Flora: Mom? Can we go to that store again?
Jane: Which store?
Flora: You know. The one where we get all of our best stuff? Where I got my unicorn purse and cherry necklace?
And I laugh and laugh, and hug her, because she’s talking about Value Village, a thrift store chain.
The last time we went to Value Village, she and I, we spent an outrageous $80 and bought two pairs of winter boots, a faux fur coat for Flora’s Cousin It costume, a red leather 70s trench coat for me, three hats, a stuffed snake for Ender, and a new Christmas dress—clearly unworn by the donator—for Flora. Plus, a double-scythe for Cinder’s Halloween costume.
Ender: I need an orange shirt, orange pants, and orange socks.
Jane: I can do an orange shirt and orange socks. You don’t have any orange pants.
Ender: Can we buy some?
Ender: We have to. I only wear orange now.
We compromise on green with dinosaur designs. I promise to keep an eye out for orange pants next time Flora and I go to Value Village. Which is… about twice a year.
I dislike stores. Shopping. Both the actual act, and the metaphor. My children dress in the largess of clothing-hand-me-down chains—there are many, many benefits to living in a real community—and in the results of the retail therapy of their grandmothers. They are thoroughly and completely unfamiliar with designers, labels. At best, vaguely aware of the names of stores where one buys new clothes.
You snicker and tell me all this will change when they are teenagers. Perhaps. That’s fine. They are their own people, for all that they are my children. They will make their own choices. All I can do is lay a groundwork, a foundation—of habit. And, I suppose, although I hate to use such a value-laden word: of values.
But what values? I struggle to articulate them even to myself without accusing myself of hypocrisy. Because it’s not that I don’t care about clothes, how they look—how they make me feel. I care, very much. I may leave the house with a naked face, always and without reflection or compunction, but I never leave the house wearing a burlap sack.
Or yoga pants.
I think of clothes as both uniform-mask and canvas-expression. Sometimes, they are a barrier between me and the world: they protect me by the message they send. Sometimes, they are the opposite, their message is an enthusiastic, unhidden manifestation of everything I am or want to be. Every once in a while, the message is a secret, or an in-joke. I wear the scarf she gave me to carry her with me through the day; the purple pants I hate for you because you love them and I love you; I wrap myself in the coat my mother bought me to remind myself how much she loves me.
I don’t denigrate the power of clothes, what they communicate, what they mean.
Flora pulls out a soft, well-worn sweater out of the bag her friend’s eldest sister dropped off at our house. “Oh, I will love this one,” she says. “I will make so many good memories in it.”
I don’t denigrate the talent, skill and power of designers, either. I like—love—beautiful clothes. They don’t just happen: they need to be dreamed. Created. Marketed. Sold. Copied and made affordable—or donated, passed on down the line, until I can claim them at the thrift store, consignment boutique, or out of the back of a friend’s closet.
I don’t resent what other people spend on clothes. Why would I? While the jeans I’m wearing today cost $6 in a clearance pile at Superstore (but they make me look so fucking good) and my winter jacket is a $22 third-hand U-Turn purchase (but so mod, I love it), I’m also wearing a $200 bra. And my shoes, while 15 years old, were not bought on sale. We all have different priorities.
I don’t denigrate the mom who lives in her yoga pants, any more than I judge the exec in her Armani suit. (I notice her shoes; covet them.)
So, back to the question: what foundation, what values? I suppose it comes down to consciousness, conscious choice. Not blindly copying what’s worn on the runway, by the celebrity, by peers and friends. But thinking about—why? To what purpose? At what cost?
Who are you wearing? Why? To what purpose, message? At what cost?
The wardrobe: Third-hand cap from the Peacock Consignment Boutique, $12. Sunglasses from Value Village, $6. Coat from U-Turn, $22. Top (obscured by coat) from friend’s closet, free. Jeans, from clearance pile at Superstore, $6. The yellow Doc Martens that are my calling card when I wear sensible shoes… bought brand new.
This post was written as part of the “Who Are You Wearing?” Moms Vs. The Award Season project masterminded by I Am The Milk’s Katia Bishop, and originally inspired by the #365feministselfie initiative (She calls it “#365feministselfie meets red carpet” which is just brilliant, don’t you think?) If you’re going to play–the link’s below, and use #WhoAreYouWearingMom when you share.)
Here’s who THEY’re wearing:
Katia at I Am The Milk
Jen at My Skewed View
Jean at Mama Schmama
Sarah at Left Brain Buddha
Stephanie at Mommy, For Real
Deb at Urban Moo Cow
Sarah at The Sadder but Wiser Girl
Kristi at Finding Ninee
Rachel at Tao of Poop
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