Learning to look at clothes again. Learning to enjoy fashion.

I put these on my Amazon wishlist yesterday:


Since I started making my own clothes, I’ve begun giving myself permission to enjoy…..umm….clothes and stuff. Fashion? Is that what they call it? I guess I think of fashion as what’s in fashion, i.e. the current trends of the day. I don’t like most current trends, my interest is more in older styles. I like a lot of the 90’s, I love some of the artsier stuff of the 80’s (boxy shirts and baggy pants), I love funky cotton prints and big swaths of neutral linens (not always together, but sometimes), and patchwork clothes make my heart go pitter pat. Oh! And I positively love something I recently found out has a name: lagenlook. And then I love Regency styles because I love Jane Austen movies. And I love a lot of other costumes from other movies, which I won’t try to describe because I’m sure I’d get the historical periods wrong. I suppose all of that is still fashion. So I guess I’m saying: I like fashion. Which is very strange to hear myself say. 

I don’t know why this is so hard to talk about. I don’t mean my feelings. I mean, it’s hard to articulate clothes. I don’t know how. I don’t know the first thing about fashion’s history, or rules, or anything (nothing could be more obvious at this point). The feelings, though, are the easy part. Clothes telegraph feelings to me, sometimes whole ideas. I just never thought I was able to be in on the conversation.

FullSizeRender 5I’ve always been big, always too big for the stuff I wanted to wear. About once a decade I will come across some tiny little gem of a clothing source, where what I love is exactly what’s being made, and it fits me. It always feels like a miracle, and I always end up becoming friends with the owner and buying scads of their clothes. It’s as if I walk around with a voice always too low to hear, in fact usually I don’t even bother trying to speak. I just let myself be invisible (why hello, my fat girl uniform of navy and black t-shirts, and khaki pants). And then I find someone who will give me a device that will let me feel seen and heard, and like I can participate in the conversation. Sigh. I’m usually much better with metaphors. Anyway. In the late 90’s and early 00’s it was a clothing company called Zen Tropic, that made these amazing batik dresses and shirts. I ran into their booth all the time at local festivals. Later, it was Betsy’s stuff from Intertwined Designs. Her things are handmade from hemp, it’s all gorgeous stuff. I bought scads of it. Unfortunately now I’m too big for all of it, and her entire line, but I still love Betsy. I ran into her at the Oregon Country Fair, and she knew who I was, which warmed my heart. She’s a very sweet person. A couple of years ago I ran into Cada Johnson, and her t-shirts are big enough for me, and beautifully sewn and designed. I wrote a post about her. But, she followed her artistic heart and stopped making clothes, and now makes more textile art and these graceful, beautiful prayer flags. I already treasured my Cada clothes, but now I treasure them even more. 

Besides those three, two of which are gone and one of which doesn’t fit anymore, there hasn’t been anything else I’ve been able to wear that feels native to me, that gives me the feelings I want my clothes to give me. For years I got lots of feelings from Patagonia stuff, and so I wore their women’s XL and just stretched the hell out of things. I loved their company ethos, their styles, their warm fleece, and their durability. Their stuff wears like iron. It’s amazing, I love it. Eventually I started shopping in the men’s section for outerwear and some t-shirts, pretending it was for my husband – a tactic I imagine was blazingly obvious to the young and thin sales girl. And of course I bought lots of things that didn’t quite fit, putting them into my “eventually I’ll be thin” pile. A pile that I recently bagged up and threw into the closet of my sewing studio, so I could eventually go through the favorites and adjust things to fit, now that I have some idea how.

The next time I saw clothes that gave me that feeling, was when I bumped into 100 Acts of Sewing by Sonya Phillips – I write about it here and I even talk about “that feeling”, which I still haven’t described well at all. Her clothes were colorful, artsy, and simple. They made me so happy! And they were patterns. I could make them myself. That was the start of all of this.

And now here I am, looking at books about fashion and getting excited. As if this was all somehow mine, too. Something I get to enjoy, a place where I can belong. I know I’m not describing this well, and I know that it might be frustrating to read, but that’s okay because I also know that as I practice writing about this, I’ll get less bumbling and more articulate. For now I just want to get the bumbling out. I want to at least try to describe where I’m starting from. Because I’ll be really curious to see where I end up in a few years.


  1. Zoe says:

    I hear you. Having studied clothing production, I sometimes tell people that I have a qualification in the fashion industry, but I like to think it doesn’t show. To my mind there is a world of difference between fashion as a consumer pastime (which is the manner in which it is most often perceived) and fashion as a form of expression and participation. For those of us who like to create our own things, I think we are driven to do so by a sense that the mindless consumption of trends is unfulfilling.

    Your blog is cool. I’ve decided to follow it. 😉

    • YES! Yes, that’s it. I don’t care so much for fashion as a consumer pastime. Especially right now, when everything is “fast fashion”, which basically translates to “wasteful, terrible for the environment, won’t last longer than a few months, and designed to separate you from your money”. But fashion as a form of expression, that’s magic! It’s fascinating!

      And thank you so much! 🙂 Your blog is cool, too! I’m adding it to my Feedly. That Vera skirt, wow. That’s lovely. It’s kind of amazing all the math that it seems to have taken. Or is it less math and more just spatial thought?

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