It was a lighting-fast knit: less than a week between cast-on and bind-off. Then it sat on top of a pile of fabric until I blocked it. One skein of fingering on size 5 or 6 needles. I forget. The yarn is from Etsy seller SockObsessionYarns and I’m smitten. Not even remotely itchy and it pools in the best way. Colorway is “Baltico.”
Yesterday I combed through my closet and did a quick sourcing count: 50% used; 30% me-made; 20% purchased new. After talking myself down from my smugness, I had a think.
Why do I buy used clothing? I wish that I could say my reasons were noble, like Ariana’s. But my habits are fueled by a cocktail of privilege and something murkier.
I’m privileged to be able to buy all of what I need and a lot of what I want. My “wants” reflect my resources and priorities: Part-time work, parenting, traveling to visit my elderly parents, sewing and knitting, and who am I kidding, high-end concealer.
It wasn’t always this way. I grew up with a sense of scarcity as I watched my parents negotiate the bizarre nuances of social and economic class. My mother came from a line of high WASPs who had slid into “genteel poverty” by the time she was born. She was disowned when she married my father, the son of blue-collar immigrants and the first person in his family to get a university education. He was a science teacher who painted houses during his summers “off.”
To keep up appearances we sought out Pappagallo flats and Fair Isle sweaters at yard sales, avoiding eye contact with the owners and crowing over our bargains on the ride home. My parents silently mocked our neighbors, whose factory jobs paid more than my father’s but whose children carried combs in the back pockets of their Jordache jeans.
“Tackiness” is a moral failing.
Wear-quality-don’t-be-frivolous-expensive-things-are-not-for-us-stick-it-to-the-man-conform-don’t-talk-about-money-be-proud-of-thriftiness (I said it was murky).
How does this play out now? I can spot “acceptability” at 100 yards, on the street and on the rack. It’s not lost on me that I could ultimately afford a brand-new version of the Eileen Fisher jacket in my Savers cart. I justify my purchases with restraint (leave some for others dear) and once, with the appalling rationalization that my Taste is probably different from that of the Other shoppers. (Yes, I realize that I typed that out loud.)
My daughter has far more than I or my husband did at her age and is aware of her privilege. Galvanized by watching “The Life Cycle of a T Shirt,” she shops at thrift stores. She rolls her eyes at my admonitions suggestions about Taste.
Not bad progress for a single generation.
What messages do you carry about clothing and class?
After an untimely rotary cutter injury, I’ve finally been able to swatch the sweater for #OAL2017. It might skew towards what my friend Jolene calls “full-on clown car,” but I’m okay with that. Dressing like a member of the abnegation faction is starting to lose its appeal for me. My recent obsession with color feels visceral and I’ve decided to just go with it.
This month is the kickoff for #OAL2017, hosted by Lladybird and Andi at Untangling Knots. The terms are flexible and generous: Between June 1 and July 31, knit one item and sew one item to make a complete outfit.
I’m knitting the Rondeur by Mercedes Tarasovich in Wildwood Yarn’s Pima Silk Handpaint.
I’m sewing (and drafting) an a-line skirt that I’ll make in a blue shot cotton as a lighter-weight alternative to denim.
First, I have a small wardrobe that mostly consists of “basics,” so they get a lot of exposure and wear. I need to be able to rely on them and my skills aren’t quite there yet.
Second, I’ve learned from my participation in #100days100blocks2017 that I really, really miss working with color. I’m incredibly privileged to have the time and resources to think and act along these lines.
Are you participating in any summer sewalongs? Do you make your own basics?
Bags also serve as the portable manifestation of a woman’s sense of self, a detailed and remarkably revealing map of her interior….
Meet my interior:
Make that my *former* interior. I sewed a purse insert using Lazy Girl Designs’ Suzi pattern, with vibrant fabrics chosen on a day when my latent Dries Van Noten longings overpowered my minimalist aspirations.
The directions were super-clear with innovative construction techniques. I made the medium version; the larger version is 2.5″ longer but otherwise the same. At some point I might adapt the pattern to make a larger-larger version that would better fit my bag.
I carry a second-hand Longchamp Pliage that I bought on eBay. The color goes with everything, the design is classic, and the brand says that I’m subtly continental. I can clean it with a damp sponge. It’s pretty much the only bag I use, so for me this insert will function as a navigational aid rather than a purse-rotation-y thingy.
I’m hoping that the stiff interfacing (I used Decor Bond) will prevent it from flopping over and spilling stuff into the cavernous interior. Fingers crossed.
After ogling her Instagram account for the past 18 months, I finally ordered and made up Sonya Philip’s Shirt No. 1 pattern.
Her views on the politics of clothing and the agency of sewing really resonate with me:
Clothing is an elemental part of day-to-day life, offering both protection and adornment. It is also bound up with ideas of culture and the body. Alternately encouraged by and excoriated by the media, women in the US forge a deep discontent with their bodies that leads many on a constant search for clothes that alter appearance. In response to an ever-varying trend to either conceal or reveal, women go through a series of manipulations of their bodies through clothing under the rubric of “fashion.” Sewing is a way to return to a more primary mode of expression, which a person can choose to follow or create their own style.
The pattern’s simple lines, together with the fabric’s whimsical print made this a joyful yet mindful project. The resulting garment is not about being sex-ay or even “feminine”; it is about expressing myself by wearing flamingos, as one does.
If you’ve never visited Sonya’s website or IG account (@sonyaphilip), run don’t walk (or the digital equivalent). She wears color brilliantly and prints fearlessly, and spreads the love generously.
Sonya, thank you for being. If you’re ever in Albuquerque, I’d love to get hopped up on Vietnamese coffee and pastries and go fabric shopping.
This might be my new favorite tee shirt pattern. I love the fitted shoulders, the subtle-yet-forgiving shaping, and the deep scoop neck (which shows where my daughter’s rabbit bit me; long story).
I’m not sure whether it was the fabric or the pattern, but the neckband achieved the perfect medium between saggy and tourniquet. The print is lovely; even if it is a little Alfred Dunner from a distance, it’s more Boden up close (no shade, Alfred Dunner).