I became one of those women who drowns herself in ill fitting clothing. It was a gradual process, as many things are and I can roughly pinpoint the beginning as post childbirth. I don't think that's too uncommon. My CFS/ME was not diagnosed so I was blissfully unaware of the toll pregnancy, motherhood, a child with challenges and juggling it all with a marriage and a career was going to take on my mind, body and health. I was young, apparently healthy and had been in a remission phase long enough that what later turned out to be CFS/ME was just thought of as a couple bouts of illness in the past. The bliss of ignorance is all the more sweet for how it is often so short lived.
I bloated up with fluid retention practically from the moment of conception and felt ill with anything restrictive on my waist so I had a small wardrobe of borrowed clothes that were a size up from mine. This was my first taste of the heavenly comfort of loose clothing and long before the days when women covered their baby bumps (or even called them baby bumps) with tight shirts and dresses. Actual maternity clothes were scarce though, because pregnant women of the time seemed to just default to leggings and long tee shirts for casual days. With my height there were no leggings or tee shirts available that would actually cover all of me. I hunted down barely attractive maternity clothing in the dark corners of neighbouring towns and assembled a meager and not terribly attractive wardrobe. I was comfortable and that was significant.
After, when my child was born and I'd returned to within twenty pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight (I never got back to it) I still wanted looser clothing and wasn't terribly fond of anything I could feel around my waist. My shape had changed too and my once tiny waist and small B cup bust was now a thick waist and enormous bust that required G cup nursing bras. Who was this woman I saw in the mirror? The answer to that was mother, wife, teacher, and there it stopped. And that's how I dressed her. It was the beginning of losing myself because I gave everything else priority. It's not a new story. I love my son more than life itself, and must insert that here right now before I go on. This is not the story of how a child took away my body. This is the story of how I gave it up and didn't know how to get it back.
The nineties, a time when my gamine icon Winona Ryder was on top, when I would have loved wearing Dr Martens boots with flowery dresses and was still young enough to do it, were a time I can barely remember, so immersed was I in my child and the particular local struggles of establishing a teaching career. By the time I emerged from this blur sixteen years later, accepting the end of a marriage, a career and the fact of a chronic illness, I had lost track of what my personal style was and I still had a body I did not know how to dress because I didn't understand it's shape. In my teens and early twenties I was a skinny pear-shape and understood the need to emphasise my top half and de-emphasise my lower half when I dressed. I instinctively bought things that would make my shoulders appear broader, my bust a little fuller, keeping the bottom darker and unpatterned. But I was no longer a pear shape I was more of a rectangle with breasts that got in the way, narrow shoulders, a squarish ribcage and a short neck. I had no idea how to dress that other than to keep my necklines low. Where I'd once had skinny arms, I now had fleshy ones. The upside, I thought, was that the rest of my body had finally caught up with my thighs. J-Lo happened, and I learned that I had no booty. The problems never ended!
In the last ten years of my married life, stress, illness and other psychological factors I won't get into, put weight back on me. I am not one of those who stops eating and gets thin when stressed, I am likely to eat. I ate to feel numbingly full. I ate to create a body armour of extra me layers. I ate to feel pleasure. I was also one of those less typical Celiacs who puts on weight instead of losing it, making diagnosis much longer in coming. I bought an enormous orange tee shirt at the thrift shop, really good quality actually but one of my worst colours and sized to accommodate three of me, and it became my favourite thing to wear to bed. Fast forward to my emancipation. There were financial worries for me as a single woman, my long term health was uncertain and it became clear I was not going to be able to work, but I was still happier. I was better able to take care of myself and the extra weight came off with effort but not too much pain. I needed clothing but didn't want to buy new things because I expected to lose another ten pounds. Off I went to the thrift shop and I was hooked.
There are many good things about buying second hand but for me there are also some pitfalls.
1. Easy to spend too much money because everything seems so inexpensive.
2. Inexpensive clothing makes it too tempting to purchase less than perfect.
3. Experimenting is fun but also leads to some terrible outfits.
4. Too many options can be confusing.
It was fun to experiment, it was money spent on an experience more than on objects because most of what I purchased over the next couple of years didn't stay with me. Often I was not happy with the quality even if I was discovering a style I liked or a colour that worked well for me. When the price tag is so low, it's easier to make excuses for what is not really good enough and I often did that with poor fit or even the wrong size. Somehow, I got to the point where I just bought everything in extra large and said to myself, well I like baggy, loose and comfortable clothes.
It's true I do like them, but there were at least two facts I was not considering. One is that they suit some people more than they suit me, whether it's body type or personality. The other is that oversized is a look that can be done while still cutting the lines of the garments well and it is not quite the same to just put on the wrong size. I lost track of what I looked like in a good fit because most things I tried on fit poorly and I decided they would do. If I saw something I really liked in a size larger than what I wore, I would just say oh well, I'll wear it a bit big. This might work on a tiny waif-like person who is fine looking like she is wearing someone else's too large clothes. That is not a look I can pull off.
So I decided that I would hold out for better quality and better fit, but I found that changed my options quite drastically. There was less available to me already given that I live in a small town, but even less when I ruled out all the sizes and shapes that did not really fit me or flatter me or feel like me.
I had an enormous purge. I pulled all clothing out of my closet and sorted it immediately into different piles. You probably know the drill-keep, mend, toss, donate/sell. Assuming that I already liked the look of everything I had, to keep an item it had to fit me well, flatter me, feel comfortable, suit my lifestyle and be well made. I am embarrassed to admit to how much I donated to charity and even the amount I took to the consignment shop to sell. I am not on a journey to minimalism or capsule wardrobes or any arbitrary number of items, though I have read about these with interest as others explore this idea. I do crave simplicity though and would rather have three great things in my closet than twenty mediocre things. I am getting realistic about my lifestyle too and setting aside the complications of thinking I would dress in such and such a style if only I had access to this or that, if only I sewed, if only, if only. That's a waste of my time and energy. I may have loads of time but I don't have energy to spare. More and more I look like I did when I was a university student, including the pixie cut. I am even inclined to carry a back pack.
Life is about learning and it would be dull if I had everything all figured out, but it's nice to rest in a place of comfort for awhile, to feel like I am home and I know the woman who lives there. I found her buried in mounds of fabric and slowly uncovered her. She insisted on clinging to a few large sweaters but she's doing quite well with her rehab. I have high hopes for her.
I typically look like this these days. Yes, I do wear a lot of blue. A LOT of it. Teal, denim or navy are readily available options that I gravitate towards.
Did you return your books on time? Asks Grunge Gamine Librarian.
I haven't got a waist. Do I look like I care?
I had to choose between the more flattering pose or the smile and flattering pose won. As usual, the colours are off and there is no black here, only navy and brown with some splashes of red and green and a brighter blue. I'm wearing enough colour to make Senora Allnut proud. I decided it was also a perfect day for a hat, so......
I added a navy blue fedora with a cute bow that you can't see.
No witches in sight this week. The witchy clothing may have gone by the wayside but I assure you I can still cast spells. Especially if your library books are late.
I am really terrible at adding labels/tags to my posts. Help me out-what would you tag this besides #TLDR