'Value of Clothes' Category

(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 Ten: When in Paris…

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

Going Green

01.08.11

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

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

Planting Seeds

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

02.08.11

All Good Things Come to a Trend

03.08.11

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

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

Not Moulin Rouge

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

04.08.11

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

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

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

Proper Tourist Day

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

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

‘Two Euro,’ said your man.

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

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When in Paris…

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

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

06.08.11

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

Pure Elegance

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

07.08.11(1)

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

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

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

07.08.11(2)

By Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

Week 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 Eight of Why So Many Clothes? Hiding Becomes Revealing

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Leggings and Tights

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

18.07.11

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

Foumphiness

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

19.07.11

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

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

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

20.07.11

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

21.07.11

How to Make Friends and Lose Lovers

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

How Many Shoes to Take on a First Date?

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

Trend 2: Liberty

22.07.11

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

Argghhhh!

23.07.11

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

Another Attempt at Something Abandoned

24.07.11

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

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

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

Clothes With a Life of Their Own

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

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

 

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

 

by Sara Nesbitt Gibbons

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

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Fairytales With Endings We Change

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

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

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

11.07.11

Clothes With Little Lives

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

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

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

I wonder if I should worry about this?

Adult Clothes

12.07.11

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

Duvet Days

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

14.07.11

Weathering a Storm

15.07.11

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

16.07.11

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

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

The Dream is Over

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

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

17.07.11

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

 

by Sara Nesbitt Gibbons