My usual 67-hour work week made way for the long awaited Spring Break, so I flew up to Northern California and the boy and I drove out to the little town of Murphys, Calif., where we ate, drank local wine and slept in an old hotel that once hosted Mark Twain, Susan B. Anthony and the "Gentleman Bandit."
When we woke, on March 31, snow!
Which, of course, quickly melted.
On April 1, my rockstar of a sister had a baby in her house alone. This baby was in a rush. Water broke, baby out in 12 minutes. The firemen came to cut the cord and bring her to the hospital. I flew back down as soon as I could, of course. She's stunning.
Being aunty, I helped with the kids, cooked, fed the horses, and scooped manure. I flooded a trailer. I drove up to L.A., picked up a car. I came back to my own digs, began my own washing and cleaning after a week away from home, and the house shook with the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Baja.
DMV and paperwork and lost and founds. And then, yesterday, I printed out three copies of my thesis and delivered it to my committee. Yes, the photo looks more impressive than it is, but they're 175 pages a pop.
And now it's over. Since this is a blog about wardrobe, what do you wear when life gives you a few weeks like this? Weather and travel and emergencies and nice dinners and dirty work? What's in your suitcase?
I tend to be practical to a fault. Even in my garden, I prefer to grow vegetables rather than flowers, and even the flowers I do have—nasturtiums and borage—are edible. More and more, my wardrobe is becoming like my garden. It needs to support my life.
So what did I wear? Wide-legged jeans, stretchy cigarette pants, a tunic, a wool grandpa sweater, a hoodie, flats, and a messenger-type purse. Over and over in different combinations. These clothes were by far the most comfortable, they allowed me the most ease from activity to activity. For the dirtier jobs: jeans, a cotton-button down shirt, J-41 shoes. Sturdy. Easy to wash.
It was a reminder that I don't really need all those pretty shoes and dresses, because I honestly don't wear them. That's not my real life. In any future additions to my closet, as much as I like skirts and dresses, I know that I'm more likely to wear pants and tanks so that's where I'll put most of my focus.
I think this veers a bit away from the popular tendency to sew or invest in something special, i.e. an evening or vintage-era dress, since the time or money investment justify something beautiful and unique (and who doesn't want that?). Trust me, I understand wanting something significant to show for your investment (it took me forever to make something that was, for many, a "one to two hour" project).
But what of the day-to-day? Can we instead put our effort into the things that equip us when life throws everything it can at us? Can't we make those items beautiful and unique? To me, that's what style is all about. Effortlessness while still feeling good.
It reminded me of something from Amanda Brooks' I Love Your Style. She notes Ingeborg Day's seventies-era book, Cheap Chic, which suggests prioritizing the areas of your life that you dress for, including work, play/casual, play/elegant, sports/exercise, social functions, and bedtime. Your clothes budget, she says, should reflect the amount of time you spend in those areas. Brooks herself admits that she used to spend her money on evening clothes when in reality she spent most of her time dressed casually. She writes:
So now I limit my tendency to buy only special things so I can afford also to buy some more casual things—like cashmere sweaters and great weekend pants—that are not only comfortable but also look good and make me feel attractive even if I'm just taking the kids to school.
What about your closet? Where do you put your focus? How does your wardrobe support you?