable coffee stain and the fabric is worn to bobbled thinness.  It was about £6 in H&M seven years ago.  The skirt is made to last, but blows up, however, and so the leggings to match the jumper help a lot with travelling on the tube, those pesky, blowy escalators.  I love the silver glads, not sure how long they’ll last but then again, I do still have a lot of shoes to wear…

29.06.11

Reading, Wedding and Reading (redding)

30.06.11

Thursday’s satiny frock went from the office to the launch of South Bank Poetry 10, the poetry magazine I assistant edit.  As the tenth issue, it was a real celebration, and I wanted to pay tribute to the excellent poets and poems with my garb as well as my gab.  Happy Birthday SBP! As for the frock, I’ll keep it.  When my mum gave it to me a few years ago, it fell off immediately as there was nothing anywhere to hold it up.  I can’t comprehend how much smaller I must have been then.  I went for supper with the very kind EH fairly recently wearing this dress (pre-blog), who kindly recommended I stay my current shape, to fit in it.

01.07.11am

Friday was the wedding of a very beautiful wedding magazine editor and a very nice man, friends of the Wolf.  I was at work in the morning, and needed clothes I could move about in and move stuff about in.  I didn’t like the red tunic when I bought it, but it’s grown on me.  I adore the blue dress, and the shawl.  I bought them both for the wedding, from ebay, before this project started – while bed-bound after the op, which definitely influenced the time I spent looking for the right dress and accessory – and preserved them to wear today.  I loved every movement made in them – a wonderful, beautiful wedding, a very happy day.

01.07.11pm

Saturday’s outfit is a travelling back from a wedding one: comfortable, easy.  I did enjoy this dress in its lifespan, but it’s a bit worn out now and it’s probably time to let it go.

02.07.11

Sunday was a day for a catsuit.  Mum and I both wore our catsuits to see Grace Jones, in Hyde Park.  I say Reading because Mum helped set up the original festival, and I wanted to note her absolute grooviness.  Not that I need to, given how groovy she is in her catsuit! Her floaty sleeves inspired me to put the cape with mine, which I bought in the market in Lebanon.  I think perhaps my experiences are more embedded in my wardrobe, in all their complexity and twists and tensions, than I’d realised.

03.07.11

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

 

Week Four: Why! I Have So Many Clothes Because I Have So Many Shoes!

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For Richer

Last Thursday, I was looking for the second half of the pair of pink, satin, ballet plimsolls I was wearing for the first time ever, that day.  I started on the floor, then the shoe rack, under the bed, finally braving the Narnia-sized shoe world in the bottom of the cupboard.  Pressed against a shoe mountain, like Michaelangelo Pistoletto’s Venus of the Rags, only with shoes, I scaled the magnitude of many shoes I need to wear to fulfil the rules for my Why So Many Clothes? experiment.

Shoes are a whole other world of trouble.  Most of my many clothes worn so far seem to be hand-me-downs and presents (from my mum, and other friends and family) and charity shop finds – with the occasional bought-new, high street purchase (usually in the sales).  Shoes, however, have hit the triple figure mark.  My pink, suede heels (in front of the beach cabin) I alternate with pumps on Monday were £60 new, from Kurt Geiger – almost ten years ago, when it was possible for me to spend a utility bill on shoes.  I like the shoes a lot and I’m glad the younger me equated self-value with earning capacity in a way I now kick against – she spent on quality shoes I can still wear and love.

I love shoes.  Their shape, their reckless decoration for something so close to the ground; there is something ultimately sexy about the way we wear them… My nonsense alarm is ringing loud in my head… I’m using ellipses… but shoes! Ridiculously lovely.

As is Monday’s dress. The pictures are on the South Bank, and in the Sea Life Penguin Ice Adventure.  I put on my Noa Noa cape (charity shop) to fend off the artic temperatures in the Ice Adventure.  Turns out the instructions for what to do when you meet a penguin and how to stay warm in the freezing cold were a ruse – the penguins are in a large, sealed tank and the ‘artic’ is a children’s play area, the wandering penguins, toys for sale or to be encountered through photoshop on t-shirts and coasters.  I didn’t need to wrap up warm, but I do love the shawl and it’s a definite one for the Keep box.  The South Bank beach huts and Dishoom cafe are fun and good in the heat, like the dress.

20.06.11       20.06.11.2

On Tuesday, I’m relieved to last all day in the high wedges (second outing – first involved a car).  I really like the pink suede and, although I think I don’t like prints, this week shows I really like prints of painted flowers (Monday, Tuesday and Friday).  Pink suede and painted flowers make me happier.

21.06.11

For Poorer: Just in Case Clothes

My black fleece trousers are not a thing of beauty but they are a thing of comfort and, as I wore them as day clothes recently, they are definitely part of the wardrobe.  The moon jumper is exhausted but friendly.

22.06.11      23.06.11

The size 6 blue tee shirt under Thursday’s dress doesn’t look very great but is a useful layer and I like the colour.  I don’t realise till I’m out and about that the hem of my jumper dress is now tugged and uneven.

Three out of four items I’m keeping because they are artefacts.  The fleece trousers became day wear when I wore them for a laparoscopy operation, a marvellous thing to have been through because I feel much more well since, and my body is more ready for babies (hey, I’m showing you my clothes inside out, I feel like we’re close…too much?).  The moon jumper has some happy memories: I learned to hula hoop in it a couple of years ago, taught by a nice lady I met, on the South Bank; I needed to learn to do some poetry with a hoop and met her at precisely the right time.  The black dress I wore when it was new, smart and as unrestricting as it is now, for the interview for the job that made my life brilliant.    The blue tee shirt doesn’t have a place in my heart, that I remember, but I like the colour and it’s useful for layering.  I’m not able to Not Keep any of them, perhaps because the poorer me might need to be comfortable or scruffy again and I don’t think it’s sensible to spend more money for that!

The black pumps I was wearing with Thursday’s dress were so soaked and worn out by the end of the day – the sole stuck on with electrical tape – that I threw them in the bin on the way home (I was wearing my walking trainers).

More Playing

24.06.11

Friday’s clothes were play clothes: the sandals make me happier with their big, orange circles.  I feel like a bat-punk in the hoodie.  Good for playing and playing in work.  Saturday’s jumper dress was very misjudged.  BP was coming to stay, and she mentioned she was questioning what to wear.  I said clothes for sitting comfortably and talking, talking, talking – but fused the weather where she was with where I was and wore clothes for a chilly day (not the beginning of a heat wave).  It was fine in the air-con supermarket, not so much when cooking a slow roast – but the food and wool were good for talking, talking, all night.  It’s a classic jumper dress and in the Keep box.

25.06.11

Sunday’s vintage dress was a lucky find in a bag of fabric off cuts, in a craft cupboard.  It didn’t look very good when I found it, when I was two stone lighter than now, because I didn’t fill it out and it felt frumpy.  Now it does what I thought it would when I found it.  I spent the day imagining I might play tennis, and in reality, repotting my Christmas Tree (been meaning to since December). In the scorching sunshine, a barefoot day.

26.06.11

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons