Don’t Tell Me What To Wear

I listen to Q most mornings, one of my favourite CBC Radio programs. Tom Power is kind, generous, humble, and after I listen to his program I feel as though he and I have shared a conversation over a cup of tea at his kitchen table in St. John’s, Newfoundland. I am tempted to insert the word “but” here, but I won’t. His program not long ago focused on fashion and guest Mosha Lundstrom Halbert explained how Tik Tok has replaced fashion editors and runways and now dictates what is the leading edge in “fashion” to an eager public who can’t decide what to wear on their own. A group of teenagers has put the big fashion houses of Louis Vuitton and Prada and Versace, and whoever else falls under that category, on their heels. I’m sure Tom had a reason to be discussing fashion on his programme though I can’t for the life of me think what his reason might have been. Maybe if I had listened to the entirety of the programme, I would have had such a revelation. I switched the radio off.

I am not, nor have I ever been interested in fashion, and I’m fine with that. My uniform is jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, finished off with hiking boots or running shoes, depending on the day. Remember however many years ago, when women were getting their “colours done” and someone with swatches of coloured fabric would tell us which colours looked best and which didn’t. We were either a spring or a fall or blah, blah, blah. What happened to wearing a colour because it makes us happy, or it was the colour of the first crayon we reached for when we were learning to draw. The pandemic has given many the option of not getting out of their pajamas or certainly to remain in their pajamas from the waist down during a workday. I don’t wander around in my pajamas, but I long ago gave up the notion that someone can tell me what I should wear and in what colour and what shoe goes best with it. I defer to others having a keen interest in what hangs in their closet and what they pull on each day. That’s great, but I have nothing to add to the conversation. Each to their own, I say, and then I shrug and walk away.

Back in the day, when clothes reached the end of their useful life and could not be salvaged or repaired, the fabric was transformed. The cloth was cut in strips and woven on a loom or braided to create floor coverings and bed coverings. It wasn’t uncommon to unravel knitted sweaters to remake them into something else. One of my aunts cut up all her children’s worn-out clothing, sewing the remnants together to create tubes into which she stuffed nylon stockings. The result was a cosy warm quilt. She found a use for just about everything that had reached the end of its original purpose. She made bookmarks and small jigsaw puzzles out of greeting cards. She made curtains from old bed sheets for her children’s stage when they put on their performances. I admired her for that when I was child and still think of it now. Annie opened her empty flour sacks to make me a child-sized princess or superhero cape, depending on the day. Very little went to waste in her house. We seem willing to change our wardrobes and toss the old when we bring in the new. Cloth and clothing are one of the struggles in managing the waste we produce on this planet. We have become a society that throws things away long before it has reached the end of its status as being useful and that fact alone makes me reach for my worn and ready sweatshirt, despite the frayed cuffs and thinning elbows. You don’t throw old friends away.

wendistewart@live.ca

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