Am I the Same Girl?

by Charlotte

Reader, what are you wearing?  (Lusty opener, I know.)  I am in my pajamas, but earlier today I was wearing a gauzy cotton skirt, a v-neck t-shirt, a cardigan, and brown woven granny flats.  Who cares, Seam Ripped?!  There is a point here, I promise.  I bought the skirt when I was 14, shopping for high school.  I was just making my way out of that awful Abercrombie and Fitch phase, and for once didn’t buy something because my friends were wearing it, or because I wanted to look like some topless, beach-tan, gravity-defying blonde girl.  I was buying it for me.  Truth be told, I was also buying the skirt for someone else: its designer.  Not the company, but the person.  It was as if the skirt were a coincidence of my desire and his creative leanings.  (Look who’s getting all “stars aligning” on you.)  Oh, good, here’s the point: It’s never just been me liking something, and picking it up.  Now, I like the skirt for what it is, and what the 100+ wears I’ve gotten out of it mean to me.  Yet, I still don’t wear it alone.  There looms that random, but clear, relationship between end consumer and designer.  It’s not bad, it’s not even less-than-ideal; it’s just a fact.  Plain and simple.

Now I sew.  Designer and wearer are not one, but maker and wearer are.  I’ve been following Wardrobe Architect—not quite doing, more nibbling around it and making little ‘hmm’ noises, here and there—and the only thing that has really become clear to me is that I don’t have a real grip on the whos and whats and whys of my wardrobe anymore.  I’ve been trying to sort out a lineage, and draw myself a cohesive-ish future path, but that’s complicated by a handful of things.  This summer, I’m tasked with essentially building up my wardrobe from scratch.  I think I have something like fifteen wearable dresses that fit well, and a handful of pencil skirts that’ll see me if I magically manage to shave off an inch or so of hip.

Looking at my to-sew list now, it would be nearly unrecognizable to Charlotte of 2008 (which is apparently when I started considering sewing, lord have mercy).  Not just because of all of the patterns from independent companies, but the nature of what I’m sewing.  Contemporary patterns!  Dinner plate-size watercolor flowers!  I can’t figure I start and you end, reader (writer, blogger friend).  Cue soundtrack!

In 2008, most of my sewing information came from Pattern Review and the Purl Bee.  I think I had just started following Erica Bunker, followed soon thereafter by Megan Nielsen.  My patterns from 2008-2011 are mostly Vogue designer patterns from Tracy Reese, Michael Kors, and the like.  Then something switched.  I started reading Patty the Snug Bug, and I’d randomly stumbled upon Idle Fancy’s Mary on Pattern Review.  I fell down a Gertie wormhole, and emerged wearing florals.  A lot of florals.  Which isn’t to say that I didn’t like florals before, but it is as if someone came into my closet and beat it to death with a rose-print stick.

I’ve got rather mixed feelings about this.  I like what I wear, don’t get me wrong, but I wonder why I like it.  It is useless trying to abstract the me from the it and from the yous in the y’all.  (Pronouns for everyone!)  It is also hard to reconcile my floral wardrobe with the images of the Vogue-reading, Dries van Noten-loving Charlotte of Christmases Past.

I’m not writing a book here, so we’ll continue this next week (or during a week six or seventy or a hundred months from now).  Next time, we will have special guest appearances from Elaine Showalter (bomb-ass English professor, and mother of Michael Showalter, which makes her the grandmother of the book Guys Can Be Cat Ladies, Too) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  That is, guest appearances from their work.  We’re going to agonize over what the florals mean.  After that, we might even talk about the person-to-person connection that may or may not exist between designer and customer, and compare it to what we’ve got going on here and now.  Get excited, people.  (Can you tell I kind of wish I had a paper to write?)

In any event, I totally shirked my muslining duty this weekend, and instead watched The Bletchley Circle and read The Woman Upstairs.  I haven’t had two completely free weeks in something like four or five years.  I am basically sucking the marrow out of this “break” thing.  More soon!

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