No, I am not about to write a post about getting married! I have not had that pleasure, unfortunately. I have the man, the children, and the responsibilities of home and motherhood, but no special rite of passage. It will remain one of my regrets. Life is still good, so enough about that!
I have been thinking lately about clothes and looking after your appearance, how they make you feel, how long they last in condition and fashion, and what is a healthy approach to purchasing them.
I grew up with a Mum and Grandma who both sewed and loved nice clothing, took great care of their appearance and were (and still are) excellent at keeping house. There was nothing vain about their practices. It was simply an expression of respect for themselves and their surroundings. I took pride in caring for my room and later my own home, but I did not share my maternal guides’ love for dressing myself and placing any value on my appearance. Using my brain, being honest, and thinking about environmental and social issues, is what mattered. They still do. But, there is arrogance and naivety in thinking that possessing one virtue means letting go of the other. It has taken me many, many years to come to this realisation.
It has only been in the past few years, and more notably in recent months, I have come to respect and value dressing and maintaining my appearance. As a teenager and young adult, I would be hard-pressed to run a brush through my hair before leaving home, and I had a ridiculous attachment to a holey, ragged pair of shorts that drove my mum to distraction. I didn’t get it then, but I do now. I showed no pride in myself. No respect. People could take me or leave me, which, in truth, meant I had limited respect for others too.
Today, I have attempted to do my hair. It is not my forte, but I am working on it. I was cleaning the house and the car, so I followed two youtube tutorials to learn how to wrap a scarf around my head. I seem to make the simplest of tasks difficult! I am wearing practical but becoming clothes. Being a latecomer to colour, they are black and charcoal. I have moved out of my comfort zone but am not quite ready for the conspicuity of colours. I have even purchased a mascara and eyebrow gel to give my eyes a bit of lift. I was quietly proud of this last accomplishment. So much so that I announced it to my mum, who was equally proud of me!
But, as always, a balance must be struck. I had long held to the belief that you should wear clothing until falling apart at the seams. I had a thorough disinclination to purchase new clothes or prioritise money in the budget on that expense. I thought I was being economical and resisting frivolous spending. It proved a false economy and contributed to me feeling unpresentable and unworthy. My children have also inadvertently been affected by this misguided mindset. Fortunately, my younger sons like to look good. Vanity has saved them! But, I can’t say the same for all my children. They will have to follow the same path to acknowledge the value and power of clothing in bringing out and presenting the best in them.
“Heaven grant me patience! Clothes are very important,” said Anne severelyAnne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery
Clothing is not purely skin deep. What we wear can raise our spirits, promote our worth, reflect our strengths, and disguise those moments of uncertainty and the holes in confidence that afflict us all. When I began to notice this and understand how I had deliberately deprived myself of feeling and looking my best, there was a newfound sting whenever I wore clothes faded or torn beyond repair. I felt like I had done an injustice to myself. That is not to say that I want to be ‘dolled’ up. I want to look kempt and part of this society, not an outsider. And I don’t think it costs all that much to achieve this.
Except for the occasional miraculous find, I have never had much success purchasing clothes at op shops. Instead, I have become a regular patron of the local secondhand clothing store. The prices are dearer than op shopping, but the quality and condition of clothing are reliable, and the price is still a lot less than brand new. But I have learnt not to restrict myself to only buying secondhand. In truth, this has been a hard-learned lesson. But we can not all survive on pre-loved clothing alone. Eventually, they do wear out. Supplementing my wardrobe with the occasional new item, thoughtfully chosen, has been a necessary evolution in my ‘fashion’ journey. When buying new, I prioritise quality and production over labels and trends.
I don’t think you need an expansive wardrobe either. A few outfits for different occasions are enough. The simple rule, “one to wear, one to wash, and one to spare”, will serve you well. And we all need yard clothes to muck out the chook pen or clean the car, so even our threadbare clothes still have a purpose. I need more suitable ‘work’ and ‘good casual’ pieces in my wardrobe. But I am content to find the right items over time. A much less daunting and expensive prospect than trying to buy everything you need all at once.
I have enjoyed my belated preoccupation with clothes and appearance. It has been a surprisingly enjoyable process overhauling my wardrobe. Devoting a little time to thinking about what I am about to put on feels like an act of mindfulness and makes me feel more gratitude for my many blessings. I wish I had learnt this lesson when I was younger. There have already been so many lost opportunities to connect to the women in my life. I no longer regard clothes and appearance as frivolous and unimportant. It has been a positive and practical way to recognise and honour my place in society as a woman, wife, daughter and mother.
I am still wearing my headscarf – I can honestly say I love it!
As always, love and best wishes to you all!