Dressing For Success with One Breast

McClure Farm Photo from Gladwin Historical Society - house where I played dress -up as a child.
The house where I played dress-up as a child.  (Photo from Gladwin Historical Society.)

Built in the 1880’s the house where I spent my early childhood had three front doors and two staircases.  My father’s medical practice took up about half of the downstairs, and its entrance used the north door on the front of the house. The other two, which lead to the private residence, were permanently locked.  The central entrance foyer, with its beautiful staircase and built in bench seat with a large mirror above, was never used.

At an early age I claimed this out of the way corner of our busy household as my own.  I loved to play in there. To this day I dream periodically about walking down those stairs. For a while there was an old marble top cupboard inside the foyer- a remnant from the original pantry of the house. My clothing was within its two doors. I don’t remember whether I was responsible for transporting them there or not. Regardless, I have memories of going into my “office” and trying on endless variations of my clothing. Like most 3-5 year olds I really knew how to rock the outfits. I particularly remember a pair of purple plaid bellbottoms that gave me great pleasure.

Feral librarian circa 2004
Feral librarian circa 2004

Fast forward through the rest of my childhood, teen years and adulthood.  Clothing became mostly geared towards the practical. For instance until I was about 35 I prided myself on only owning 3 pairs of shoes at a time, one pair for every day wear, one pair of sandals for summer, and a pair of hiking boots for back packing.  As the years of mama of young children blurred into years as pastry baker and cook – my wardrobe was increasingly lower on my priority list. I wore a lot of teeshirts, and rarely looked in the mirror. My hair style might best have been described as “Feral Librarian.” Definitely not geared towards inspiration, for myself or anyone else. (Purchasing a pair of red danskos when I was 35 changed me forever – I lost that shoe purity – which was a foreshadowing of a shift in clothing consciousness.)

I find it notable that even with an BFA degree in Fibers I’ve never been much of a clothes horse.  But a spark of that inner five year old’s yearning for self expression through clothing remained. The idea of making myself a wardrobe has lingered in the back of my mind since the days of manufacturing clothes for my dolls.  In the last few years I have decided to let that five year old self do more of the dressing. I started by ditching a lot of my wardrobe. I went on a few thrift store shopping sprees – where, gasp, I spent like $175 on “new” clothes.  The reordering of our house resulted in a revamped sewing room, and so in the past 18 months or so I have been making items for myself, at first many aprons and then onto many dresses. Aprons as a sort of modern farmwife accessory for everyday wear.  The dresses as my idea of a modern uniform for a female medical office worker.

First came the many aprons with good pockets...
First came many aprons with good pockets…
... then the dresses
… then the dresses

At long last my lifelong obsession with color is being expressed- each morning I try to consciously feel what colors will be most benevolent for me.  It is really interesting how this fluctuates around the rainbow.  On the weekends when I can really play with what Sam calls my “Five-year-old-color-blind-gypsy-muppet-style” I am sometimes so  enraptured by the outfits I can hardly focus on anything else.  Since gaining employment in a professional setting the opportunity to dress up for work is a pleasurable part of each day, though I do try for some restraint there.

The five year old to the fore 2015
The five year old to the fore 2015
ready for work
ready for work

This week I realized that really really loving what I am wearing on a regular bases is so good for me.   It is like walking around with my own personal color therapy session.  I Love Love Love it. And seems like such a lost opportunity for everyone.  Though I suspect it is something more folks are hungry for. Sometimes people I don’t even know are moved to speak to me about what I am wearing. (This may be because my rainbow bright self has stunned them a bit.) It sort of seems like my new style encourages others to be a bit freer in their personal style.

I got the idea yesterday that I could start a notebook of my work outfits. I could become a fashionista of the Amazons from my little corner of the world.  Fashion always steals from the street- perhaps it is time to inject a little rural juice into the matrix. Anyway I’m beginning to think that I might want to be a clothing designer when I grow up.  The style might be described as self-pleasure-as-garment.  Everyone would look different. I predict there would be more soft fabrics, lots of color… and pockets.

Rainbow of natural dyed silks.

For now I think I will just keep sewing for myself.  I’m not actually sure if the world is ready to embrace “Five-year-old-color-blind-gypsy-muppet-style.” Perhaps I need to launch a Internet campaign of my combos to act as a test market? Or Perhaps it will be a movement rather than a fashion empire.  Just imagine business suits being replaced with adult sized spaceship jammies, and more glitter, and more pockets…


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Sue Skinner says:

    One of your all-time bests. Thanks so much–
    Sue S

  2. Jane Rosenau says:

    Love this idea,tomorrow I will try to “feel” what color I would like to wear.

  3. Natalie Sullivan says:

    I remember those days when you changed your clothes many times in your little room! I still have that cabinet I just stripped the paint! Which I had put on! My mother said she remembered when she was a young girl and was in that house that cabinet was there! So I’m guessing it would be well over 100 yrs old! Great post just keep following your dream. Love Mom

  4. Eileen says:

    Great photo of the big house. I remember when you chose an outfit for me to wear. It was pink and you were very happy with your selection. love ya

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