Monday, April 13, 2009

When too much is not enough...

WARNING: Long, drawn-out post with frivolous details. Turn back now if my wardrobe issues do not interest you!

I have too many clothes. This is not a new revelation, rather a reiteration of what was previously known. The last few years, (and those of you who know me personally can attest to this), I have been trying to organize my life. Though I have not met my goals, I certainly have come a long way in my attempts to achieve them. Case in point, my wardrobe. As a child, I felt very isolated. I learned in the 8th grade the importance of clothing, image and their relationship to the way others treat me. I'll never forget the first time I wore new clothes that I picked out and thought represented my "new image." A popular boy in my class said, "Hey look, it's Manhattan girl." At the time, this was the highest compliment I could have received. I was born and raised in Queens and full of self-loathing, and to be able to be sized up as "one who goes/lives in Manhattan" meant the world to me. From that point on, clothing was very important to me.

During my high-school years, I wore a uniform, so my "real" clothes were strictly weekend wear. I truly was a Manhattan girl from that point on, and spent lots of time in the East Village, wearing black leather and punk wear. On the flip side, it was just as important for me to be able to walk into Barney's or Bloomies and have someone ask if I needed help and not sneer at me and walk away. I learned how to blend in with my surroundings and felt just as comfortable at Maxine's in a cocktail dress as I did at The Building, listening to Nine Inch Nails dressed in black fishnets with skulls and crosses dripping from head to foot.

As a young adult, I spent much time going to clubs and my weekly allowance was spent at the Salvation Army, buying up clothes to repurpose and style for my outings. Spoiled as I was, I tried not to repeat any outfits at the same club and most of what I wore was, shall we say, memorable. I often wore wigs and 6-inch stiletto platforms and my best compliment at this time was "Are you a man or a woman?" Everyone knows drag queens do the best make-up jobs.

As a pastry chick, I lived in my checks and had little time or inclination to give a damn about what I wore. I went back to college, and this wardrobe suited me just fine. It was pretty much funky-thrift-shop-wear.As a matter of fact, it probably contributed to the idea of my classmates that I was their age instead of ten years older. (Never mind my ridiculously child-like behavior.) Then somehow it happened. I became an adult. A professional with a career that entailed that I look somewhat professional. What the hell is that? What do I do? Surely I can't wear my stained, holey, obnoxiously flower-printed velvet trousers in that environment. This was one of the the hardest things I had to do...

Well, my mom saved me. She brought me to NY and Co. and spent $500 on some new clothes. Comfortable pants that fit my long legs, coordinating shirts, even a vest!!! My first work wardrobe. Only one problem. I hate being a cookie cut-out. My first picture day, a girl at work and I showed up with the same shirt. It was horrible. This kind of thing had never happened before. Also around that time, I ran into an old friend in the subway. I felt so embarrassed to be seen in those clothes, almost ashamed, like I had given up the spirit I once had to sell out to my age and duty and responsibility. Though at the time I shrugged it off, I think it deeply affected me. Since then, I realize I have been on a quest to sufficiently define myself through my clothing once again. I miss the confidence I had when I knew what I was wearing was a clear representation of myself at that moment. I miss the excitement of the hunt to find something perfect, instead now I buy things "because I can wear them at work." I am boring. I hate it. Finally, it brings me to knitting.

I noticed in my projects, yarn choices and pattern favorites that there is a terrible dichotomy of style and sensibility. I believe I have too much of the former and none of the latter. If someone cataloged my current wardrobe, there are a few assumptions that might be made about me. It would be surmised I am a salsa dancer, attend weddings, fine arts performances and charity events relatively frequently, go out to fine dining establishments often, host dinner parties, enjoy cooking or have a 50s fetish, that I have goth tendencies at times, also cowgirl tendencies, enjoy wearing feminine clothing, do lots of shopping or leisurely activities, and frequent bars and clubs at night. While some of it is spot-on, it is a bit exaggerated. I don't think I need 23 dresses in the summer, as well as 9 or so evening gowns. My 14 winter skirts were barely worn this year due to issues with finding appropriate and affordable legwear this year and my 8 swimsuits don't earn their keep when I wear one about 3 times a year if I'm lucky.

I want to create a wardrobe, not a collection of mismatched items I never wear. I want the sweaters I make to match something and be functional, not simply because I could, or because I had to use up yarn in my stash. This coming year I feel it. By next spring, I will spin a different yarn to tell. I did some research tonight and found this, a website about wardrobe planning. It had many helpful tips, and I hope when I do the changing of the clothes that I can start my planning. Spring and summer clothing is much easier to make than winter or fall, so I hope to sew and/or knit some basic pieces that I can really use. One person discussed thinking about the cost of an item in terms of how much you wear it. A dress that costs $200 that you wear once is expensive compared to a cashmere sweater that costs $80 that you wear 30 times over a few years. (This is also a good strategy for rationalizing high-end yarn purchases.) I'm ready for change.


skein genius said...

I feel ya sista! Thats why I've been trying to blow the dust off my sewing machine and finally start making the clothes that I dream about :)

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