We All Have to Wear Clothes

Clothes are very important to me, though not as important as shoes, and not as important as they are to the woman who writes What I Wore Today (or the many other blogs with similar titles) ... or even as they are to guys over at Fuck Yeah Menswear (which is brilliantly funny).

In my freshman year of high school, I prided myself on never wearing the same outfit twice, and I could tell you the story behind every one of them. (I might have been given to calling them "ensembles" then ... a few years ago at my brother-in-law's wedding in Minnesota I ran into a woman I'd gone to high school with in Athens, OH, who still recalled my influential lecture on the critical difference between outfits and ensembles. I blush.)  I managed to do this by thrifting (bargain bag day at Volunteers of America, oh yeah!) and frequenting the local vintage shop so much that they finally hired me to dress their windows.

When I was 17 and temporarily living in Atlanta, Dick Hebdige's book on the semiotics of punk style jumped out at me from a used bookstore shelf and made me feel validated in my conviction that clothes mattered. (My friend Andrea, who actually was a punk in the 70s, instead of a kid in the 80s wishing to have been born 10 years earlier, tells a funny story that upends Hebdige to a degree. Dressed head to toe in secondhand menswear, tie and all, she was asked by her therapist, "What does your outfit mean?" Andrea scoffed. "It doesn't mean anything. It's just clothes. We all have to wear them.")

I read recently that Kate McGarrigle's children, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, thought their mother always wore couture until they cleaned out her closet after she died and saw all the discount labels. No one will probably ever suspect me of dressing in couture, but I like to imagine that I still retain an aura of thrift store chic, despite not really having the time to properly thrift anymore. This is partly because at the clinic I work at we have a staff "freecycle" table -- you bring in what you are ready to get rid of and take what you like -- and because I rarely shun a handmedown that has aesthetic appeal. (Now if someone would just freecycle me a house with bigger closets.)

So all this sprang from my pleasure in the ... ensemble ... I wore on Monday. Everything I wore that day had meaning to me in some way. The boots on my feet were the flowered Doc Martens I got in Toronto, city of shoes, many years ago. My jeans, though admittedly bootcut (which is a look past its prime, I know), fit really well and didn't cost a cent (thank you, freecycle). My belt was my husband's. The shirt I wore was a thin plummy purple long sleeve thing. I strangely have no idea where I got this shirt, so it is the exception to prove the rule. Over it, I wore this awesome chunky plum cardigan with 3/4 sleeves and one big button at the top that I just snagged out of my mother's giveaway pile at Christmastime (it pays to have a young mother with a good sense of style).

I wore two necklaces: One, a gift from my aunt, has a faceted grey crystal, a little silver peace symbol, and a small plaque of silver with the words "create peace" embossed on it. It is from a lovely jewelry store in Norman, OK, the town where my mother was born. My aunt gave variations of this to my sister and my brother's girlfriend too (theirs had different messages). The other necklace was a simple strand of opalescent paperclips fashioned for me by Z and place around my neck with utmost care. Like my aunt, Z gave several of these creations to the women in our family for Christmas (I bought the box of paperclips at Marshall's because I saw it and I knew we needed paperclips, but as soon as Z saw it, she claimed the majority of them for her own creative purposes).

And finally, I wore on my hands multicolored (with plenty of plum) fingerless gloves knit for me by two most important babysitters' mother last winter to pamper my poor cold writerly claws. They have ribbed cuffs that go over the wrist a couple of inches and have a cable pattern up the middle. I love them passionately. (She made me a second pair in brighter colors with ruffled wrists, with which I am equally enamored.)

If I were a good blogger, I would taken pictures of my whole ensemble to post for you, but alas ... I am not a good blogger. I do, however have this:

May the clothes you have to wear make you happy and tell a story about who you are.


  1. Toni K, I love your outfits and reading your musings!

  2. Thanks for the young mama with sense of style plug!! :-)
    Love reading your stuff, love your own style, love you


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