'Clothes Are Beautiful' Category

Weeks 15 and 16: New Beginnings…

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News

Yaha! Finally able to catch up with real time.  One of the reasons my Why So Many Clothes blog has been a week behind has been because I’ve been in the first trimester of pregnancy.  Now in my fourteenth week, and all’s well with the cub.

Morning sickness (welcome as a symptom of a busy baby, yet, it’s odd vomiting while doing my teeth) has meant that I haven’t been able to do a photo every day, which I was strict about doing earlier in the project to try and reflect mood and atmosphere.  Catching up on Week 15’s images, I can’t find the grey, off-the-shoulder, stretchy, long-waisted jumper worn over a black cocktail dress.  This happened a lot before the Keep and Not Keep boxes.  Things would disappear for years, only to reappear in a rucksack somewhere, or in a dressing up box, or under a box.

Archaeology of My Bedroom Floor

One day I will dig it up – hopefully when moving house very soon.  The top itself is an artefact: exhausted, like the pale imitator I bought later from H&M and wore recently, but extremely high in sentimental value.  It came from a department store in Bangkok, when I was shopping with my Bangkok partner-in-crime NR.  The good thing about being in a shop where the assistants assume you don’t understand them is when they say ‘really beautiful, wow’, to their colleague, not in English.  Later that day, I wore the top to Thewet Pier, to a bar overlooking the Chao Praya river, where brilliant musicians played all night.  NR and I had gone out with all the girls we worked with for the first time, and there was a great sense of companionship among us all.  I wore my Charles Jourdain shoes, also bought that day.  They were the stuff of fairytales – sadly, I later broke both heels on a carpeted stair at a ball at university.  The ball was not the stuff of twinkling stories: ugly, red, swirly carpets, a cheesy disco, in a central-Bristol hotel reception room.  The open-sided, wooden bar over Bangkok’s Chao Praya river, at the bottom of the flower market, lit warm in the body-temperature night; the unsuitable guitar player. That was a dream.

To the present.  I got ‘oy-oyed!’ by a passing van, in Islington.  I was confused: the bump is starting to show.  Then I thought, yes, pregnancy is sumptuous.

Old Favourites

06.09.11

Tuesday.  The black, corset top is a bit cheesy and blocky.  The black, crinkle blouse is losing its crinkle but I’ll keep it till it totally sags.  The hairy coat – my cat coat – became eccentric in the rain, with a borrowed see-through umbrella patterned with blue Dacshunds, a luminous green leather handbag, a big canvas shopper and a sick bowl.  It’s really had its time, and though well-loved, it’s too enormous to keep for sentimental reasons.

Scruff Love

Wednesday’s Status Quo tee shirt is dated ‘In the Army Tour ’86 – ‘87’.  It’s mine.  Mum and LM used to take little me to the festival, as they were involved in its inception.  I remember seeing Alice Cooper and the Milky Way, and peeling my first potato.

Welcome scruffiness there.  The terracotta cycling jacket, however, must go.  It’s the cycling jacket I mentioned last week (Week 14), which my dear friend ZH noticed marked a sadness and treated with some tough love.  I just wore it for cycling after that, but cycling is something I won’t be doing for a long while.

07.09.11

The wellies I bought from an elderly, Spanish-speaking lady who was selling items from chairs.  Everything on the chairs was £1.  The wellies were on the floor, ergo £5.  We negotiated three pounds, in spite of having no language in common.  I have enough wellies, but the Wolf likes them so they’re his now.

Cupboard Love

I tried to wear the stripy tunic, but it was too tight on my arms and bust.  I was relieved.  Although the tunic has strong memories, as a top I bought and wore in Lebanon to teach in, I really didn’t want to wear it and wore it a lot during the sad, scruffy time the cycling jacket belonged to.  I also have a lot of other artefacts: writing by the students, presents… and other clothes. And in my heart and soul.

08.09.11

I wore the Mackintosh-style printed blouse that came out of a bag of materials in the craft cupboard at the office.  My boss at the time suggested I try it on, and we both thought it fab.  The neon orange halterneck used to be my lucky election day top. Absolutely, definitely Not Keep.

Two-nics

Friday’s lilac tunic was on top of the wardrobe for maybe giving away.  Wearing it again, I like it.  The lilac, knitted vest underneath is backless and gorgeous.  One day I will go to the beach.  Keep.

09.09.11      10.09.11

Saturday’s black tunic is from the market in the place in South Lebanon where I worked.  I still like it, though have hardly worn it since. It’s great as a maternity top, too.  The red wedge boots were a Christmas present from my mum.  I adore them.  Enough to talk to them.

Dregs

12.09.11

Things are getting a bit weird now.  The rosy, ribbon-tie vest peering out over the neck of the red jumper I love, even if I have to be 22 forever in it.  The glittery red jumper was a gift from mum.  I wasn’t sure about it but kept it, as with many things, because I love my mum’s thoughtfulness. Today I was finally told I’m showing (although the same person agreed it was partly the chub of my tummy and me sticking it out).  I am keeping this top because it makes me look pregnant.  The starry cardi is too much, and verging on beige.  I don’t beige.  Not Keep.

Cat Lady

13.09.11

Oh.  The background of the cat top is beige.  But it’s got cats sleeping on clouds and mushroom cottages on it.  Keep.

The little, soft brown cardi with trim is a bit twee but I do like it.  The studded, black flat sandals (first wear, had them for six months) are promisingly comfy for new shoes. I have to admit, after the experience with the Marc Jacobs shoes in Week 13, and the general ‘alternation’ of heels with flats throughout this experiment: I’m not a heel wearer anymore, and am unlikely to become one in the next ten years. Keep the flats. Especially the ones with pretty, black, pyramid beads on.

I love Wednesday’s black, embroidered jumper with a cheongsam style collar and bead fastening.  It’s a bit kitsch, in a great way.

14.09.11

Scan Outfit – Yeah! Baby!

15.09.11

Thursday is the day of our scan.  A day of celebration.  There is a part of me which is scared, and thinks it’s tempting fate to wear an evening dress over a cashmere tank and leggings to the 12-week scan.  How will I feel in that waiting room, in those clothes, if something has gone wrong?

I trust my body and instincts.  All is well.  I go to welcome life in my scan outfit.

And all is, thankfully, well.  The cub is healthy and growing beautifully.

Wave

I’m coming to the end of clothes that fit.  After one hundred and ten days of wearing everything in my wardrobe, it’s time to start coming to a close because my gorgeous, changing body is outgrowing everything left to wear.

There are many more clothes – although they don’t fit (I have to cut the waistbands of my tights and leggings) – I will show you them all next week.  Hee hee.

I’m also going to keep some of those for if I have a daughter, which I’d love to share with you before I go.

And now? On Friday, with the loose-knit, white, baggy jumper, is a deep, dark blue velvet dress bought second-hand for comfortable wear during pregnancy.  Since I conceived, I’ve felt like the sun is coming out inside me; the image of the sea has been getting stronger.  These are things I’m writing poems about, but have also chosen to wear as many sea-colours and shapes as I can get away with.

 

I think that’s as many as I want.

So, on Friday, I go out dressed as a wave.

16.09.11

On Saturday and Sunday, I wear the last two things in the wardrobe that fit.  My bad influence on the lovely green jumper has created a ladder and a few holes in one side.  The red, stretchy jumper has an unfortunate badge hole on the centre of the boob (when? how?).

17.09.11

I can keep them both for wearing under dresses.  I might regret not having them, although their striking colours and textures might clash with other layers and make me look unlike myself.  They will hide winter arms.

No.  Not Keep.  I don’t need contingency clothes.  Everything is going to be alright.

And clothes are not for hiding.

Looking at my wardrobe after 112 days of wearing everything in it: Why So Many Clothes?

Because I am here.

 

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

 

Week Eleven of Why So Many Clothes: The Best of Clothes, The Worst of Clothes

From Paris to the London riots, this has been a strange week (8th – 14th August).

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Last Dance in Paris 

08.08.11

Green, silk chiffon, midi-length dress, with a ruffle that runs from the tip of the hip, the hinge of the bottom, round the thigh to the bend of the knee.  Simple, vest neckline, and adjustable, narrow straps.  My favourite dress of all time, beautiful in design, to touch, in colour (2003, Jigsaw).  Saved for the Wolf’s and my last day in Paris, with an old Liberty shirt to throw over (charity shop).

The photo is from Belleville Park.  Belleville is one of Paris’ poorer areas; we have been staying just on the borders, looking forwards, into central Paris, the Eiffel Tower that sparkles on the hour after dark.  We’ve passed groups of young people, old people, ramshackle cafes, artist studios, rehearsal rooms,  estates and strawberry pink town houses, broken glass, a few looks, police, to get to Belleville Park. An old man shouted from a bench: ‘If you want to get somewhere, there is somewhere that way!’.  The park, like the area, is busy with local people. Young children of different backgrounds are doing free craft activities under a gazebo, making windmills from bottle tops and plastic straws, by an infinity pool that looks out, to the tower, and the rest of the city.  A waterfall drops between geometric puddles.  One of the puddles is dry, and has been filled with pictures from a spray can.  People pass, nod and laugh as we take photos.

Long Journey Home

09.08.11

The beige vest dress is for comfort. I like to think I don’t beige, but a long coach journey is an exception.  I try to brighten it up and shape it a bit with the green wrap.  We get a slightly earlier coach on Tuesday 9th August, hoping to arrive in Victoria, London before evening falls.  As we drive through Peckham, we see the shops shuttered and boarded. There is hardly anyone around.  On a corner, a few people stand with their pints outside a boarded-up pub.  A friend has said that yesterday, she would have advised us to stay in Paris, but today, people are getting together and cleaning up the streets, and the mood is very different because of that, safer.  We get back before the dark. A taxi refuses to take us, because a number of riot vans have just gone to my street.  A cyclist coming from that direction tells us it’s fine, they were passing through.  I feel like an idiot, with all my bags and my coach clothes.  At the bottom of my street, a crowd of police are buying their tea from a takeaway that was recently at the centre of a different, big news story; a couple more police officers are at an ice cream van.  I think they must be from out of London.

Everything feels off.

Wednesday

Today the streets of my home city feel alien and I want to hide, to stay indoors, but a girl’s gotta eat.  My wardrobe is getting sparser, and I was eager to find the clothes I could hide in most easily, to avoid drawing attention. While growing up in London, my slightly eccentric dress sense – then, an obsession with the sixties – got me spat on and set fire to  on a bus once, and shouted at and kicked on a tube another time, by other young people, who I’d never met.  Now, as then, I decide I’d rather not squash myself away.  We got over that in Week One of this experiment, so with a stubbornness not unlike my teenage years, I wear one of my most dreaded items: the baggy, floral, crinkle-pleat culottes, with elasticated waistband.  They were 10p in the local jumble sale, and I bought them when I was about three stone lighter than now, imagining a slightly kooky, sexy vintage look would come with them.  They are very wrong.  They create illusions of bulbous pockets of cellulite in improbable places. They suck in and blow out erratically.  The waistband is chunky.  The pattern isn’t very nice.

10.08.11

The big, white blouse with small, embroidered flowers is one I’ve been wanting to wear since it was given to me, again as a thank you from work, in Thailand in 2000. I thought it made me look fat, because it was big, which is plainly ridiculous.  It looks like a big shirt.  Finally wearing it, I feel comfortable and like myself.  The culottes will have to go, but the blouse will stay.

Hoarding – Against What?

11.08.11

The blue butterfly skirt in Thursday’s photo has a broken zip, yet I’ve been keeping it on a hanger, not even in the bag of clothes for mending.  The tights are another laddered pair, kept in the drawer regardless.  Only the blue tunic is a keeper, as the colour and fabric are so lovely – even though the fit doesn’t do what I’d hoped it would when I bought it in a charity shop in Hackney six years ago, being a bit, well, pajama-ish.

The blue pumps, a gift from mum, are oceanic and lovely, and will keep until they, like all my pumps, wear right out.

Mum’s Gifts

Friday I use another of my mum’s gifts – to wear bright, luminous, welcoming colours when the mood is dark.  From the comments that come by all day, at work and in public, the bright orange and pink silks are cheering other people up.  Keep both, although it’s taken about five years to find a way to wear this skirt…

12.08.11

Moving On

13.08.11

Poor old Saturday’s things.  Cheerful and whimsical as both the skirt and patterned top are, neither feel like me.  They both belong to a concentrated phase, where I was coming out of a shell, and they were the closest thing to bright and pretty I could manage.  That was five odd years ago, and the hippyish, unconventionally shaped clothes, while they fit, don’t fit.  The delicate white silk vest, however (the white version of a black one I wore two weeks ago) is perfect.

Sunday’s red, silk shirt is, like the turquoise tunic, comfortable, striking and a deeply tactile fabric, so for the Keep box.  The black velvet trousers are very high quality, but just too short on my ankles, so, rather than hoard them to wear with over-knee boots, I’ll relinquish them. The shoes are knackered: half of the platform of one foot crumbled away, but kept anyway, till now.

14.08.11

Hoarding is an odd thing.  If I’m offered clothes, I say yes to them, and always have.  I have always, until recently, struggled to give them up.  One of my favourite bits of art is Michael Landy’s ‘Break Down’. He inventoried everything he had on an Excel spreadsheet, then destroyed it on a conveyor belt in the old C&As on Oxford Street, open to the public.  I value this as it hits on my greatest fear: to lose all my things, all the objects which hold together the fact that I am really here.  I grew up with my glorious mum, who raised us to feel safe and part of a community although her income was below the poverty line.  You can never have too may clothes, because you will never know when you need them. In 2003, we lost everything she’d held together over those long and difficult years, to domestic violence.  We were homeless as well as poor, and I was careful to pack each and every thing of my own, because it was all evidence to say that once, I had been home. I, and all my loved little things, had been safe.  When I got back to Bristol university, to my temporary place there in a first, debt-doomed, attempt to escape poverty and associated lack of opportunity, I sold my flute, and bought the green, silk chiffon dress I wore on Monday.

It was a symbol of hope; the dress said: there will be happy times, when it is right to wear me.

Now I am sure . Here I am: in the green dress, in love, under another unlikely Paris waterfall, at a stage where the lack of confidence brought by poverty – to become what I want, to live for something that feels like me although that means an ongoing struggle with money, rather than living for a happiness measured by what it cost, and who approved it  – is slowly getting chipped away.  That dress has its place in my life.

 

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

 

 

 

 

Week Ten: When in Paris…

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The Wolf is whisking me off to Paris on holiday, it’s the first time anything like this has happened to me and I’m very excited.  It’s also my first holiday in seven years.  He booked it a couple of weeks ago.  I packed on Friday, before travelling to Guildford for the weekend, knowing I’d have to be organised if I wanted to feel like me, and feel good in Paris, in my one-week’s wardrobe.  It was different from packing a capsule wardrobe, as I had to make sure I didn’t wear anything twice, in keeping with the rules of the ‘Why So Many Clothes’ experiment.  It was made more difficult by our approaching week ten – days sixty-four to seventy of not wearing the same clothes I’d worn since beginning this project.  When we arrive, I will unpack everything into different outfits, on hangers, but then decide what to wear each morning depending on mood and what mysterious adventures might spring upon us that day.

Going Green

01.08.11

Flushed, giddy and a bit smelly after a night on Eurolines, that photo’s actually the last minutes of wear of Monday’s outfit.  I’ve just seen the view from our apartment for the week – do you see the Eiffel Tower quite near to my right ear?  The apartment is perfect, rented out by a family every August, otherwise their beautiful, spacious home, with views that we see so far encompass from Pere Lachaise to Notre Dame to Sacre Couer, up on the hill.  I tried to wear something comfy but, well, different on the journey, which started in Guildford, then took us to Waterloo, home, Victoria, and Paris.  Hence, the green ensemble.  I love the green skirt and am definitely keeping it, partly because it grows and shrinks with me, but also because it’s something I bought for 10p at a jumble sale then never found the guts to wear while I was in my mid-twenties, fearing ridicule.  Being able to wear it confirms that I’m more sure of myself as I near thirty. More importantly, I really like it: it’s been thoughtfully made, it feels like something another human has put into the world because they thought it would add something, rather than be trendily temporary and have empty value.

The green vest is something I bought new on the high street, however, shortly before trying to give up. An old housemate won an argument about the number of wearable items in vintage and charity shops making ridiculous the need for newly, mass-manufactured clothes.  I couldn’t see past his logic and grumpily accepted defeat and stopped buying new things that weren’t made locally or on a small scale, or second hand clothes.  If I could afford couture, his argument would allow me to buy that too, although he’d probably be annoyed at that! The vest has lasted well, and is another item I bought when much smaller that still fits, so will change with me.

Planting Seeds

Tuesday’s official picture is in the park Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy walk through in the film Before Sunset.  This was one of my choices for what to do in Paris, and I’d love to recommend it.  If you plan to descend at the end for the Canal St Martin / La Bastille, you’ll follow their route and can try sliding down the banisters at the end.  It’s called the Parc de Plantiere.  Here I am, standing on a beautiful bridge across the Paris streets, planted with flowers and plants, with walkers, joggers, babies, couples… standing with my bottom above Paris in a sheer dress with short, black satin underlining with no tights or leggings! I feel like I’m making peace in my body’s relationship with Endometriosis.  Interestingly, the usual quirky, clashing things I would normally put with a more chic dress aren’t here today – I’m confident that I’ll be present enough without them.  Or perhaps it’s just the effect of Paris.

02.08.11

All Good Things Come to a Trend

03.08.11

Loved the cream, see-through crochet dress from the moment it emerged in a Bristol charity shop. It smashed through any embarrassment I had about being out of fashion.  I got a lot of double takes at my chest from women, trying to work out if I was wearing anything underneath, but that trompe d’oeil, is, I suppose, part of what I’m doing by wearing the dress with a skin-tone, knee-length lining; it sounds daft, but sometimes the relationship between how I feel and subsequently put together an outfit and its consequence – being outside with other people and creating an interaction with them – don’t always come together and I get surprised by feeling exposed in the clothes I’ve consciously chosen to wear.

There was a bit of me that worried it might be too hippie for Pere Lachaise (next to our apartment) and an evening by the Seine but those were the most unfounded quibbles I could have had: all of Paris seemed to be relaxing in deckchairs on the banks of the Seine, and in the cemetery, it was hard to know which decade we were in.  On the coach to Paris, I read that see-through crochet will be coming into fashion this Autumn/Winter. I hate it when this happens, because that means my things I’ve had for years will, by Spring, look like last season’s trend.

Not Moulin Rouge

Argh! Accidentally ended up in Pigalle and felt like we were in a Heironymous Bosch painting.  This was the first wear of the dress.  I almost wore it ages ago, to meet the Wolf’s entire maternal family for the first time (including his parents and brother), to a party where the invite stated ‘red carpet’ as dress code. I thought this meant fancy dress, and was going to reference Moulin Rouge with a red feather headdress, black lace shrug, the dress and heels, until one friend explained it just meant formal, in a playful way, and another said, ‘Sara, give them a chance.’

04.08.11

Now that I’ve seen the Moulin Rouge  – the famous venue flanked by a burger joint and theme pub, and surrounded by strip bars and sex shops, paraded by tourists with their young families – I’d never dress to positively reference it and its neighbourhood’s commodification of sexuality and bodies.  Walking down the central pavement in Pigalle, I had to put on a blazer to cover myself up as I wanted to disappear.

Climbing the hill to Abbesses, I relaxed and shed the disguise, enjoying my clothes again.  The neck and hem of the dress are modest enough, and it felt slinky yet thick – a dress to feel beautiful and at ease in, to be me at my happiest in, which is what I am this holiday.  I adore the shawl, embroidered and appliquéd with long, soft tassles – but remembered it’s actually my mum’s, and on loan, and I should have given it back about two years ago.

Ah, the shoes.  Their first wear after five years in the wardrobe.  Pretty, very pretty, but I got pins and needles in my toes just sitting eating dinner at Le Relais Gascon, the favourite restaurant in Paris of friends of the Wolf (very tasty and I couldn’t decide between tagliatelle and garlic potatoes as my side so the restaurant gave me both, so friendly, and yum). Sad, but, Not Keep.

Proper Tourist Day

Ah, the Missoni top.  I’ve always wanted a Missoni top and couldn’t believe my luck when I saw one hanging in a new charity shop in West Cork, a few months ago.  I was just buying some more china for my china collection, a shepherd and shepherdess clock and vase, as well as a ‘teach yourself’ French book to revive the brain cells that used to study French and a tea towel with lady birds on.

‘How much is that stripy jumper?’ I asked.

‘Two Euro,’ said your man.

The Jigsaw slip dress underneath is a hand-me-down from mum (like the pink shirt I had on during scorchio midday sun) and it makes a good base. Both keepers.  Shoes? Very, very, very wet.

05.08.11       05.08.11(2)

When in Paris…

Hmm, that thing about not buying in the high street and not affording couture? Parisian design house Sonia Rykiel’s knitwear range for H&M was too much for me to resist.  My friend ZH woke me up on a Saturday offering to buy me the dress before they all sold out, if I paid her back.  I rang my mum to talk through my qualms and she said she’d gift me it so I wouldn’t get guilty.  My principles are clearly loose and fast, if existent at all.

But this dress is something else.  Who would think of putting those colours together? The criss-cross over the collarbone?

06.08.11

The photo’s in the Parc du Chaumont, the most surreal, beautiful place.  We were recommended it as a place Parisians go, and it’s great, one of my favourite places – if you want to walk towering cliffs, temples, suspension bridges, caves and under waterfalls, in a disused quarry in a capital city, while local people walk their dogs, picnic, play with their children, walk hand in hand.

Pure Elegance

The bridesmaid skirt I’m wearing Sunday is another treasure. It had tags on valuing it at $180, and I got it for a few pounds in an Upper Street charity shop.  The two white tops are pretty, but the blouse is too frou-frou on me, and the vest too tight on my chest.  While I like them both, Not Keep.

07.08.11(1)

Wolf and I rose early(ish) to get to the Bastille Market. We found the famous spatchcock lady, who marinates her chickens for three days before cooking and selling them fresh on the market.  She was extraordinarily friendly – nearly everyone in Paris has been open and kind, it’s been a very peaceful time, but she was an exception.  We took our chicken to the Seine and sat on the Paris Plage, tearing tasty strips off.  I made a ‘table’ on my satin skirt from the carrier bag, les mouchoirs (love that word) and the chicken packet. It worked.  Keep.

In the evening, I changed into another of my favourite things.  It’s a bit of a shock, and a relief, that on day seventy of this experiment – I’ve been wearing everything in the wardrobe only once as promised, and made it to seventy days and counting – I still have some beautiful things to wear.  The denim-coloured, silk top with pretty wrist buttons, unstained skirt and I went with the Wolf for our last restaurant supper in Paris, down the road from the much-loved apartment.

Paris, je t’aime.  But have I worn all my sane and beautiful clothes? While packing for Paris, I started to get the fear about what will be in my wardrobe when I return back to London.

07.08.11(2)

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 One: Clothes Are for Hiding

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Clothes are for Hiding Until You’re Ready to Come Out

I come off the phone to my mum on Monday morning panicking about what to wear on this first day.  I’m thinking about jeans.  I tell myself I’ll do this so I’m effectively banned from that one pair, at least, for however long this experiment takes.  I have the feeling I rely on jeans, wearing them instead of discovering all the strange things in the back of my cupboard and the drawer that sticks.  Jeans are safe, comfortable, unintrusive, unchallengable.  Maybe I’m a bit scared of what I’m going to find in my wardrobe.  I’m working from home, so don’t have to make a decision till the evening, when I’m going to an Akron Family gig.  I’ll probably wear jeans, in case I feel too uncool in my own clothes.

At some point during the day, I realise that if I wear a pair of jeans now, I might end up in sequinned gowns in the daytime at the end of this.  I have a feeling I have more pretty evening dresses than jeans.

I also finally have a lightbulb moment.  Why am I wearing jeans? This is pretty much a date. My man – who for his privacy’s sake I’ll call the Wolf – is taking me to the gig, and we’re going with a few friends. Why not wear something I feel romantic and fun in?

I close my eyes and imagine myself feeling that way.  I’m wearing the red, jersey dress I was wearing when the Wolf and I got together.  This is the same dress I was wearing at a party a year or so before, when two men, two best friends, had an open competition over me.  It’s definitely a flattering dress.  Moreover, it has pockets and heavy fabric so I do feel quite at ease in it – it’s not going to blow away and if I’m feeling self conscious, I can put my hands in my pockets and hide a little bit.  Sexy dress, still for hiding.  I feel apprehensive about the tulip skirt looking dated, which I put down to the dress being one of the few things I’ve bought new from the high street in the past four years (from French Connection).  If it’s new, particularly if it’s high street, it dates, and that might invite criticism.

I wear it with a stripy cropped cardi, originally from Mango but actually from a charity shop on Upper Street, white tights and black t-bar heels (£2 from a charity shop on Commercial Street).  I like the shoes, because they fell out of the sky to go perfectly with the dress I wore to meet the Wolf’s family for the first time.  The outfit as a whole Wolf recognises from when we went to see Alice in Wonderland, when I also had a red headband and a red, heart-shaped bag, to channel Alice.

30.05.11 with coat           3005.11 no coat

On the way to the gig, I feel self-conscious.  But by the third song, the band have given us such clear instructions on how to move, teaching us a really daft dance, and are so brilliantly good, that I’m totally relaxed and happy to be wearing something a little bit celebratory.  Of all things, my teddy bear cape gets a lot of compliments from the other chaps (Glasgow charity shop).  Back home, I look at my dress and I love it.  It will never date, because it is me and will come with me.  It might wear out. Everything goes in the ‘Keep’ box.

On Tuesday, I’m still hiding, just for different reasons.  I’m going for dinner at my friend from school’s house, and want to wear something comfortable with room for my tummy and for sitting around talking, without being really casual.    I’m in head-to-toe Mum Style: my mum’s old skirt, and a peasant blouse she bought two versions of and gave me my choice of colour.  I wanted to wear pretty sandals but it was too cold and I got embarrassed about my feet, so I wore chocolate brown biker boots.  This felt better, more defiant, as I was feeling too soft and booby; now, I felt piratical.  Oddly, while I felt like this outfit was very me, I felt very embarrassed by it as a result.  But I’m going to keep it.

31.05.11

Clothes Make Me Happier

Oversleeping is not a good start to the day, so I put on my Chinese Spiderman t-shirt, which makes me feel happy and relaxed.  I wore it with dark blue flared jeans, and pink pumps.   At lunchtime, I got attacked by a cherry tomato, although the little fruit would probably claim self defence as I was sticking a fork in it.  As well as my eye, it got my spidey t shirt, but all is well.  It made me realise how much affection I can develop towards clothes.  Unfortunately, when I told the Wolf, he pointed out that he actually hadn’t given me this t-shirt: it was one of his favourites. It’s his again now, so in the ‘Not Keep’ box by default.  I can start stealing it again when I finish my experiment.  The Levi’s jeans have a strange waistband, which is cut so that my tummy hangs over it, but I’m keeping them to wear with longer tops as I like the fit on the legs and they are handy.

 

01.06.11

Clothes Are for Hiding Until You Disappear

Mister Green Stripey – he dead.  I bought the green stripy tee for 50 cents in an Irish village charity shop, because I thought it would be good to own a nice, inoffensive, neat casual top.  The green t-shirt just isn’t me to the point that it makes me feel like I’m disappearing.  I wore it today because I decided to go for a swim suddenly, and had to make the switch to leaving-the-house in two minutes to get to the session in time.  It’s in the ‘Not Keep’ bag.  The shoes were inconsequential black pumps.

02.06.11

Clothes Come on Adventures

The linen skirt I wore with the green tee is crushed, the black dye is fading, but I love it.  It’s been on adventures with me from Bristol to Bangkok and Beirut.  It will come on more: it is perfect for casual modesty in super hot weather.  If I need it for work again, I’ll dye it black.  Oddly, for something I feel so attached to, the skirt started life as my uniform in the shop I worked in part-time in my early 20s.

As the course of my last evening with the green stripey tee goes on, I feel guilty, and a bit mean.  Then I imagine it being used in a more positive way, and I feel excited for it.  I look at its neat green stripes and imagine that it’s happy.  I know that they’re not sentient beings, but perhaps I have so many clothes because it has felt ungrateful not to keep them.

Clothes are Beautiful

On Friday, I am going from work to see a 94-year-old relative, then out to the pub.  I haven’t seen my relative for a few weeks, so I want to wear something nice, as she usually notices what I’m wearing.  I wear one of my most beautiful things: a cherry pink skirt which my friend ZH talked me into buying ten years ago, in the sales, in Jigsaw.  I felt then that it was too old for me, but she said it would be an investment.  It took me two years to find the first occasion to wear it: her wedding.  After that, I don’t remember wearing it until recently, in the past few months, when I’ve had the confidence to wear something so lovely on a more regular basis.  I’ve been reassured by Jil Sander’s t-shirts and skirts.  I fell in love with the feel of the silk, the play of light from the fabric, the thought behind the curved seam across the front.  I particularly love the colour.

03.06.11

In the office, I was chuffed to find pretty much everyone wearing pink.  However, the confused responses to my noting this detail made me think that maybe the skirt isn’t pink, but red.  I don’t always see colours the same way as others.  I have a yellow bag that I only remember is green when I leave it on my bedding and realise it blends.  I was also asked if I’ve lost weight.

I had braved bare feet, with bronze, flat sandals.  My elderly relative took a close look at them when I arrived, and instructed me to go and see the chiropodist who was visiting the home that day.  She was also worried I was cold and half naked, so I showed her the shawl I had in my handbag. A bright pink one with red and purple flowers.  ‘That’s very good taste, is that your mum’s?’, she asked. When I left, she laughed, with a twinkle: ‘I know, you’re off to see a boy!’  She did love the skirt, wondering if it was taffeta, or crepe-de-chine, and concluding it was pure silk.

The white, cotton vest I wore on Saturday is another piece of clothing I enjoy looking at: the scalloped edges and embroidery.  It makes me feel like I’m in the country in an old Italian movie.  There are times when I don’t like it, when it makes me feel frumpy.  I haven’t worn it since last Summer, when I rarely did, although the previous year, it was one of my favourite tops.  It was 2 Euro in an Irish charity shop.  I love my shorts, for a similar reason to the vest: I feel like I’m in the country in Italy when I wear them.  All the weight I’ve put on in the last year or so makes me want to hide my legs in leggings, but as this was the last time I could wear these trusty shorts – bought in DP in Bristol Airport when I was nineteen, and worn with leggings for a number of projects because they’re easy to move around in – I thought I’d wear them with navy blue tights, to give them a bit more of a place in my outfit.

04.06.11

I adore the Liberty’s scarf, which I’ve inherited, because it’s beautiful. It suited market wandering in the sunshine.  After Friday and Saturday, scarves are now in on the experiment, as I have a whole drawer of them, I rarely wear most of them, and I’m eager to know why I’m hoarding them all.  Once I’ve worn them all once, I can wear them again if it’s cold (an exception – all other clothes are once only till the end).

Clothes Make Me Happier 2

On Sunday, it’s raining and I’m mooching about the house.  I decide to mooch dressed like a cosy Bond girl, a mock-60s-Stella ad girl in something soft and comfortable, rather than in my usual tracksuit.  My black and white Zara dress (charity shop) had leapt out of the cupboard the day before.  I’d never worn it, as I thought it looked too small, and was pleased to find it fitted.  I felt good. All of Friday to Sunday’s clothes are in the Keep box.

05.06.11

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons