My favorite jacket, my Dad's old army jacket, has worked hard to earn its place as the inaugural item in The Archives series. Pulling it out of the closet as the leaves start turning and when morning frost coats the grass never fails to make me happy.
I used to have a closet full of beautiful shirts. Silky camisoles, cashmere tees, even a suede halter top, beautiful with heels and good denim. I also managed to acquire other fun fancy items over time, like a vintage Pucci dress and some amazing Bottega stilettos. I hardly ever went out, since I was teaching full-time while also attending graduate school. But if the call came to hit the town feeling festive, as it did once in a blue moon, I was ready.
In recent years we have been coming to a deeper understanding of our world and the damage that we inflict upon it. There is no doubt that it is depressing; it can really get to a person. In the same vein, if you follow sustainability topics related to apparel, textiles and fashion, you quickly become overwhelmed, reaching the conclusion that it is both difficult and expensive to make 'good' choices.
Recently a friend told me that she thought I handled stress better than she did. I was surprised, and not at all sure that was true, but it got me thinking about the ins and outs of how I handle challenges; about which things are working and which habits have room for improvement.
I have come across several local news items in recent days that make me happy and proud to be a Minnesotan. Our family has made some pretty dramatic work and lifestyle changes in order to get settled back in Minnesota. We have always argued that the air and water here are clean, and that the schools and roads are (largely) cared for as they should be. However, it has been a bumpy path finding the right professional situation allowing us to stay permanently, causing me to question at times our stubborn single-mindedness.
Knitting and sewing garments produces scraps, there is just no getting around it. It is tempting to point at big companies that produce clothing and complain about their cutting room floor scraps, but anyone who makes their own clothes also knows how hard this problem is to avoid.
For about a year, I had the pleasure of working for Anne Damon, the owner of Zinnia Folk Arts. She was looking for help with her blog and some other related tasks, and I was looking for flexible creative work. We took a let's-see-how-this-goes approach, and I'm happy to report that it was an opportunity that I very much appreciated.
I will never be a scientist, a mathematician, or a person who writes code for newfangled internet functions; that ship has sailed. If I went back in time to the beginning of college, I would choose a double major that would include both a STEM major, in addition to my humanities major, in order to feed both my whole brain and my future job prospects.
Minnesotans are a pretty quiet bunch. We are serious and pretty hard-working, not too comfortable with flash and luxury, and for the most part we are busy worker bees. However, we do harbor one indulgent habit...we stretch our summer weekends past the normal boundaries. There are just not enough of them, so instead, we wiggle around the rules.
That's the only piece of clothing that I have bought so far in 2017. There have been a few other close calls...some pajamas had to be returned, some trendy printed weirdly flattering leggings caught my attention briefly, and a beautiful Mexican embroidered blouse also had to go back...that was the hardest one. It was so pretty, but ultimately I had to admit that I already had a shirt very similar to it in my closet.
The average American buys sixty-four items of clothing per year, and most years I'm sure I am somewhere in that neighborhood. I didn't start 2017 with a big plan to buy no clothes, but budget and life constraints conspired, and suddenly five months had gone by without me noticing what had happened. Now it's a thing, and I'm tempted to see if I can go the whole year. Leave it to the curve balls of life to force me back onto a healthier, more mindful path.
According to a 2014 Forbes article cited in a Fashion Revolution white paper, we purchase 400% more clothing than we did just twenty years ago. And that was just twenty years ago, My house was built almost sixty years ago, and my tiny closets remind me every day how different our shopping habits are today.
I have been digging around a little bit to find out more about this idea...did people just buy fewer clothing items in 1960? Why or why not? I asked my mom about the closets and clothing of her youth. What she remembers is that her mom was willing to buy her as much fabric as she wanted in order to make her own clothes, but that if she wanted store-bought clothing, her choices were more limited. I asked her if making her own clothes saved her family money, and her memory was that her mother was encouraging self-sufficiency, rather than trying to save money, which was not what I expected her to say.
So the question is, how many items of clothing do we really need? Do I need bigger closets or more discipline? (Probably both.) If there is an item which is an unusual shape, or made of a special fabric, or is something suitable for a special occasion, generally the result is that it's not worn as often. So we have a closet imbalance, with large volumes of special items that get worn once and a while, and then a much smaller volume of items that are worn in regular rotation. Is that normal? Is that inappropriate? I still ask...why do we need, or think we need, so much clothing? It feels like I still have more questions than answers on this topic, and I am wondering what others are doing...are you changing your closets? Buying less? Moving to a newer and bigger house with glorious, well-lit walk-in closets?
Are you wondering what was so special about that one skirt? It is brick-red suede, and simply beautiful. I spotted it while still pregnant and unable to buy or even wear it. But it became a birthday present when, no longer pregnant, I saw it again at a super sale price. I could think of nothing else for days. How is it that clothing holds such power over us?
This year we moved out of a bungalow built in 1920 and into a rambler built in 1960. I'm not always excited about the change, although in some ways I have been pleasantly surprised. For example, I do not really miss having a third floor (at least for practical matters like having small children in tow). I am, however, bedeviled by our closets. Our 1920s house had added closets from a prior renovation, so we were not experiencing the full storage crisis that we should have been. Our 1960 house needs more closets. More, bigger, with lights in them, closets.
You may (or may not) have noticed some surprising Instagram posts, Facebook posts, or tweets this week. There may be people wearing clothing inside out, exposing labels, and holding signs that read "Who Made My Clothes?"
I have been spending some time setting up my creative space due to our recent move, which has put me in an organizing mood in general. We are experiencing a loss of closets and storage in our new house, which is always challenging. Add maternity supplies, and a pile of breastfeeding-friendly clothing, a second young child and a tight budget to the household mix, and the result is me digging deep and getting back to basics when it comes to managing our stuff.
Changes in the day-to-day operation of our family have turned me into a true stay-at-home mom. The kind where I was the big pregnant mama dragging my toddler around everywhere this summer, and the kind where now the new baby is by my side for every hour of the day. I find the intensity of non-stop kid quite challenging, as I'm sure most caregivers do. I also learn a lot, which may sound odd, but since our family has grown, and the amount of day care that I use has shrunk, I am, more often than I was in the past, struck by the minutiae of the young lives for which I am responsible.
It never occurred to me that you can do other things while holding a baby until my mom came to help me after the birth of our first son. I watched her shushing him while she baked cookies and sewed nursery curtains, and even tried to paint my dining room table with her remaining free hand. I put my foot down about the table, but I admired her spirit and have never forgotten the example she set.
We've known for a while that we might be moving this year. We had been hoping to delay it until Spring, mostly because it seemed like a nightmare to move during winter and but also because we knew that we would have a newborn during late fall this year, greatly exacerbating the complexity of the move. However, we concluded just after the birth of our son that it was actually critical for us to move sooner than later, so I was suddenly faced with what I considered a worst-case relocation scenario: selling the house during holiday season, with a new baby, moving in the dead of winter, all on a super tight budget. Yuck.