'Clothes Show Change' 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: DIY Wedding Hair

Photo by (the utterly fabulous) Tracy Morter www.tracymorter.com  

 

One of the obvious areas to save money for the wedding was on hair and makeup.  I decided to do my own, which was hugely daunting as I have two daily hairstyles: down, or loose bun (or ‘flower’, as my youngest calls it).  I also have two fancy hairstyles: I can straighten my hair, or I can rag curl it.  

For the wedding, rag curls seemed most bridal and most unlike the everyday.  

I have a set of Remington Hair Envy Heated Rag Rollers, which plug in in their case and are very easy to use.  If you wanted to use zero electricity and chemicals, you could easily do this style using the more traditional method of tearing rags and applying them to damp hair.  

Rag rolling creates lovely ringlets in even the most stubborn, fine, straight hair, which you can separate with fingers to make into loose curls.  

I watched a few YouTube tutorials to help me perfect my method and found this blog helpful http://offbeatbride.com/rag-curls/

My hair is fine but plentiful, straight on top with a slight wave / kink. I am of mixed white British and Irish heritage.  When I began practising, I had a long bob, which was slightly longer at the front, much like Mandy Moore in this Pinterest picture (yeah, honest…)

The bob responded pretty easily to rag curls, as in this first attempt, the summer before (planning is everything…).  

However, as I couldn’t imagine getting married without my old, long hair, I had grown it quite long by the wedding.  The back just didn’t work down by this stage – it was too haphazard and not curly enough, and was best roughly pinned up with the nicely-curled front down and loose, a la Lizzie Bennett in 1990s Pride and Prejudice.

Lizzie Bennet

I put my hair into rollers first thing on Friday, before we left London to head out to Kent to our Saturday wedding’s venue.  To keep the rolls from falling out and / or bashing me in the forehead, I wrapped them in this Liberty silk scarf.  My about-to-be Mother in Law tidied up the back into the scarf for me when we got there, which I really appreciated, as the back kept unrolling.  

Day Before Hair

 

On the wedding day, I got extremely nervous about taking out the rolls, so one of my lovely bridesmaids came into the bathroom with me as moral support.  Once unrolled, it was fine and dandy. I swept back my hair into the shape I wanted, and my lovely friend helped me pin it up.  Honestly, if we could put this together in a tiny mirror in a dormitory bathroom with a puddle of wasps on the floor, you can DIY your hair, gorgeous ones!  Just before we left, my wonderful sister fixed in my rainbow mermaid comb, made for me by the massively talented Irish designer Alice Halliday from sea pottery and shells (http://www.alicehalliday.com/ ).

 

Alice Halliday comb – this is bespoke, but others are available on Alice’s Etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AliceHalliday 

I avoided using hair spray as no matter what I did during practice runs, my very fine hair ended up heavy and crispy with it.  I had put a curl activator through it on Friday morning.  The key is to roll up your hair when it’s damp, and to trust it to dry out overnight.  The curls really stick for hours, and fall out elegantly enough. Here they are at nearly midnight…

Back to the day of the wedding… After the ceremony, back at the reception venue, I needed to fix my hair and completely lost the ability.  We were still waiting for the second mini-coach to bring guests, so I had a few minutes to fix it.  One of my oldest friends happened to bump into me as I came out of the bathroom having given up.  She sat me down in the breakfast room and the two of us caught up as she gave me a new hairstyle in five minutes flat – something she had last done in 2002 when we were students.  Complete with rainbow mermaid comb, it was magical.

Photos by Tracy Morter www.tracymorter.com

It was important to me to get my hair right for the wedding, and I am very happy with how it turned out.  My hair and I have history.  I grew up with bum length hair, and chopped it all off not long after my mum died, while I was caring for my newborn, first child.  I wrote about that here http://saranesbitt.co.uk/2013/03/14/cutting-my-own-hair-short-an-act-of-grief-identity-or-silliness/

 

Cutting My Own Hair Short: An Act of Grief, Identity or Silliness?

Clothes have been inconsistent for me – they hid, played, cheered up, celebrated, hoped, disintegrated, were beautiful or silly. My hair has – had – been a constant.

Hairstory

I was always Sara, with the really long hair and the teeth (ah, the teeth. They’re another story). I grew up with very long hair, cared for by my lovely mum. Mum brushed and plaited it while I complained at the hardness of the low, wooden stool with its white paint peeling off in layers, its onion-smooth seat worn away by my school-uniformed bottom. Mum would part my hair first with a knitting needle, the curiously nice scrape against the scalp. As we were very poor, she trimmed it after her patient, meticulous brushing and aligning. She spent hours, repeatedly, treating it and combing it with a nit comb. When I was at Secondary School, she would, when she could, save enough for me to have it trimmed by ‘The Monster’, the hairdresser in Notting Hill, near our home, whose green hair and piercings had made me cry when I was a little girl. When I was about sixteen, he made me stand up for the duration of my haircut, to punish me for having such long hair – all the way down to my bum – and tried to talk me into cutting it. I wouldn’t: my mum loved it, and it was integral to how I saw myself.

He wasn’t the last hairdresser to try that. I hairdresser-hopped for years, waiting for one who wouldn’t challenge my self-image. Is that over-serious? My tongue is in my cheek, but it was annoying, and more than annoying, too. Grown-ups I was paying to maintain my choices about how I looked to the world, how I felt about myself, were echoing the calls at the all-girls school I went to. ‘Sara. Cut your hair.’ No!

I did go through a phase of colouring my hair. When I left England at eighteen, I had waist-length, blonde-highlighted hair. This made me somewhat exotic in Thailand. The trouble was, as my dark, brunette hair grew through, and my highlights bleached blonder in the sun, I had pretty extreme roots. After three months, having decided I was going to stay for six months, I got highlights done in a Thai salon in the North. The foils were loose, so that the very roots I wanted to change were untouched by dye. I pointed this out to the hairdresser, and he simply painted highlight solution, or bleach, onto my roots, willy nilly. I came out looking like a tortoiseshell cat: splodges of red and gold on my dark roots, the underneath of my highlights no longer dark blonde but bright red, the highlights, yellow.

In the Ko Samet sun, it all got brighter, brassier and more pronounced. My six months turned into eighteen, during which I visited England to see my mum. Soon after arriving back in London, I was trying to reorient myself, taking the tube as I had done to school. In the curved plastic of the windows, I saw myself reflected, underlaid by the London Underground signs on the platforms. In the convex top of a door, I noticed how patchwork my hair colour had become at the roots, and on getting off the train, went straight to the posh hairdressers on Holland Park Avenue. I’d never had my hair done there. I asked them to give me one hair colour – dark brown, like my natural colour, from what I remembered of it. They explained they’d have to go really dark to knock out the spectrum of tones.

I looked forward to surprising my mum that evening. When she got home, she didn’t notice. I flicked and flashed my stole of shiny, dark brown hair, asked what clothes and make up suited my new hair colour, and was met with a quizzical eyebrow. Eventually, I told my mum I’d dyed my hair back brown.

‘Argh,’ she said. ‘Sorry, Sara. I didn’t notice because you just look like you as I picture you. You always had long, brown hair.’

It turned a rich, bright purple-red within a matter of weeks, a bit like Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s hair. Not what I wanted: I went back and dyed it dark again. This time the colourist put so much dye in it it deadened all colour and thatched the hair, made it stiff. Around this time, I developed severe acne – on my forehead it appeared as a stucco wall, bobbly and embedded, the same colour as my skin; on my chin and throat, up to my ears, boils, large, red and pink boils. I had a cheese fest, and gained weight. I lost my tan. The hairs on my legs grew thicker and coarser. It was Endometriosis, but I didn’t know that yet.

When I went back to Bangkok, friends said: ‘What have you done, Sara?’

I bought serum for my hair. This made it tamer but not quite straight and smooth as it had been pre-dye-dye-dye. When I had it blown out straight, I looked like me in my first Thai six months – the weight was improving, my skin was better. I spoke to a couple of my Thai girlfriends and they recommended I buy a straightening treatment.

My friend YB, her brother’s girlfriend and I were in a supermarket and found the treatment: a chemical that was for use by professional hairdressers only. Both YB and BG – both Thai with long, straight, black hair – had used it on their hair, and had great results. It was the run-up to a hot date in Bangkok: perfect time for straight hair.

Near midnight, I washed my hair, following the instructions. NOT FOR DYED HAIR, it said, so I thought: I’ll use extra of the deep conditioner. I rubbed the chemical through my hair, let it take effect, then washed it all out, conditioned for fifteen minutes, and was so tired by the end of the process that I went to bed with damp hair. In the morning, when I got up for work, my hair was hot, still holding water. My hair was so hot it was heating that water. I started to blow dry it, beginning at the front so if I ran out of time, I could just put the back in a bun.

As it dried, it looked as if someone had taken a match to my hair. The front layers were normal for about three inches, then they split and swizzled into strands that ended in nothing, in ghosts of where another several inches of hair had been.

I scrunched the rest into an up-do, hoping it would get better as it dried naturally. At work, on our lunch break, one of the girls looked at my head and said:

‘Sara! What happened?’

My head looked like a burning thatch: as well as drying it out and scorching my hair, the chemical straightener had blown all the red in it to the surface. It was frizzier than ever, and cracklingly stiff.

A hairdresser cut it to just below my shoulders: I can’t remember who or where, I blocked out the experience. Shorter, it was still stiff, red, dry – and shorter. I’d never had nor wished for short hair. I didn’t look like me at all.

For the next year or so, I used leave-in conditioner every day, intensive masks twice a week and had my hair trimmed once a month. It stopped frizzing and started to curl lightly, which hadn’t happened since I was a little girl.

This was around the time we lost our home. I remember in my sleep believing my hair had grown back down to my waist and that I’d come back. I woke up with hair that wasn’t mine, without a home.

Over the next few years, with more regular trims and leave-in conditioner, my hair began to grow again. In my time in Lebanon and Mauritius, it had a sudden spurt and after I got back to the UK, I was able to wear it at the base of my shoulder blades.

On my 25th birthday in October 2006, I had found something like hope in the volunteer community I lived in in East London, a masters degree and brill new job, and I went, boldly, to a new hairdresser, Diego, at Vibes on Brick Lane.

‘I’m 25, Diego, and I’m in a style rut. I’ve had the same hair since forever and I want a change.’

‘What do you want?’ he asked. He was cute.

‘Something sexy and mature; otherwise – really, do whatever you want. Cut it all off if you think that would work.’

Diego combed my hair again, looking: at my hair, my face, in my eyes. He sat down on a little chrome and black leather stool.

‘Ok, what I’m gonna do is,’ he said, ‘We’re gonna grow it all out and then trim it into one chic, blunt length.’

Diego got me, and this process of growing my hair back out, and as long as we could, felt like a return to me.

 

The Now

 

This week, I cut my hair into a bob. I had been out in Monday’s blizzard. My beautiful baby daughter had insisted we go out, pointing and complaining until I finally got her into her warm clothes and her pram, where she giggled and looked about, happily. For the millionth time since she was born, I scruffed my long, thick hair up into something between a bun, a knot and a ponytail, with the nearest hairband. Once again, I caught sight of someone I didn’t recognise in a dark window.

I had been thinking about cutting my hair since Saturday. My mum died last Summer, when C was four months old, after five years’ surviving with breast and then bowel cancer, and a short time dying. Much of the time, I am happy. Mum and I were close and I understand what death means, that her spirit has not gone. But her body has. Some days, that loss, of touch, of care, is strongly present, and Saturday was one. The thought occurred to cut off my hair. I laughed at myself: for having a Betty Bleu moment; I was sad for myself at having the thought.

But think about it later, I noted. And over the next two days, it became a positive. The scratty woman who could never wear her hair down, who felt disappointed at her appearance, the short hairs haloing the face after the change in hormones contrasting too weirdly with the long, long hair scruffed up and tumbling out of a scrunchie: that wasn’t me. So on Monday, after we got back from the walk through the blizzard, while my daughter – who had just shown that some things need to be entered into, even wild winds and snow – slept, I googled ‘How to cut your own angled bob square face wavy hair’, ignored all the advice, and got the hair scissors out of the drawer.

Standing in front of the bedroom mirror, I tucked up my hair till I thought, ‘Yeah, lady, you a fox.’ (Kind of. Not literally.) Then I parted my long hair into its natural centre parting – roughly, without a knitting needle, for I don’t have that kind of patience – and began with the left side, scissors in my right hand. I cut from the front backwards, in a straight line, with the theory that this would make the front slightly longer than the back. It worked perfectly. Then I took the right side in my right hand, and realised I couldn’t cut from the front backwards as I’m right-handed. So I swapped and cut from the back to the front. This created a layered, bouncy effect, in contrast to the angles of the other side. My daughter woke up. So I shook out my hair, tossed it about, and decided the style was ‘asymmetric mussy long bob’.

Three days later, and a few tidies up at the back thanks to the ever-lovely (and patient) Wolf, sometimes I look in the mirror and see Monica Bellucci as Lisa in L’Appartement, and sometimes I think of the scene in It’s a Wonderful Life when James Stewart’s character is told his wife, without him, would be an UNMARRIED LIBRARIAN and he’s all, The Horror! The Horror! Either way, I love my new hair. I feel like me again, although I look so different.

It is a marker of loss. I wouldn’t have cut my hair like this while my mum was alive, it would have hurt her too much. If you read about my wardrobe, this will sound less like co-dependency and more in keeping with the realisation that she tended to know what would suit me and make me feel wonderful and gorgeous and special. It also mirrors the physical loss: the hair is gone forever, and is suddenly, irrevocably untouchable. Not there to play with. Cutting my hair short has been a giant, gentle act of grief.

And it is a celebration of change. I am a mummy: this is my mummy hair. I can wear it loose and it doesn’t catch on slings or nappy bags; its less grab-able. It swooshes again. I see me in sunlit windows as my daughter and I take a walk. I know my mum would be happy to see this in her daughter.

 

 

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

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 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

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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

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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.

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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 Nine of Why So Many Clothes: Becoming

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Skin Slipping Off

If you’re gonna do it – do it properly, I seem to be thinking this morning, going for the full seventies with flared, navy cord dungarees (Topshop, Glasgow charity shop), Granddad top (new, FCUK) and oxblood, handmade Mary Janes.  Usually, I like my dungees, thinking they suit me and look cute while comfy, but today, I feel underdressed, scruffy and weak.  Not feeling too well, and getting giddy, it’s like the outfit isn’t supporting me.  In the mirror in the toilets at the office, the outfit’s exposing me – weak and vulnerable.  It might be the side panels, the skin tones, or just the undaringness of it.  Should have worn spiky heels as I’d imagined before getting dressed, although the giddiness would certainly have got the better of me!

25.07.11

And Slipping On

Was going to wear a blouse over the black vest but catching a glimpse of the outfit in the mirror, I saw, after aspiring to recreate them since I was 16, the wardrobes in the film L’Appartement.  I don’t have Monica Belluci’s figure – she does – but this is the shape I’ve always wanted from an outfit and have finally found it, by accident.  This wardrobe will support me, as it did Romane Bohringer’s otherwise unstable character (who dressed like her friend, Belluci).  She looked hot in a short, bikerish jacket, and here’s my Sara Nesbitt Gibbons version: take the basic, L’Appartement shape and add a soft, piratey jacket or a butterfly bolero for day (both bought new, the vest and skirt Mum-hand-me-downs).  Or, if you’re Belluci, a silk scarf, and dancing.

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The outfit is showing me, but also making a shape of my body that isn’t its outline, isn’t me, but feels like me looking good.  It’s also playing, of course, and the clothes are beautiful in themselves, and also comfortable.  Great for eating squeaky cheese with NN.

Born to Be a Dancer?

This is the birth of the pink dress, its first day of life outside of my wardrobe.  I bought it from Oxfam a couple of years ago, without trying it on, because it’s exactly the same design as the black one I wore for my 21st (and 29th) birthdays.  I had found the colour a bit cheap, in electric light, so never wore it.  In daylight, it’s gorgeous – deep, glowy, commanding pink.  The dress moves well – the skirt of it does.  It’s just far too small on my bosom, the seams stopping before they do.  Even under the top the line of my bust was made a bit odd, wrongly curved and lined.  Much as I think it’s a lovely dress, someone else will wear it better.

27.07.11

Another first was the pair of shoes – soft, lilac suede with scalloped sides, a peep-toe and stiletto heel.  They felt gorgeous and look gorgeous in my bag, where they’ve spent most of the day.  Keep, because I can’t afford to replace such lovely things, and have weddings coming soon.

First Steps

The blue top was from a shop called Central Park in Bond Street Station, where there was a £10 rail.  I was seventeen, and spent money from my first payslip, from my first employee job, on the top.  Somehow, it’s withstood urges to get rid of it over the years (too boring, too tight, etc.) and I’m pleased it’s still here.  It was an early experience of financial independence, and has proved a useful thing over the years.  I like the little slits in the sleeves.

She Got Legs

After last week’s realisation, it may look like the leggings are a cop out, but it really wasn’t that hot, and also, I was dressing up a little bit like the ballet.  Fairy Twinkle Toes that I am (not).

Baring most of the legs on Thursday, albeit in leggings, as the tunic is bottom-skimming, and the leggings, slinky.  Not something I would have braved before, as it’s not just skin, it’s shape, too, some days, a bit, though never too completely.  Trying to learn not to be embarrassed.

28.07.11

Talking of which, although I love the tunic – it feels very me – the second button came undone briefly in the afternoon, at work, where I’d been rubbing at a sausage and mash stain – that really was too much exposure.  Keep the tunic, and keep an eye on the fastenings.

Buckled Up

It was also the first day of life for the black PVC, strappy wedges.  They were surprisingly comfortable and springboarded me around all day.

Old Skins for New Me

Both the little black dress and chiffon, flower blouse on Friday are things bought or kept by a younger me for when I grew up.  The black dress went to my 21st birthday party, the week I became a proper adult, and fell down the stairs of my bedsit, unable to say anything other than ‘Whalefish’, giggling a lot.  Adult, indeed.

The blouse was uniform in the clothes shop I worked in at that time, and I chose it as I thought it would be useful when I got older.  It was, today – the first time I’ve really started to like it. Must be getting on.  I was told, by a seamstress, that I looked very glam, and, she added, why shouldn’t I, wear what you want! It’s silk, folds small as a hanky, and no reason not to Keep.

29.07.11

Added the green leather jacket to look less smart for going for pizza.  I answered an ad for this jacket, and cycled to Bath to fetch it, on a romantic first sort-of-date (only one pair of shoes for that man! Lucky him.  But, oh, it was to pick up clothes… is there a pattern here?) The coat was, in my eyes, pure Sixties.  It used to squeak in the University library, as I moved around the shelves, eliciting dirty looks and shushes.  Keepity keep.

Cast Away…

Ouchy shoes.  Pointy with a slight heel.  Even after eight years, they’re too tight.  Not Keep.

…Those Fears

30.07.11

And here is my skin.

Love this dress, especially now I can wear it without leggings or tights. Yes, you can.

Saturday in Guildford, in a garden, loving the Vitamin D and the silk.  (Dress originally from Oasis, bought on Petticoat Lane Market, worn for my elderly relative’s 90th birthday, and first Valentine’s day with the Wolf, at Clapton gig, and other, much less occasional occasions).

Endless Possibilities

Concludes this week, on the question of Why So Many Clothes? The haphazard things I’m wearing on Sunday somehow come together to make me feel playful, free, relaxed and well.  Each a nice item in their own right, even the silver cardi I was unsure about when I bought it, but like now.

Why did I buy it? It was in a charity shop, so I knew I’d never see it again, and thought, maybe, it might become a skin to slip into one day, depending on what happened to me.  It might pay to be more careful about distinguishing between a contingency and a possibility, when it comes to choices for the wardrobe, and its so very many clothes.

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by Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

Please note, lovely readers: posts go up a week after the wearing, for personal reasons, although this is likely to change in the very near future.

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