'Clothes As Artefacts' Category

Wedding Table Decorations, Favours and Bring and Share Decorations for the (Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget

Months before my wedding, I was playing with my kids in a local woodland when my phone rang.  It was one of my best friends, and bridesmaid.  Noone ever uses phones any more, do they? And I knew she was in her family home country.  I picked up, concerned.  What happened next reminded me of the time my mum, then in the early days of cancer, rang me at work – Mum had an urgent question about a black catsuit (this black catsuit, to match her own…).  My lovely friend had found hundreds upon hundred of doilies, hand crocheted by her great grandmother, along with ribbons and collars of lacework.  

Sharing love-driven, crafted, storied objects was very much something my husband and I wanted to do as part of our wedding.  We marry into a family, into a community, into a history of human love.  My friend and I had a few thoughts about what to make her great grandmother’s doilies into.  One idea was bunting.  Another was to push the bulbs of fairy lights through their centres, so they looked like flowers.  In the end, we decided to dye them the colours of the rainbow, and use them to decorate the large, round tables and picnic tables that we were having our wedding breakfast on, in the gardens.  

We used Dylon polyester dye, seven huge buckets (which we each needed for our gardens afterwards), a bottle of rose and a Sunday afternoon, to make this glorious rainbow…

In the year and a bit between getting engaged and getting married, my family and several kind friends saved jars.  We stored ours in the garden, in crates, which meant that the weather did a lot of the work of removing labels for us.  These went onto tables, with candles, as well as reusable straws, pencils and colouring sheets for younger children, or wood and paper photo props for older children and teens.  The different shapes and qualities of glass caught the sunlight beautifully.  

We put the differently-coloured bouquets of fabric wedding flowers in glass jars when back from the ceremony (here’s how I made the fabric flowers) and made additional pom pom bouquets (here’s a super easy pom pom tutorial).

Favours also served as name cards.  Small children had envelopes with their names on, with stickers and card inside.  Older children and teens had second-hand card games, again in envelopes with their names on.  Friends whose beliefs reject gambling had delicious jam.  For everyone else, we chose Lottery Scratchcards, as they are potentially fun, recyclable and contribute to charity.  It would have been amazing if someone had won their train fare.  The only regret I have is that I bought some brown envelopes with gold, glittery insides, to signify pots of gold (at the end of a rainbow).  I overlooked that this would leave the envelopes unrecyclable.  Moreover, we have since learned about the damage that glitter does to the environment, and are moving away from using conventional glitter and are planning to make our own from salt or sugar (like this) or buy biodegradable for special projects, like this Etsy product I am planning on trying soon (Etsy biodegradable glitter). Any glitter we still have will be for keep-forever crafts, like Christmas ornaments.  We are also a lot more aware about creating the demand for plastic, and perhaps would rethink buying plastic reusable straws, and go for something like stainless steel ones. I would love to hear more ideas for sustainable / zero waste alternatives to what we did, in the comments.

Instead of a guest book, we asked guests to bring photos, pictures, poems, lyrics or anything that showed ‘family’ and ‘love’ to them, and add it to our bunting (twine, with little wooden pegs).  We also printed off photos of us with everyone at the wedding, and pegged this up to get the bunting started.  It was gorgeous, and deeply personal, as well as being a great conversation maker, and we will keep the beautiful things our loved ones shared on it, forever.

(Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget: Handmade Fabric Bouquets, Origami Flowers, and Flower Baskets

Making our wedding flowers was a long and rewarding part of preparing for a highly personal, low-cost and (relatively) environmentally-friendly wedding.  I’m posting about this first, as if you’re planning to make your own flowers, it’s good to start early, so you can pick up and put down this project as time, leading up to your wedding, goes by.  I had never made flowers before, and with some help from friends and strangers, was able to make my own bouquet, and my seven (!) bridesmaids’.

Here is my bouquet — made from the petticoat of my daughters’ outgrown, 2-year-old-size summer dress.

Why would I have needed to make flowers?

Wedding flowers cost hundreds of pounds, cheap cut flowers are often not friendly to the environment.  What’s an uncrafty bride on a budget to do?

Make flowers.  

What sort of flowers? You may well have a theme or colours for your wedding.  For years, I held onto a dream of having a rainbow of bridesmaids; however, after looking at a few Pinterest images, I decided it didn’t work visually.  I had seen that when a group of bridesmaids stood in a line wearing dresses in every colour of the rainbow, they looked like a rainbow, but I imagined that as soon as they reconfigured or mingled or moved – which I very much wanted my bridesmaids to do – they’d look like guests, in block colours.  

The rainbow was still an important motif for a number of reasons, but another one had become important: my bridesmaids as backing singers.  These were the women who had been there at all the important times, who brought the glamour of true friendship and love.  They have always been with me, backing me. I love backing singers.

I also wanted my loved ones to be comfortable.  So, I asked my bridesmaids to wear their little black dresses (or catsuits / trouser suits / skirts and tops), like backing singers, and to each choose a colour to accessorise with.  Then I made bouquets in their rainbow colours.  

Photo by the brilliant Tracy Morter (www.tracymorter.com ). Three brilliant women. Three out of seven rainbow flowers…

As established in my ‘Why So Many Clothes?’ diary (http://saranesbitt.co.uk/2011/06/12/why-why-so-many-clothes/), during which I wore everything in my enormous wardrobe, I have a tendency towards holding onto clothes.  This meant that when it came to finding meaningful materials to make my flowers, I had plenty.  

I used fabric from our daughters’ outgrown summer dresses.  Around the necks, there were the usual toddler stains etc., which meant they were not good hand-me-downs.  However, much of the fabric was gorgeous and colourful and, importantly, connected to our union.  If you’re making your own bouquets from old clothes, first date clothes might be another interesting fabric, or anything that is unwearable but has some kind of history.

A friend added me to the Facebook group, A Make Do and Mend Life, early on in wedding preparations.  This helped a lot: a community of people who are generous with their skills and advice and gently passionate about conservation.  I was advised to get myself a glue gun and given some ideas on how to make the fabric into flowers.

The method I went with in the end was a combination of several, and well suited to my rudimentary craft skills.  

  1. Cut a strip of fabric, about 2-3 inches wide (4-5 cm), and longer than 12 inches (30cm).  
  2. Thread a needle with a length of cotton, doubling it up and tying several knots in the end so that the knot hooks onto the fabric when you make the first stitch (much like you will have learned at Primary School).
  3. Tack along one long edge of the fabric strip (to tack means to do a very basic stitch, in and out. I know this from a friend who customises all her clothes. She is amazing).
  4. When you get to the end, pull.  The fabric will gather along the edge with the stitches in.  Pinch this fabric between your fingers as it gathers, so it forms the base of a bloom.
  5. Poke a piece of florist wire inside the gathered fabric.  
  6. Apply hot glue to it from your hot glue gun.
  7. Squeeze the fabric into the hot glue to stick the wire to the flower and cover up any dodgy stitching (being careful not to touch any hot glue so you don’t burn yourself).
  8. When you have made enough flowers for a bunch, wrap all the flowers together with florist tape.  This tape doesn’t appear sticky until you apply a mild stretch to it and then it activates – great fun.

 

Total Cost: approx £26

Fabric – reused (free)

Hot glue gun with glue sticks – approx £20

Florist tape – approx £3 per roll

Florist wire – appox £3 for 100 ‘stems’

Time: on and off for months.  Once you get the hang of it, you can make three or four at a time while catching up with a TV show, listening to a bit of music, or even having a drink and chat.

Floppier fabrics were less useful; starchy cottons were best.  I filled in smaller bouquets with woolly pom poms (more on those in another post).  This is my picture of the bouquets, their stems wrapped with tissue just in case the English summer got really hot and the wax on the florist tape bled (almost wishful thinking…)

After the ceremony, the flowers went back to the venue and into glass jars on the tables.


A Little Rustic Stitching…

 

Flower Girl Baskets

As well as the bouquets, we decorated two baskets found in a local charity shop with the fabric flowers.  Two lovely friends and I spent a fun evening trial and erroring making origami flowers, finally finding a video we could follow on YouTube.

We filled the flower baskets with the origami flowers and they were scattered to make a colourful path down the aisle.  It was a perfect way of bringing our wedding into the Town Hall.  

Total Cost: £6

Origami paper – friends decluttering (free)

Baskets – £6 from charity shops

 

Time: a very enjoyable evening, plus a few extra origami flower making sessions while watching First Dates.  

With huge thanks to Natalie S for additional photos.

The Origami Flowers, made from this YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jm_4hFPFAOU

 

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 14: 100 days of…

Solitude, Comedy, Mystery, Generosity, Creases and Comfort 

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Solitude

Who would have thought clothes got so close to the bone?

30.08.11

Tuesday’s Chinese, red waistcoat.  Years ago, I had picked up someone very close, with severe mental health problems, from hospital.  They had self-discharged but were visibly not well enough to be on their own.  As we walked around the local area, me hoping they’d decide to go back and have their injuries seen to, they told me stories about our past which made no sense.  They saw me as someone else; everything I saw was wrong to them.  Somehow, we wandered into Oxfam – something we would have done when younger.  I absent-mindedly picked up this waistcoat, still trying to hold onto a sense of being there in a situation where I felt lost and disorientated, trying to keep things normal so a casual mention of seeking care might seem undramatic (one of many, wildly different failed approaches).  An American tourist approached me in the queue, stroked the satin, quilted waistcoat, its feathery edging, and said, ‘Wow, I’ve been here for ages and I didn’t see this.  What a good eye you have.’  It was surreal.

As something to wear? It doesn’t button up now (I used to run when stressed and it fitted well when I bought it) but is a beautiful thing.  It does still make other people pleased to look at it. Keep.

The black, faded, v-neck tee underneath has its own, warmer history.  Knickerbox did a loose pair of black, drawstring trousers with coordinating tight tee when we were all about 15.  We were all obsessed with finding a pair of the trousers as the shops ran out really quickly. I found a pair, one evening after school in Ken High Street station.  They didn’t work on my already very curvy figure.  I’ve been roughly this height and build since about 14.  However, the tee really seemed to work.  I bought and loved it.

Faded, somehow without holes, I wore it to meet my friend ZH in Harrods, where she was working, about six years ago.  I was in denial about how sad I was in a relationship at the time.  ZH looked at me and told me to stand in front of the mirror.  I was wearing my faded tee, unflattering, torn jeans, oversized men’s trainers in yellow and green suede and my cycling jacket.  ‘Did you cycle today?’ she asked.  I hadn’t.  I’d tried to dress up.  She told me how much she’d always admired my clothes and make up, since we met in the clothes shop we worked in together.  She asked what had happened, what was happening. She sent me down to the Mac counter to get some positive attention and an eyebrow pencil, then said to come back and we’d go for lunch and really talk.  I can’t bring myself to give the tee up.  Keep.

Comedy 

31.08.11

One of the highlights of Wednesday was the compliment, ‘I love your ruff.’  This is my first wear of the feather gilet: I’ve been trying to make it blend into an outfit and I think the answer is it will always sit like a ruff, out and proud.  The blue, stretch shirt is nicely kitsch, a bit 90s newsreader, but not quite me.  The ruff was a hand-me-down from mum; the shirt an Irish charity shop bargain (20 cents!).  The silver, cowl necked vest was a recent gift from mum.  It’s exactly the style I’d have worn with bootcut black trousers at 17; not quite me right now.  Not Keep the shirt and vest.

Lovely shoes – the gunmetal, vintage Kurt Geiger heels.  Ripped at the toe and heel, but not shot.

Mystery

01.09.11

Thursday, a lovely, round-necked black top.  Where did it come from? On top of the wardrobe.  How did it get there? No idea.  No recollection, unusually, of acquiring it.  Nice, though.  Grey blazer – sleeves are too tight.  Really nice, but too small.  Not Keep.  If I ever need to be smart, I have a few other options.

Generosity 

02.09.11

Friday’s baby pink top with lace back has very high sentimental value, vs. difficulty to wear.  It was a gift from a performer in a very glitzy community theatre company I was working with.  I learnt a lot about make up and being glam on that project, especially useful  tips for getting the most out of basic make up tools.  I should probably Not Keep as I wear so rarely. The navy blue tee underneath is virtually see-through and holey too, it’s probably time to say goodbye to that one.

Creases 

03.09.11-1

The crinkled, pussy-bow grey blouse is not supposed to be crinkled.  It takes so long for me, possibly the world’s worst ironer, to get the kinks and wrinkles out of the poet sleeves and fine fabric that I don’t iron it.  It deserves someone who will. Not Keep.

The scarf was bought by a relative as a gift, for me, in Morocco.  They wore it around their head all holiday in the heat, to absord the sun and sweat.  Good thing I love them.

Black, suede, peep-toe heels are surprisingly comfy, those fabled comfy heels.  Keep.

03.09.11-2

Comfort 

04.09.11

Sunday’s jumper and collared vest are not a set but the exact same knit and colour.  I love it as a combo, although I wouldn’t like the vest on its own.  Together they feel sexy and comfy.

100 Days alert! Ruff day was day one hundred of my Why So Many Clothes? experiment.  Still going… see you next week.

 

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

Week 13 of Why So Many Clothes: Because You Shall Go to the Ball, if You Can Walk!

Let Me In At Your Window

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22.08.11

Found a day dress! Thought I’d run out, but here was a dress with nought wrong but a broken strap, easily fixed with a brooch.  The problem is, it is easily mistaken for a nightie.  When I asked the Wolf if he could take a photo for the day he said, in all innocence, ‘No problem. Just tell me when you’re dressed.’  I feel like Cathy in Wuthering Heights; I should be waving my branching arms about Kate Bush style and smashing windows.  Keep, but dye a vibrant, non-nightie, non-spectral colour.

The shoes are great fun, with cotton ribbon ties and oversized bows, wedged black soles, and a monochrome pattern – but I can’t walk in them without them beating and whipping me.  Not Keep, reluctantly.

Fairy Godmothers

23.08.11

Midnight blue satin, wraparound blouse with a strong collar.  Exactly how girl me thought adult me would be: dramatic, sexy, well-made, different but not ostentatiously kooky.  A hand-me-down from my mum which I’ve never seen her wear… mysterious…

The black lace trim top underneath was from a boutique in Paris, about ten years ago.  I’d never have picked it out; the lady running the shop – deep leather tan, brightly dyed hair, groomed and all in slinky black – pulled it out with a knowing look.  My boyfriend at the time blushed when I tried it on, but when I said I’d put it back, thinking it didn’t work, he said very quietly and firmly: buy it.

The Cacherel mac is one of the most treasured things in the wardrobe.  It was from the sales in a time of crisis, bought by my mum.  What better than a rainbow striped mac to weather a storm?

I think the print is by the same designer who collaborated with Ozzy Clarke.  My mum – this will come as a surprise – used to keep decades-old clothes in an outbuilding attached to our West London flat.  In amongst them was an Ozzy Clarke dress, long and slim, dark green with his signature neckline, which sadly had no hope of ever fitting me.

Ah, the shoes.  Marc Jacobs, as we’re dropping designer names this week.  My inspirational friend and mentor DF had a house sale when she moved from London to South America.  I saw these shoes, next to a selection of old workboots, red and glorious. There was love and lust in my eyes.  The Wolf saw me looking at them and helped me try them on.  They were cheap at £30 but I couldn’t justify buying them, being stony broke as ever.  Later in the evening, DF came into the room, graceful, elegant and mystical.

‘Whoever’s foot fits the shoe…’ she began.

The eyes of the women in the room lit on the shoes, their round red toes nested in her hands like glass slippers on a cushion.

‘They fit me!’ I shouted.  ‘I’m an eight! They fit me! I already tried them!’

Rather indecorous. Luckily, my shoe godmother laughed and said I could keep them if I could walk in them for an hour.  I could. I even learnt some martial arts.

On Tuesday, however, wearing them to meet my wonderful sister, I couldn’t walk in them.  I didn’t get as far as our meeting place.  Perhaps it’s my current bodily condition; perhaps I lacked the magic of foot-numbing red wine.  Keep, mind. They are beauties.  And can transform me even from the shelf.

Witchy Boots

Wednesday’s black boots – black, suedette, ankle-length and kitten heel – aren’t uncomfortable.  I don’t like them.

The green swing jacket is outdated, certainly, but comfortable.  After a lot of dithering, Not Keep too. I have too many coats.

24.08.11

The patterned halterneck, from H&M for my 23rd birthday, is an old favourite and still going strong.  The combination of colours is unusual and attractive, and the choker tie neck and dropped, floaty back are flattering.  The sea-green halterneck underneath is useful for layering, though not something I’d wear on its own.  Keep, for layering.  The royal blue cardigan is much-loved, ancient work uniform, so worn that the elbow has nearly come through.  Keep until it does.

Pumpkins

The three pinks vest under Thursday’s black, button front top helped me transform from the shrunken, fat person I felt like in my first year at Uni into someone who had a right to be at the ball.  At a Greek restaurant which closed its shutters and kept the cheesy music going till breakfast time, on the first wear of the pink and pumpkin layered vest, I found myself with one man hanging onto my hand from his attempt to chat me up while another tried from my left.  I extricated myself from both with my inner candle lit.

The battered, black leather jacket was once a swish, slim-line one which made me, in my blonder days at eighteen, look like a Bond girl.  I was so convinced that this transported me from local girl to a woman ready to shriek, ‘James!’ that I mentioned it to the man writing the screenplays at the time, who lived on my street.  He laughed.  I was confused.  In retrospect, I’m not embarrassed. Why shouldn’t a young woman see herself as good enough?

25.08.11

How quickly the transition to a frumpy-feeling 19 year old at Uni happened.

Finding the Other One

In the laundry room of a volunteer community I lived in with fifteen others, I saw the skirt to Thursday’s black and embroidered top.  The owner of the skirt became one of my best girlfriends ever.  Perhaps it was a sign of what a great match we’d be.  The top’s knackered, now.  Not Keep, and keep the memories.

Princess

26.08.11

I love my horsey red jacket (Friday).  The buttons have horses on them and the label says ‘Dressage by Paul Costelloe’.  My mum found it for me in a charity shop.  Whenever I put it on, I get the song I Want Money in my head.  I feel like I’m holding a whip.  The crinkly blouse is old uniform from the lunching ladies clothes shop I used to work in.  The boots, which I’d previously gone off, are really comfy for a heel, and have a sort of pony feel to them.  Keep all.

You Turn Me To Jeelie

27.08.11 - 1

Hmm. I love the pink, wedge jelly heels (jeelies) I’m wearing on Saturday but walking in them is really beyond me.  I’ve worn them out a few times, maybe once upon a time, and am likely to turn into a knee-quivering jelly if I try again. Not Keep.

Rich Fabrics Over Rags

27.08.11 - 2     28.08.11

Saturday and Sunday’s tops are like two alternate endings: the happy and the disappointing.  Saturday is the happy ending: chiffon vest, silk top and velvet jacket. All Keep.  The chiffon was a few quid in the sales; the silk top, a hand-me-down from mum; the velvet jacket, £2 in the sales.  I’ve hardly worn the velvet and1 the chiffon but now I choose to be swathed in soft textures.  This isn’t an expensive decision as the clothes are already in my wardrobe.  I’m going to feel good.

Sunday’s (Not Keep) tops are old, panicky, contingency tops.  Things I’ve kept in case the world falls apart and I run out of clothes.  I choose not to feel like that anymore.

 

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

 

 

 

 

 

Week 12 of Why So Many Clothes: Bottomless Bliss

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A Happy Accident

15.08.11      15.08.11-2

Monday’s first two attempts at the bottom half don’t fit.  Well, both of the black skirts (hand-me-downs, the cord from GM, the embroidered from mum) fit, but the height of waist they need to be worn at on my expanded hourglass figure mean they’re indecently short.  They would only be good for standing very, very still in front of a camera, and I wouldn’t like to trick you.  With less than ten minutes to get to an appointment up the road, let alone leave the house, I end up a lot more glam than the local GP surgery were probably expecting.  Fancy tights, black, halterneck, satin dress (mum hand-me-down) and black, crochet-style Monsoon jumper (Upper St charity shop).  The heels don’t leave the house, the pink pumps by the front door do.

I feel big and bodacious, a lot better than when I was thinner; a time when I bought this jumper and thought it was tight and made my arms look fat.  I genuinely wasn’t expecting the jumper to fit, and it’s actually comfortable and relatively roomy. Back then, I was three stone lighter than I am now, and a size 10 – 12. What was I seeing, and how? I remember enjoying my fitness while running or stretching, but sometimes, something else must have been going on.

Uh Oh

16.08.11-1    16.08.11-2   16.08.11-3

Today starts with a repeat performance.  The corseted playsuit I start with is too boned.  This isn’t a problem: I am happy getting bigger, happier in my body than I’ve ever been.  A swooshier alternative does fine, and it seems a shame to hide it over leggings and a long-sleeved, heart-necked t-shirt, but it’s chilly today. I love the detailing on the back of this playsuit (Irish charity shop).  It has slight camel toe issues, but I’m, er, prepared to ride this out.  The shirt (mum hand-me-down) is nice but perhaps too easy.  It’s too tempting to use it to hide and cover up (Weeks 1&2), so it must go!

 

Jumper To It

Love the sequinned velvet dress on Wednesday.  I wasn’t sure about the Miss Sixty jumper when Mum gave it to me, but today, in jumper and dress, I feel like the large, glam, bad-to-the-bone but wise best friend in a 90s rom com.  I enjoy this.  At work during the day, I had the pale pink, cross over blouse, at it was too hot for the jumper.  This was another hider, so today’s only Not Keep.

17.08.11-1   17.08.11-2

Old Habits Die Hard

Expected Thursday’s pleated skirt to look and feel hideous.  It was a leftover.  Four years ago, a charity shop (one off) closed and gave its stock to a friend for a not-for-profit festival.  She gave me the remainders from the swap shop / make do and mend sessions.  Of course, as described last week, I said yes to all of it.  Just in case. Some bits have made their way into costumes or props for various things; this skirt stayed in my wardrobe.  Although I like it, it’s not really me.  Yet, I want to keep it.  I have a strong feeling it’s about to work for me, become part of my winter look, which I dream is going to be based on Twin Peaks.  I’ll give it a season.

18.08.11

The top I’ve had since I was 18.  It’s from Ad Hoc, on Ken High Street and King’s Road, which I thought the best shop ever.  In 2000, waistbands still sat on the waist, and this top isn’t meant as a crop top.  Trousers and skirts really came up that high.  The long and short is that it has too much sentimental value to give up, being the only thing I ever afforded from Ad Hoc. The top is lightweight and scrunches easily into a drawer, and is still pretty wearable.

Bottomed Out

On day 89 of this project, I have run out of dresses or bottoms to wear that I haven’t worn already, bar three evening dresses.

Eighty nine days without repeating a dress, skirt, pair of shorts or trousers, jumpsuit, catsuit or playsuit.  I thought I might have a lot of clothes.  If I’m to carry on wearing all my clothes, to find out every possibility of Why So Many Clothes, some of the bottoms are going to have to be worn again so we can get through all the tops, and the remaining shoes (Week 4), coats and scarves.  And those three evening dresses.

Friday’s pink, silk satin vest (bought new, FCUK) is a favourite.  I think of it as a granddad vest, because of its shape and loose fit.  It started an obsession with tops of this shape and fit – see past weeks for more evidence! It came into my wardrobe as I believed that it would make a jumper dress more modest for an important job interview.  The sales assistant’s insistence that I shouldn’t wear anything, as having nothing but a push up bra under the crochet-front dress would make it more likely for me to get the job, should have alerted me that it would have been a good idea to try on the ‘modest’ vest she recommended.  I had to tuck the back of the vest deeply into my tights, in the toilet before the interview, to make sure I didn’t spend it with my cleavage staring bewildered into my peripheral vision.  This vest has since been on many more adventures, through thin times and thicker.

The kimono top I’m wearing over the vest is getting a bit old and stiff with washing, but it also has high sentimental value and takes so little space in the drawer that it makes no sense to Not Keep it.  Also, it elicited a number of compliments, and we know they tend to win me over.  Fickle.

19.08.11

Taratatata

When is an appropriate time to wear a cut out, fringed, see-through, er, item? (gift from Mum).

Saturday seemed like the moment, with a similarly-made blouse (Irish charity shop). A friend took me to the matinee of Anna Christie, starring a very good Jude Law, at the theatre.  It frustrates me that most people don’t dress up for theatre or dance anymore.  So much thought has gone into the architecture of the building in the first place, then the show’s design, set, costumes, the pictures made on the stage, and what do the audience do? Fill the larger proportion of the place with drab jeans and unthought-out colours, shapeless, hiding-away although you’re visible (and audible, while we’re there), overtly casual-for-the-theatre/ballet/opera this-is-just-a-normal-day-for-me clothes.  I know it’s silly, and of course my tongue is in my cheek, but dressing up is a compliment to the event.

And breathe. I think the dress is making me rant like Eddy from Ab Fab.

20.08.11

Supervest!

It’s a vest with a cape attached! But only on one arm.  It’s part fab, part sensible.  I bought it on a visit back to my friends and work in Bangkok, in 2002, imagining sweeping about in my clothes one day.

21.08.11

Life in my so many clothes can be great, being in the mould they let you shape yourself into for the day.

 

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 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

Week Three: My Clothes Are a Museum of My Life

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Why so many clothes? Because there are so many different ways of being

Monday’s might look like a plain outfit, but these are some of my favourite clothes.  I really enjoy my curvy thighs and bum in these jeans.  I like the Bardot-esque, 50 Cents in an Irish charity shop simplicity of the top.  The cardi reminds me of my lovely friend CS’s folksy, crafty style  – although she’d add a few homemade corsages and maybe a nice headscarf.  I can see that if they weren’t quite the shapes they are, and the level of comfort, these clothes could make an outfit for disappearing in. But these clothes all help me feel good and so be present. I’m keeping them all.

13.06.11.

Because clothes are artefacts

I’m apprehensive about wearing the butterfly-print skirt.  I used to wear it a lot, but haven’t for about two years, and now, it reminds me of a weird date, an old job, and a time I’d rather not step back into.  The memory of buying it is much happier.  Brighton, three or four years ago, the Oxfam right by where the bus stopped distracted me from getting to my brill friend BP’s party, and I bought the skirt, virtually new, from French Connection, and a really good Benneton dress, slinky with a sort of purple and white cloud print and black velvet trim. I was wearing that dress a couple of years ago, when my partner-in-crime EH and I met to talk about a poetry theatre project and watch a play, and loved the dress because of that memory.  I did a very rare thing and gave that dress away, to my friend NN, a few months ago, because she needed to borrow a dress and when I saw her in it I felt that she looked so beautiful and elegant she had to keep it.  As for the butterfly skirt, I’m very active today, and the broken button I’ve ‘fixed’ with a safety pin causes a number of wardrobe malfunctions at work, eventually tearing the fabric.  I don’t enjoy wearing it anymore, but it’s a nice skirt and it would be a shame to waste it, so if anyone wants me to post it to them to fix or recycle, please drop me a line.

14.06.11

I feel ungrateful for saying this, but I don’t quite feel quite right in the black net skirt I wear on Wednesday.  It’s lovely, but I think I look like a goth fairy scrubbed clean.  I want to put it in the Not Keep box, but it was a present from my mum.  I’ve been looking at it, slung over a chair in limbo, and feeling like I want to keep it just to remember that my mum gave it to me.  I can’t give it to a charity shop or sell it because that feels somehow mean, out of the spirit of the skirt’s purpose, so I’m going to give it to a friend who my mum knows and loves.  The navy blue coat makes me feel amazing – also a gift from my brilliant mum, who (very kindly and generously) insists on buying me coats and posting them to me, even though I have quite a number already…

15.06.11

I’m trying to wear all of the tights and leggings I’ve been hoarding, and Thursday’s the day for the yellow and purple flowery tights.  I’ve got through loads of tights by discovering that many of the ones in my drawer are holey and ripped.  One pair only had one leg.  I’m feeling a bit self conscious about these tights, but they have a good memory, of going to the circus with a cocktail dress and yellow wellies on the Wolf and I’s first anniversary celebration.  I was also wearing them with this red coat and my glasses when I stepped out of the house one morning, and a man shouted out of his car: ‘Hey lady! You look like Ugly Betty!’  I was a bit upset, as he was the first person to speak to me that day.  He got really confused, shouting, ‘In a good way! You look like Ugly Betty in a good way!’ Ah well.  It beats the guy who tried to chat me up by pretending to mug me at a cash machine.

16.06.11

Hoarding clothes is like being able to time travel, secretly.  The tight, polka got skirt I’m wearing on Friday takes me, in the present, to the Wolf’s cousin’s band’s gig, and also to BP’s dotty spotty party three years ago, and to the rustle of the church jumble sale where I bought it for 10p.

17.06.11

Because I want to be seen

For the Wolf’s birthday celebrations, we’re going to see Bob Dylan in Finsbury Park.  This is what happens in my head, as I put on the skirt.  Bob Dylan says, ‘Nice skirt, it’s very colourful, what’s your name?’

‘Sara, I was named after your song.’

‘Well, Sara, would you like me to sing it for you?’

‘Thanks Bob Dylan. Actually, it’s my boyfriend’s birthday.  Please could you sing ‘Forever Young’?’

‘Forever Young? How about, Happy Birthday?’

Then all of the festival goers join Bob Dylan in singing happy birthday to the Wolf.

I’m really wearing it because I asked him, of all my clothes, which he really liked, and he thought of that skirt.  It was a hand-me-down from my friend ZH, along with a matching shawl.  The turquoise, beaded top under my black jumper was a hand-me-down from the amazing GM, and my 94-year-old  relative gave me her coat.  I love wearing all these beautiful women’s clothes and bringing them with me.  I’ve got black wellies on my feet, and had the skirt tucked into my waistband to protect it from the mud.

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On Sunday, I wear the hat in tribute to Bob Dylan.  It was the best gig I’ve ever been to.  The hat and sunglasses are effectively holding my head together and I don’t feel good and think I don’t look good.  I’m wearing Calvin Klein vest and skirt, a nineties tunic jumper and Camper shoes, all charity shop finds.  I bought the shoes for about £2 on a rainy day in Glasgow, when the ones I was wearing got soaked and my feet were cold.  I think I don’t really like them, and my toe escapes.  I’m thinking the shoes and skirt are both going in Not Keep.

Then I see myself through my boyfriend’s eyes, through the camera, and I look nothing like my bad view of myself.  In the weekend’s photos, he shows me the possibility of beauty in his camera’s eye, that maybe I have so many clothes because I like them and maybe I even like myself.  One thing he shows me, clearly, is that he really sees me.

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By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons