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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

clothing, like part of your skin



I don't remember where I saw or heard it recently, someone wrote nostalgically about how clothes used to be worn like part of your skin: worn in.

In junior and senior high school in the late '60s and early '70s, I sewed many of my own clothes. Then stores like TJMaxx and Marshall's appeared - maybe that was when sweat shops proliferated - and many of us Susie homemakers stopped sewing. Why bother sewing to save money, when you're probably not going to spend less than those bargains? I kept sewing dresses and doll clothes for Lesley, because I enjoyed it. Along with bargain clothes stores came fuller closets and disposable clothes. It didn't seem to matter so much if you bought something, wore it one season, and gave it to Goodwill.

Things had really changed from earlier in the century. When we lived in a big 1920s Arts & Crafts house before moving to the farm, you could see from the tiny bedroom closets how few garments people had when the house was built. They didn't even have rods for hangers. There were just hooks around the three short closet walls. Maybe for two or three dresses? Or two pairs of pants and a couple of shirts? If you had one good outfit, for Sundays, weddings and funerals, that had to stay pretty nice. If you had one or two everyday outfits, those got worn and transformed into a second skin. It isn't easy to find a bargain and the quality of garment that feels good next to your skin, even before it's worn in. I can sometimes find them at thrift or consignment stores. Sometimes I shop new for something well made and designed if I know I'll wear it a while and it's a staple, like good black pants for work. And then I look for sales. But wanting to be less of a consumer I'm just not shopping for new clothes much, trying to recycle from those second hand stores, and I've slimmed my closet way down, though I sure couldn't fit all my clothes on a few hooks. Also, I am wearing clothes longer and allowing them to get a little softer and fuzzier than I used to. I guess that resembles my first skin too, ha.

my sister Nancy picked up this little vintage linen top for a few dollars at an antique store

Apparently resale stores are surging because of the economic downturn (good for those who want to sell their own and for those who want to spend less on clothes), so last week NPR reported on Encore Resale where you can find a "bargain" for $2000 instead of $3500 (for example), where they sell "Chanel, Hermés, Prada, Gucci, Armani, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Oscar de La Renta and Judith Leiber as well as many other coveted labels"? I loved hearing one woman say she's not shopping there because she has to save money, but because, well you never know what might happen. I wonder how many people who listened to that report could relate to it.



Lesley, who lives in NYC, told me about Bag, Borrow or Steal, where you can "borrow" - i.e., rent - a designer handbag (and watches, sunglasses, and jewelry too). Are you kidding me? The bargain here is that instead of laying down $1,695 for this leather Prada Cervo Antik Tote, you can "borrow" it for a mere $77/week or $225/month! Now that's some premier, supple skin. Is there another planet people are living on, and no one told me? -




x o x o x o x o x
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I'm joining Anet, posting an image of ornaments now till Christmas. Lesley crafted these four 5 1/2" felt doves with vintage buttons. I hung them on Peter's painting "Gurtie" from high school (in the manner of Peter Max).



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Click on image below to see the details.


48 comments:

VioletSky said...

I find it appalling when the magazines or newspaper style sections show off their "bargain finds" for the party circuit and even the accessories are over $500.

Even if I had that lifestyle, I could not justify the expense simply on clothes.

Ruth said...

Sanna, I took out a subscription to Real Simple when it premiered because of how appealing the simple, clean designs were. But when their articles posted $500 sweaters and $1300 jackets I realized their idea of "simple" and mine didn't match and I lost interest.

a said...

ahhh you know, shopping running around with mom, helping her get her shopping done all of that jazz...ya know ruth most of my wardrobe is second hand:) love the resale shops still, since I was a kid really:) love the doves! xo

Ruth said...

Amy, second hand stores present far more adventure than boring retail stores (except for maybe Anthropologie - but geez, way too expensive). Have fun with mom.

VioletSky said...

I loved the idea of that magazine, but not the thought of spending $6.00 for a book of simple, yet expensive ideas that are often just a little imagination but more common sense.

Susan said...

Ruth, we are sooo alike in many ways. I too made a lot of my clothes in middle and high school. And I sewed all the time when my kids were little. I rarely do anymore because I do shop at consignment shops and resale shops for the grandkids and myself. It amazes me what you can find there. I decided recently to haul out my machines (I have a serger, too) and make the girls simple jumpers. It cost over $25 to buy the fabric, pattern and thread! I made 45 napkins for my son and daughter-in-law for Christmas and that was almost $40.

The feel of clothing is the most important thing to me and my daughter. Whenever we shop we touch first and say, "Oh, feel this!" There's nothing more miserable to me than to be in uncomfortable clothes.

JoAnn's-D-Eyes said...

Heeh Ruth,
I really Love the "bag to borrow idea", that would safe me a lot of room. Not the same with clothing( yes my second skin too) , shoes and boots, once I buy/bought them I cannot trow them away, I could NEVER wear borrowed clothes nor shoes/boots but a bag I would!

Hug from JoAnn

Loring Wirbel said...

VioletSky, what is true for Real Simple is also true for Utne Reader, Adbusters, etc. It seems that the more folks want to give us tips on changing the world, the more they want to charge us for it!

Ruth said...

Sanna and Loring, I don't know about Utne and Adbusters, but I just received an email promotion from Real Simple for purchasing gift subscriptions 2 for 1: that's 2 for $23.88, 12 issues apiece. "These are the days of miracles and wonders . . ." and last ditch efforts to keep us consuming.

Ruth said...

Susan, I remember being surprised when Peter refused to wear jeans when he was in elementary school and wore only sweatsuits, because jeans were so uncomfortable to him.

You know, I have piles and piles of fabric just sitting and waiting for projects, stuff I bought for quilting or whatever over the years. I'd be happy to send you (or anyone) some for the next napkin project! Seriously. I am just now about to receive something from another blog friend that she doesn't use. I've seen Sharon, and Anet and others recycle treasures to each other. It's inspiring!

Ruth said...

JoAnn, really? You've kept all your shoes and bags? Wow. You could start your own bag, borrow or steal business!

Susan said...

What a great idea, Ruth! I'll email you with the particulars.

Babs (Beetle) said...

I remember making all my own clothes, even trousers and coats! I did it because I just loved to be different and always added my own touch if I used a pattern.

I very rarely buy new clothes now. I get really good quality clothes at a fraction of the cost when new. There are still people who can afford to get rid of perfectly good, quality clothing!

Ruth said...

Susan, I have many colors and patterns, so let's talk.

Ruth said...

Babs, wow. You have to be quite a seamstress to make coats and trousers. My sister Ginnie has done that too.

You are so right about the great clothes other people buy and pass on to us. I am thankful to them for spending more than I am willing to. :)

carl h. sr. said...

In marriage and family living class(home ec.)I was the only fella and I sure loved the cooking and sampling. For the sewing I had such a limited number of projects to suit me.I made a pretty decent long and very colorful 'Hippy Skirt' for my girlfriend. But for the other piece the only thing we could come up with was a hooded monk(suit?)
I wear my clothes until they are about to fall off. I wear them in stages;new for dinners or church,that turns into mostly anywhere I go clothes,yet still too nice to grub around in,then working around the yard or shed,and last of all,rags to wipe around the shed. Whew,long spiel huh! P.S. I had to model the skirt too!

VioletSky said...

So, 24 issues for $23.88 and it costs $5.50 USD or 6.00+GST CAD per issue - well, you know it's subscriptions that aren't keeping them afloat, so they must cater to the expensive advertisers.

BTW, I once bought an inoccuous knit sweater that got so many compliments, from Goodwill for $3. The expensive pants from Marks Work Warehouse it went well with, nobody ever commented on!

Sharon said...

I've seen ads for Bag Borrow or Steal and have always been dumbfounded by them. I mean, what is that about? Maybe it's because I don't live in the real world but I really don't get that. Do people really go around making judgments about each other based on the brand or aesthetics of their purses??? Maybe we should all post ours and see what kind of assumptions we garner from them! :)

Sharon said...

Oh, and I love Leslie's birds!

lesleyanne said...

i love this post. you know it's funny, i didn't even know many brand names until i moved to NYC. maybe it's a bug that stylish women catch here, maybe it's contagious. but it's EVERYWHERE. but i am still deep down under my skin that punk rock girl who loves mis-matching colors and doesn't care if anyone knows that i carry a brand-name bag.

i think my profession also helps feed the fashionista inside of me, but you're so right, that having the few staples in the wardrobe is KEY. i love places like Filene's Basement and the sale rack at Macy's, where there are high quality brands that will last for years at bargain prices. i've become obsessed with the show Tim Gunn's Guide to Style, and his top 10 essential items that should be in every woman's closet.

http://www.bravotv.com/Tim_Gunn/season/2/index.php

i think one thing about New York is that you see everyone walking in the street!! no one drives around, i sit next to the amazingly dressed business woman, or fashion design student on the subway and i get so inspired. it's a bug, i'm telling you!!!! :)

Ruth said...

Carl, you are a hero! A hippy skirt for your girlfriend, and a monksuit for . . . you? And the skirt fit you too? Pictures, pictures, where are the pictures?

I had a lot of fun with the guys in my Experience with Foods class, but I had no boys in my sewing class in middle school.

Ruth said...

Yeah, Sanna, the black pants no one notices. Maybe the sweater was a good color on you.

Ruth said...

Sharon, that sounds dangerous!

Ruth said...

Wesrey, my little fashionista! Hehehe. Fashion is way fun, and as long as it stays that way, rock on!

I agree with Tim Gunn's ten list pretty much, except I try not to wear black except as an accessory now, a carryover from my days with Mary the spiritual teacher. "No black next to your heart." I don't follow her spiritual teaching now, but I can't shake that little habit.

If you get to "bug-gy" just go browse a Salvation Army store, ok? Remember your pink hair days. :D

Anet said...

I have a 1920's house full of those tiny weird closets! Caleb's closet is so narrow that hangers cannot hang straight on the rod.
The Hand bag borrowing company is nuts! I'll spend about $20 on a purse and use it for years.

I love those sweet peace birds that Lesley made!

Ruth said...

Anet, yep! Your neighborhood was built about the same time as our old one, I think.

I do the same with a handbag. The one I have currently I think will last into the next millenium, it's so sturdy.

Thanks about Lesley's birds, she was selling them on Etsy before she got really busy at work.

shicat said...

Oh my,oh my, where do I begin. I too sewed most of my clothes in Jr. high and High school,lets see A-line skirts, drindle skirts,bell bottoms. As far as wearing clothes until they are well worn,I can remember my father had one bathing suit,one spring coat that lasted him what seemed to be his entire life!My mother made almost all of her own clothing too. My first back to school purchase this fall was a chico jacket from a resale store.
I too have been thinking about how different things are ,now, particularly when it comes to families,and how they choose to rasie their children.( I am seeing so much more chaotic,needy families living on the edge and the impact to children is disturbing to say the least) The other day I was in a store purchasing toys for my great neice and nephew and was astonished at how many video types of toys there are for young children. Young children need to play with real toys,things they can feel and touch.

Rent a purse?What planet indeed.
love love love the picture and the doves in the photo.
Long post I know you really sent me down memory lane. thanks ruth

Gwen Buchanan said...

Great article Ruth.. guess that's why we never built many clothes closets in our house.. nothing to put in them...

Once anyone washes their clothes once or twice who knows if they bought them new or not.. doesn't matter to me anyway the joy of the hunt is more fun... second hand almost all the way...
(I even went to college to study fashion..)

...I used to sew all my clothes, too ( very often using old hand me downs and cutting them up to use the fabric or sometimes re-styling thme) from age 13 to 35 and my girls clothes too .. after that clothes didn't seem very important to me... just something to keep me warm or cool... priorities change....
I very much relate to what you have written...

Love the floating little birds .. sweet keepsakes...

.... And Love what Loring wrote... absolutely right!!!

the comments are great... I guess more people than we think have similar values...

Ruth said...

Hey, Cathy! I understand Chico's has a major store party/sale today, if you're interested in that.

You took me down Memory Lane too when you wrote about your dad's wardrobe.

As for the video-digital age, it does seem that handheld devices of all kinds are perpetually in kids' hands these days, and you're right, very very young ones too. I go back and forth on this, because I know we are in a new age. But I also think kids should be playing with physical toys too, not just virtual ones, and there needs to be a balance. I'd like to hear a deveopmental psychologist on that.

Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

Ruth said...

Dear Gwen, there is something deeply satisfying about recycling in creative ways. Making something new out of something old is just incredibly appealing, whether I'm doing it myself or seeing someone else's work, like yours, or Lesley's. She buys sweaters at resale stores and embellishes them with buttons, lace, etc. You, Sharon and Anet do wondrous things with found objects, and this is a gift to the world in more ways than one.

I've always thought quilting is the strangest thing. You cut fabric into little pieces, then sew them back together to make one big piece. Doing it the traditional way, using worn garments, incorporates the memories from those days of wearing. What joy!

I've loved this conversation. This feels to me like what tea with neighbors used to be about. That's what blogging is to me: chatting with my neighbors.

Ruth said...

The DailyOM today seems fitting, so I'll post it in its entirety.

December 4, 2008
In Awe Of Beauty
Beauty
Beauty speaks to us in soft whispers or bold declarations. She calls on us to gaze in awe at her splendor. We are enticed by beauty. We adore her, idolize her, and even court her. Beauty seduces all of our senses. Beauty’s seduction can be as obvious as the striking good looks of a man or woman or as subtle as the charms of a shaggy dog with loving brown eyes. We find beauty in the wonders of nature. Beauty offers us a symphony of colors with every sunrise and sunset and reveals to us her brash power through a storm at sea. Beauty teases us through the shy smile of a child and delights us via the brilliant flashes of fireworks. Beauty sometimes piques all of our senses at once, appealing to our taste buds, as well as our eyes and nose, when she appears in the form of a deliciously baked cake. Beauty calms us with floral scents and excites our aural lust through the passionate sounds made by an orchestra.

Beauty can be cruel, and our pursuit of her can be in vain. We may go to the opera in anticipation of finding beauty there, and she may bore and disappoint us. Instead, beauty lavishes her attention on another suitor who may be more appreciative of her charms. Or, we may try to capture beauty’s essence in a photograph, painting, or sculpture, and still she is nowhere to be found. Beauty will forever inspire works of art, and she will always pose for her portrait, selecting the artist who is most worthy of her catching her likeness.

Depending on our personal tastes, beauty can be found in every color, flavor, scent, and texture. She lives among the poor, as well as the rich, and appears in the faces of the young and the old. She is at home in the city, as well as the country, decorating skylines as well as landscapes. She is the ultimate shape shifter. Beauty is a weather beaten barn beloved by one person and an awesome testament of naval craftsmanship revered by another. Beauty knows no bounds, and we can find her everywhere. All we have to do is look for beauty, and she is there.

Gwen Buchanan said...

.... Applause...

VioletSky said...

I love reading your comments page - it IS like all of us sitting around a table chatting casually.

photowannabe said...

This is a fascinating post Ruth. We are such a nation of consumers and so wasteful.
Hubby and I have shopped at second hand stores for a while ourselves. I just am not interested in "fashion". Bargins at $500 a pop is crazy.

Ginnie said...

You have just reminded me of something very strange about me, Ruth: I have purchased a few "used" things in my lifetime that I have never or only once worn simply because I fell in love with them and they were soulful to me: an Aussie slicker/oil coat, Frye boots and a gorgeous, sequined, turquoise evening dress. I lost the boots in my condo fire but the dress and coat I still have. I will get rid of the dress soon (as I clean out my closet) but the Aussie coat I may keep forever, hoping for that one day I will wear it. I paid $35 for it at the July 4th flea market outside of Lakeview! :)

Ruth said...

Yes, I agree, Gwen, it covers so much.

Ruth said...

Sanna, I experienced it in Istanbul for real, never in the US, except here at blogs.

Ruth said...

Sue, it's good to hear so many around the country of like mind!

Ruth said...

Yes, I hear you, Boots. That Aussie coat is so cool, and yet what events would you wear it to?

Actually, the pink linen top in the photo here is the same for me. I only wore it once or twice. And now it's too small. :|

I guess I hold onto it just because it's beautiful.

Bob Johnson said...

As far as clothes go I use to have tons when I was a sales manger at Sears, now I have one suite I wear to everyones weddings and church,lol my wife tells me I have to get a tux for my daughters wedding, the sacrifices I make for the family. Love the ornament images, cool idea.

Ruth said...

It's true, Bob! Most men don't need more than one suit for just the occasions you mentioned. Don just had to buy a new one for a banquet that he'll also wear to Lesley's wedding in August, and maybe nothing until then!

VioletSky said...

Erm, excuse me ... you say Don is wearing nothing until [Lesley's wedding]????

What will the chickens think?

Ruth said...

Hahahahahahaha. goodness.

Christina said...

I love this post. My daughter is 12 and she loves fashion. She will look at all the shows and realize when something is out of reach, price wise. She loves to sew and loves thrift stores. I love this about her. She is so unique and can really understand when these clothes on tv are too far fetched. I'm so glad she "gets it" early on, that there are so many more important things in life that a 100.00 pair of jeans. ; )

Ruth said...

Christina, sounds like your daughter has inherited her mother's character, or absorbed it from the environment you've created. It's unusual to be so discerning at her age!

Gwen Buchanan said...

someone mentioned this very thing to me once a long time ago.. a dutch lady I used to be related to, in another life... "about cutting up good fabric and then sewing it all back together" up to that point it had never crossed my mind!!.. ... when I thought about .. she was right .. to someone not the least bit interested in this sort of thing it must seem ridiculous... on more than one count..

Ruth said...

It is strange, no?? I thought about it every time I made one.

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