Story N˚ 22: Autumn’s Summer’s Day

As I write, this warm day ends beautifully in shell-pink light.  But it’s one week into October in New York City.  Since summer seems to be outstaying its welcome, I took the liberty of wearing a pair of white pants and sandals out on a date last night.  The beauty of it is not that it’s warm enough to wear such clothes.  In fact, I’m craving the crisp air that makes me want to cozy up to a hot bowl of soup.  (I cooked three such soups today, but the cat and I just sweat through it uncomfortably.  I will squirrel them away for cooler days.) 

No, the joy of these pants is that they fit me!  I have held on to them for at least 6 years, have worn them a total of once in that time.  I confess to hoarding more than a few items in my closet for that future day when I can wear them.  Happily, those future days are becoming today for all the right reasons- exercise, eating right, getting enough sleep, and giving up (gulp) sugar.  There is no secret formula, no magic ingredient.  Me doing the work is the magic, the key, the secret. And a half marathon challenge around the corner is really helping out.

Back to these pants:  I used to work at Sea World in the Costume Shop.  We provided wardrobe for the various performers, except Shamu.  One of the venues was the pearl diver area where you could see sexy male and female swimmers dive gracefully into the water to collect oysters from the sandy bottom.  We outfitted all of them in black speedos, and had a cast of hostesses waterside to guide people from the viewing area to the gift shop, because, of course, beautiful women help sell merchandise, such as pearls in the setting of your choice.  The hostesses had a summer outfit and a different winter outfit, but both were in cream and white to fit the idea of dressing for a Grecian coastal landscape.  We prepped and maintained all the costumes for these lovely and talented women.  As I remember, at one point there was a huge change in costuming or in cast sizing (I’m not sure if the pearl diving is still a feature) and we still had lots of used and new inventory:  sweaters, pants, etc.  As too often happens, good quality clothing was going to get thrown out, or boxed away in storage to be thrown out eventually.  So in the changes, I scored a pair of almost-new creamy white trousers.  All I had to do was take in the waist and take up the hem, the usual alterations for my physique. 

I think I try these pants on each year and then pack them away again.  This year, even though the season is supposed to be over, and there’s that breakable rule: no white after Labor Day; I’m happy to rock these, even if my date didn’t feel the need to dress up (another story altogether…)

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Earth Day + Poetry Writing Month

I have been writing poetry and following writers of poetry this month of NaPoWriMo, aka, April. And so, my post includes a poem I wrote and posted for Earth Day.  Today’s challenge was to write a georgic, “a poem dealing with practical aspects of agriculture and rural affairs”, says Encyclopedia Britannica.  Here is Virgil’s lengthy georgic for comparison.  Mine deals with today’s Earth issues, as you will see.  Also, I include a photo of myself at the 5th Ave Easter Day Parade last weekend, which turned out to be all about the vintage dress I had on, a Leslie Fay original, pleated waist with matching belt.  Given the extreme and bizarre heat of Easter Day, my poem feels all the more apropos.  Enjoy.

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EARTH DAY GEORGIC

After Virgil

INVOCATION
Oh Gods of Earth and Sky, hear our prayer,
grant us wisdom to tend to that which has been
bestowed upon us, let us be wise stewards,
give us strength and courage to be so.

EXORTATION
As the sun looms ever hotter
and the weathers are raging or dull;
now that the water in the land is
poisoned and we drink it so;
And the land is barren of nutrients,
because, and despite, of its multitudinous crops,
and we must give it and ourselves vitamins,
it is mete to take care and caution,
to not use our water flows as garbage drains,
to stop the cycling and circulation of plastics-
of bags, packages, containers and such.
Let wrappers not fall discarded from our hands
to the Earth, even paved Earth. Leave not our cars
to idle while waiting in them. Such is foul to the air.
Let us compost our soil rich again.
Likewise, demand that solar and wind powers
be harnessed post haste, and that these many cars
and machines of dirty, greedy oil
be converted to their truth.
It is best to buy wisely those fibers and materials
that are natural to the Earth. Our very clothing
both comes from Earth and poisons Earth. As does our food.
Thus it is, that we need Earth, and she needs us, too.

BENEDICTION
Let us grow shade and plush fields,
let us cherish our soil more than gold.
May our water sparkle brighter than rubies,
emeralds, even diamonds, and not be bought or sold,
but treasured and purified, revered.
May our Earth be restored to balance
through our blessed efforts.
May our efforts live in harmony with our Earth.

-EJP

Story N˚ 21: The End of an Era

My first “puffy” coat-

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Not fashionable, but functional!
  • was purchased for $35 at Monk’s in Williamsburg around the time it was getting too cold to put off buying my first ever winter coat.
  • was in no way a fashion statement, but allowed me to experience Northern winters in a civilized, rational way.
  • was my shield on long, lonely and very necessary walks through the gloom of Winter 2013.
  • allowed me to enjoy my first snowshoe outing at Mohonk Mountain House (a sparkling day).
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On top of the world at Mohonk
  • cushioned me at the ice skating rink.
  • paired well with woolen sweaters and a down vest for extra cold days (not cause it looked great, but it did the warmth trick).
  • became a sort of blanket for my Christmas Day beach visits (yes, this Floridian goes to the beach every Christmas Day possible, and a coat like this makes it possible).
  • also made it possible to bike through a few winters (not sure what I was trying to prove).
  • five NYC winters later, will be fondly and appreciatively remembered.
  • the next winter coat, TBD
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The final resting place for my puffy coat

Story N˚20: Use It Up, Wear It Out

…Make it do or do without.  This saying, popular during the struggles of the Great Depression, is one I learned growing up in a large family.  Along with “waste not, want not,” I associate these expressions with my maternal grandparents.  They both lived through the Depression and knew how to live off the land and to prepare and preserve their own food.  From farming and gardening, to baking and canning, carpentry and sewing, they were self-sufficient, hard workers.  My grandfather always set up a compost wherever he went, my grandma taught us to sew and crochet when she visited, and her great grandmother made a certain quilt out of any scrap of fabric she could put together in pioneer times.

In my sustainable living and as an active environmentalist, I challenge myself to use and care for things in a conscientious way.  I scrape every last bit of peanut butter out of the jar before recycling it, for example.  The same with shampoos, etc.  I am aware of how much waste I generate all by myself- it’s a lot.

Applying this to my clothesmaking, I found a fabric a few years ago that hits all the marks for me:  a chambray of hemp blended with recycled polyester.  I ordered a few yards to test out and love the drape, texture and color ( a blue-grey denim wash).  The first thing I made was a pair of pants from a Marcy Tildon pattern that I altered to suit me.  The wide legs balloon out on either side and then taper smartly above the ankle.  I created a waistband and pockets for wearability.  These pants have gotten so many compliments, and I get as many from men as I do women; they may need to go to market…

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The perfect baggy pant

The fabric has held up well, except for the crotch, because of my bicycle seat and all the biking I do.  I had extra fabric to patch it, because I want them to last forever!  And then even more to make a skirt with…

For the skirt, I took the full width of the fabric (about 50″/127 cm), and pleated and gathered it until it fit my waist.  At the center back the two selvedge edges meet.  This time I added beesom pockets (cut right into the fabric and finished with jetting, incorrectly known as welt pockets).  The pocket linings were cut from a sari my sister brought from South Africa.  The turquoise silk peeks through the pocket slit.  Again a waistband, and this time a facing around the hem line.  The silhouette is a puffy column that inspired the name- the Suffragette skirt.  Maybe a matching-era sportscoat will appear…

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The Suffragette skirt

Even after a pant and skirt, there is still fabric left.  I put a panel of it in a skirt that I cut from a man’s dress shirt.  A bright polyester herringbone knit, circa 1970?  The story behind that find:  an old friend of mine was searching Craigslist for deals while he was out of work. He would often find giveaways, especially the belongings of deceased persons.  The daughter of an elderly man who had passed was giving away all of his old clothes, which I now have an ample stash of.  What can I say, there were many inspirational pieces in the pile…

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hemp + herringbone
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Details: crotch patch, beesom pocket, inset panel

For the chambray, I have almost used it up, I’m definitely wearing it out, am making it do and do, and haven’t had to buy anything in a while.  I love this.

 

Story N˚19: Or, Up on my SOAP BOX

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Some of my motives for writing about clothing experiences are to elevate the status of clothing in your wardrobe, to encourage you to carefully buy new clothes and take care of those you already have, and to consider the environmental and humanitarian impacts of your shopping choices. 

In light of current political activity and mood in the U.S., it seems trite to share a story about clothing when there are weightier issues on the table:  mass incarceration, human trafficking, poverty, corruption, human rights violations, environmental devastations and, latest, refugees have just been barred from entering our freedom-loving nation.  This is heavy stuff, but I can no longer look away.  

I want to stress anew the power that we have as consumers and citizens; this power is fueled by knowledge and information.  In a democracy, even a version of one, we all have the responsibility to know our rights and stay informed (through a wide range of credible channels), and then to speak up when ours and other’s rights are in violation.  One of our powers is to vote with our dollars- what we give money to, we give power to.  Let it be a worthy, ethical entity. 

Given the above dump truck’s worth of issues that violate human rights, there is much to be done.   Shopping responsibly is one important and simple thing we can do, here’s how:

  • Shop Thrift, Vintage, Second hand.  There is so much great stuff out there already, let it inform your personal style. 
  • Shop only when you need something, rather than as a hobby, habit or compulsion.
  • Shop brands and stores that you trust.  It only takes a minute to google a brand and see how they score on an ethics/environmental test.  Give your money to a brand that cares!  the good trade  ecocult  project just
  • Shop in your closet or share/swap clothes with siblings and friends.
  • Shop for quality.  Buy items that are well made and will last you more than a few wearings.
  • Shop for your individual style instead of only shopping trends.  Be your beautiful self and have fun figuring out what your style is, or test the limits of your established style.
  • Take care of the clothes you have, be grateful for them.  Hang dry your clothes, don’t over wash, and repair them or find a reliable tailor to help you.

In solidarity,

E

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By Mark Fischer – http://www.flickr.com/photos/fischerfotos/7454854178/sizes/l/, CC BY-SA 2.0

Story N˚18: A Dress in 3 Acts

Act 1:  2008. Woman in her mid thirties visits NYC with her husband. She enters a bohemian boutique in Manhattan and finds a subtle, well-draped dress in a watery Japanese print.  It’s on the sale rack, so it’s worth a try in the fitting room.  A little snug through the shoulders, but it’s so different, so beautifully grey and blue, and affordably priced.  She takes it back to Florida where it gets compliments and stains in the armpits because of the heat, and the fact that it’s snug through the shoulders.

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Act 2:  2010, Florida. Woman wears the beautiful dress to her estranged husband’s BFA  show at the university they both attend.  She wants to look good.  Her hair hangs long down her back. She puts on orange peep-toe platforms to create some pop with the grey tones of the dress.  She is feeling confident and happy.  Her husband really wants her to be there, so he said.  All of their friends, her in-laws and classmates are there to support him in his exhibition, including a professor they both took classes with.  The professor looks very dressed up in make up, an open-back dress and heels. Her hair is also hanging long down her back.  The Woman notices the professor looks nervous. 

Act 3:  2012, New York City, a rented room.  It is only a few months since her divorce. The Woman found out that the professor and her husband were sleeping together.  The Woman found out that she and her husband want different things in life.  She is feeling lonely and sorry for herself, and decides to go out.  She puts on that grey dress and a little make up.  She runs her hand over her head that is now a cropped lawn of hair.  She shaved her head in mourning after the divorce, and as a way to start anew.  The Woman goes to an open gallery night in the Lower East Side.  She looks at art and boutique goods; she sees beautiful things.  She sees people struggling on the streets.  She eats a slice of pizza and watches people go by.  She knows she has it good; she goes home contented and ready for her new life alone…

-Emily

Story N˚17: Sweater Weather

…Which officially began a few months ago in these climes, has been eluding us.  Even today in Manhattan, I saw a teenager in shorts and flip flops as I marched by in tall boots, sweater, scarf and raincoat.  Despite being dressed for the rainy grey day, I wouldn’t call it cold or even chilly.  My sweaters are ready to go, but on many days they feel too heavy and uncomfortably warm.  Here’s hoping temperatures will drop, so I can bundle up properly.

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My sweater stack is a tidy group of mostly shopped pieces. As a Floridian, I wasn’t in the habit of acquiring sweaters.  Since moving to New York, I’m happy to boast a few Indigenous cotton sweaters ethically made in Peru and a charcoal grey alpaca sweater by Zady that I’m getting a lot of mileage out of.  But the sweater that has the most history with me is a hand-knitted pumpkin spice sweater that keeps me cozy warm.  It came into my life in 2005 on a return trip to Argentina.  As I’ve mentioned before, Argentina is a great place for yarns and knitting.  My friend, Silvia, was working away on this sweater.  She said it was for herself but when finished, she realized that it was way too big for her small figure and gave it to me as a gift.  I thought it was too big for me as well, but didn’t want to refuse it.  I made room in my suitcase somehow- this thing is really bulky!  And it lived in clothes storage for many years before I moved North.  I think the oversized slouchiness really works now, although the color isn’t my favorite and I prefer natural fibers.  On the coldest days, this sweater has found itself stuffed inside my down fill coat. A tight fit, but no complaint of chill.  And I can always use a scarf to offset the color.  This sweater has become a lounge staple.  Best of all, I love that it is handmade by a friend…

 

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