3.07.2014

THIS I WEAR BLOG


It is fun for me to meet people producing wonderful blogs. I had lunch with some of the Eileen Fisher crew recently; they are always interested in who is doing good work in the world, and Moms Clean Air Force is focusing lots of time not only on climate change, but on toxic chemical reform. (Sign our petition for reform now; a bill is working its way through Congress.) As we went around the table introducing ourselves, describing a bit of our journeys, Rebecca Magee talked about a blog she started years ago, called This I Wear.

Intrigued by how blogs give us all a chance to run down any rabbit hole that catches our attention--without having to ask a slowpoke editor for permission--I started exploring. (Really, this should be the golden age of magazines; instead, too many editors are stuck. I especially noticed this as I pored over shelter magazines and their websites during my renovation. But that's another story.)  This I Wear is charming, it has a sweet tone and carefully considered posts. (And, by the way, college grads, please note: it led Magee into her job at Eileen Fisher.)

This I Wear is about the soul of clothing, and the bond of attachment we form with so many of the things we buy--and what that says about us. Magee's got a post up now on a Japanese technique of embroidery, called Sashiko, begun as a way to reinforce weak spots in clothing (those pesky knees, toes and elbows). Kinship: it reminded me of my mending techniques.

One of the things I love about This I Wear is Magee's fascination with her mother's closet. She writes about Liberty scarves, for instance, and how excited she was to find one in NYC; it brought back loving memories of her mother's collection. The other theme in her writing has to do with cherishing old things, and how clothes just get better with time. Some of my friends were, um, gently scandalized that I wasn't buying a new dress for my son's wedding. But I had an outfit that I love--one I wore so often in magazine days that my publisher told me to change clothes, as there were too many photographs during the year of me wearing the same outfits.  My silver-embroidered coat and skirt were perfect for the grand occasion--one of the most important in my life--they were comfortable and glittering, a neat combination, and I wanted to imbue them with wedding bliss.

How easy it is these days to have a "Just Throw It Away" attitude about our stuff. When you can buy fabulous wool socks at Century 21 for a couple of dollars--why bother to darn them? But then....those socks might last a month before your toes start poking through, or the heel is threadbare. Far better to buy fewer things of higher quality, things that will last a lifetime. Or at least through a wedding or two. 

11 comments:

Jo Anne Miller said...

Thank you. I love the love and energy and memories in clothes. Thank you for your beautiful words.

MJ said...

Timing is everything. I was just doing some spring cleaning today and ran across a box of clothes my aunt (who is now 98) gave me. There are silk shawls and hand painted tops, nightgowns she bought in France 50 years ago. It is impossible to visit her without leaving with clothes (and spectator heels) and while I rarely wear them, living on a small, very casual tropical island, I love them because they are part of her.

mary said...

Total agreement. Quality and design above everything. Mary

Leslie in Portland, Oregon said...

I could not agree more. I am in the process of saving money to begin buying clothes from Eileen Fisher, one piece at a time, rather than buying clothes made by companies that have significantly reduced the quality of their products. I look forward to someday having very few clothes, but loving and feeling comfortable in every piece. Although I've never succeeded in learning how to sew, much less embroider, I'm going to take a look at "This I Wear." I'd really like to be able to effectively mend or reinforce worn spots in the future. (How strange to be interested in this traditionally-female skill/duty, as well as cooking, for the first time...a decade after having children living at home. Although I'm not retired, maybe I have a bit more time.)

Bart Swindall said...

It's probably been twenty years, but there was a piece in the Chicago Tribune magazine about the Minimal apartment of a woman who was--I think--an editor somewhere, who took exactly that approach, less for environmental issues than for space issues, but in the end, the result was the same. In order to open the place up, she removed all the walls but the bathroom's, leaving her with no closets. Rather than holding art, her white walls featured six outfits & one empty hook, for whatever she happened to be wearing that day. The reporter asked her what she would do if she saw a new piece she really wanted. The answer was that if she didn't like it enough to get rid of one of her others, she'd just pass it up.

Jayne said...

My Mother still loves to sew her own clothing, in her 80's! She only buys the best fabrics she can find and makes the same style that suits her, but her friends have proclaimed her a "fashion plate." She would never buy mass produced poor quality clothing, even on her fixed income! And I know she will applaud your wedding attire choice when I read her your blog!

Pamela said...

After years of being besotted with the myriads of colour and texture found on the shelves of wool shops, I finally learned to knit. I’ve found extraordinary pleasure in carefully choosing the most sublime colour, the most delicious texture, for a sweater to make myself. As I progress, stitch by stitch, my unique sweater taking shape before my eyes, I find such genuine happiness only equal to the joy of wearing the sweater once it’s done. Knitting my own sweaters has subtly changed my relationship to garments of all sorts. I now read labels, not for the designer’s name, but for the fabric content and the location of manufacture. I care about what I wear in an entirely new way. Clothes are no longer simply disposable, but pieces that need to mean something: beauty, artistry, quality. Life is funny, isn’t it?

wmeribe said...

I wonder, Dominique, whether you have heard of the Alabama Chanin clothing line (alabamachanin.com). It's a wonderful story on many levels, born of a New York fashion designer's dream to restore the textile industry to her hometown of Florence, AL. Once known as "the tee shirt capitol of the country", the industry pulled out of the US for China in the 80's, leaving hundreds of "bread-winner" women with no means to support their families.
Years later Natalie Chanin, with her innovative sense of clothing construction and fabric composition, returned to Florence to build a very high-end line of romantic yet very practical womens' wear, of heirloom quality. It is providing "cottage industry" work at very fair wages for southern women who construct and embellish the garments entirely by hand ... no machines ... using time-honored sewing techniques, and using sustainable organic cotton grown, spun and woven in the South. This, and Natalie's unique philosophy on life AND business, have made her worthy of the exceptional acclaim she has received from the fashion world and beyond ... from Vogue to Garden and Gun.

Julie said...

I loved the thought of this (alabamachanin.com), and i still do. However, the prices are certainly high end! $4700.00 for a cotton coat. $1575.00 for a simple cotton polo shirt.$ 3700 for a short cotton blazer. Well, I guess if you have that kind of money, this is quality clothing giving "very fair wages" (I hope) to the southern women who work there.

William said...

Dominique....


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/30/nyregion/downtown-food-goes-north.html

wmeribe said...

Hello again, Julie ... came across this today. http://alabamachanin.com/journal/2012/02/sustainable-design-tuesday-a-round-business-model/ While the obvious high-end product is not for everyone ... certainly not for me either, it is the beauty of its philosophy that endears. We can all dream ... and emulate.
I spent a week at The Factory workshop last Fall. (Tremendous opportunities to learn another way to be a consumer.) It was an experience that I find compelled to share, whenever I can. Thanks for obliging me.