Week Eight of Why So Many Clothes? Hiding Becomes Revealing

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Leggings and Tights

There is evidence of a time before leggings and tights. Photos of me wearing this black, cotton Lacoste tennis dress in a friend’s restaurant, by a beach in Thailand. My friend is Thai, I’m with several Thai friends from Bangkok.  For beachwear, this dress was acceptably modest in Thai culture.  Yet, I can’t bring myself to wear it without tights or leggings in the UK: seemingly incapable of wearing a skirt above the knee without tights or leggings.  While I’d like to think this was an independent decision, a matter of personal style and a resistance to dominant ideas about leg-lengthening lines and, more importantly, female shapes, I’m aware there’s some kind of body issue that’s the hindrance.  I need to wean myself back onto showing the skin on my legs, because it’s not modesty that’s stopping me, it’s a deep, inhibiting embarrassment, and I’m hiding from what is causing it.

18.07.11

On a more positive note, one of the reasons why so many clothes might be the kind of personal trends that are little fascinations with the same shape, texture, colour, pattern.  In particular…

Foumphiness

I do seem to love a foumphy skirt.  By foumphy, I mean one that goes out and in and is a bit flouncy and has its own curves.  A good example is a tiered skirt, like I’m wearing Tuesday.

19.07.11

Although Tuesday’s photo ended up being taken in white tights, they went on in the evening because it grew cold.  I spent the day in bare legs in a knee-grazing skirt, foumphy enough to show occasional swathes of skin.  This skirt has holes punched in the lace of the layers, so you can see little circles of sunlight on the skin underneath, if you catch it at the right angle.  Wearing it felt quite nice, with occasional but intense flashes of self-consciousness, in case too much skin could be seen; the bits I didn’t want to show, particularly the backs of my thighs.

The stripy top seemed to not-go nicely with the black and white tier near the bottom of the skirt.  Unfortunately, the pink pumps have started to disagree with my little toes, otherwise this would have been a really comfortable outfit.  I like the way the stripes sit on the round of my tummy.

Wednesday’s purple skirt is another example of the foumphy skirt (Upper Street charity shop, as was yesterday’s).  Fitted on the waist, hips and bottom, it has tucks at random intervals down the length and all around.  I used to feel really unsure about it, but today I feel so utterly myself that I have the confidence and sense of being to wear it.  I feel earthy and sunlit and want colours to go with that.  I feel a release.  Also, got the stains out of the pink jumper, and that release means it’s ok to wear and keep.

20.07.11

The final example of foumphy is the red and white skirt (Irish Charity Shop) I’m wearing on Thursday.  I feel like I’ve rooted in my dressing up chest, can see how wrong it is but it triggers some Red Riding Hood dream, maybe some little girl’s idea of how grown women dress. I feel comical in it, cheerful and winking although a bit nutty.  I seem to be back in tights.

21.07.11

How to Make Friends and Lose Lovers

The red Gap tee is better known as the Chilli Top.  Plain and misshapen with wear and years, but it holds the old memory of meeting my great friend BP dressed as a chilli, with red cords and my long-gone red mountain bike, Roberto.  Roberto was lost to bricks and oblivion, in Bristol, when he got stolen as BP and I sat and ate pasta and drank wine with two middle-aged Italian brothers in their too-lightly patronised café.  Roberto may have gone forever, but BP decided we would be friends for life, partly – or maybe mainly – because she liked that I was dressed as a red pepper.

How Many Shoes to Take on a First Date?

The pink shoes were bought for ZH’s wedding, on a day I ended up on a date with five pairs of shoes about my person.  Each pair was pale pink. I had started the day with three pairs – flip flops, heels and plimsolls – because it was summer and I was worried about how my bare feet and their thin, sensitive skin would react.  I bought two more pairs of pale pink shoes on the way to meet the man in question, as I needed two options for the wedding (one pair was given up on as they just didn’t work, a little bit like the pair of us).  These shoes are not as comfy as they look. They’re toe suckers, too big and the heel’s worn down.  You must clench your big toe to keep them on, the little ones getting uncomfortably suckered, while the odd-shaped wooden heel aggravates the base of your foot.  Not Keep.  A bigger foot would be happier, after the cobblers.

Trend 2: Liberty

22.07.11

Liberty prints.  Today’s blue shirt (Upper Street charity shop) is an old Liberty one, while Tuesday’s skirt was a Topshop (charity shop) imitation, I’d say.  The red linen dress is another ‘like now’, that was a hand me down from mum I wasn’t sure about.  Although it’s dated, writing this blog has made me feel a lot less inhibited about what I like, and a lot freer of the trends that are imposed, free enough to start finding patterns that emerge in personal fascinations and tastes.  The dress got a lot of compliments.  The shawl is from Thailand, and was a gift from my work there.  I’ve been too scared to wear it in case of loss or damage, which seems like a waste, but I have lost some beautiful shawls to stains, trains and mysteries over the years.

Argghhhh!

23.07.11

Yes, I did it, it had to come sometime and I can only blame myself for having it in my wardrobe: the psychedelic moo moo.  Walking around a residential, East London area on a Saturday, I didn’t get any hassle. Groups of children playing in the street were almost respectful (was that it?): one group told a boy to stop knocking on a miniature door in the wall of a church because of the lady (and Wolf) passing, and because it is a church.  Shopkeepers were very friendly.  I got one totally befuddled and confounded look, but otherwise, the idea I grew up with that you can wear what you want in London and we don’t mind seems to be true.  I can’t imagine being anywhere else I’ve lived and forgetting I was wearing this.  I did, and just, for the main, thought people were being nice,  friendly and smiley today.  If I find out I’m pregnant with octuplets, this will still fit, so perhaps I should keep it just in case.

Another Attempt at Something Abandoned

24.07.11

Ya ha. Today, Sunday, I’m growing old disgracefully.  At nearly 30, I’m wearing the things I never dared to as a teen: because of body and social issues.  I mean the things I didn’t wear at thirteen, when I should have been rocking mini-kilts (local jumble sale), like the girls with long, tanned, hairless legs in the neighbourhood of my French Exchange partner in Lyon.  I’m wearing them with leggings, yes.  The problem now is, I can’t get over not de-hairing every inch of my thighs – I rarely feel like I’ve got rid of all of them – before baring them to the world, as ten years of Endometriosis has left me with thicker, darker, more visible hairs than I can bear.  This is where my embarrassment comes from, and it’s attached to a painful, difficult condition that a large number of women experience.  One in four women in the UK are expected to have Endometriosis.  This means many other women are also coming to terms with a body that doesn’t look like what we’re shown it should.  More importantly, it feels very sore and tiring, and, moreover, personally frightening, because of the connection with sub fertility.

There is always hope.  Hopefully there will be more to say.

To today.  Last time I saw KR, I attempted a different mini-kilt, which ended up in Not Keep.  Today’s has safety pins, ergo room for the lovely fajitas KR and FL are cooking.  Moam moam.  This outfit feels fun, like dressing up, rather than trendy or conventionally attractive.

Clothes With a Life of Their Own

The vest is a semi-organic thing: bought as part of a three-for-£10 offer from a Japanese boutique on Commercial Street, when I got it back to my old office I saw it had been pre-stained under the armpits. Unworn, just treated to look that way.  I looked up Japan fashion at the time and found some similar things.  I cut off the armpits and turned it into a vest, one of my favourites.  Unfortunately / fortunately, recently I accidentally picked up one of my red gingham shoes with my armful of whites and the vest came out pink, after being washed with the shoe.  I like the bubblegum pinkness, today.

The shoes used to be a size 6.  I’m an 8.  I wore them first on a date with the same guy who experienced the five pairs of pale pink shoes. I had to get these shoes stretched, by a shop selling handmade shoes, so they’d fit.  On the date, I just used a lot of plasters.

 

PS Next week’s post will be up slightly later in the week than usual, on Wednesday 10th August.  See you then.

 

by Sara Nesbitt Gibbons