daily prompt challenge: the clothes (may) make the (wo)man

Clothes horses

I must admit to having been a “clothes horse” during my college years. Since I was on a couple of small scholarships and had to fund the rest of my tuition by working at the university bookstore, I had pittance left over for a wardrobe. Somehow I managed, although exactly how, I can’t remember. After all…that was over 4 decades ago.

When I got married, soon after graduating, I dabbled a bit in sewing my own clothes. I confess I was more of a seamstress in middle school and high school. I’d learned to sew while I was in elementary school, carrying my prized, portable sewing machine to and from the home of my Japanese teacher.

As a married lady with a heftier income, a combination of mine and my hubby’s, I began shopping for clothes at Liberty House. No longer around, it use to be THE place to purchase the latest fashions. Needless to say, they were pricey.

Liberty House and JM San Jose

But hey! We have to look fabulous to keep our men, don’t we? Or is it that we have to outshine our peers? Or is it a reflection of our insecurities about ourselves? Or perhaps it’s a combination of all three. Will we ever know for sure?

Does it really matter…in the grand scheme of things?

Throughout my career outside the home, I obsessed over clothes. I’m sure I was no different than most working women. Although I might have gone overboard because I’d grown up using hand-me-downs, and rejects from the orphanage where my mom worked. Not an excuse, mind you, just an explanation for my laser-like focus on buying new things to wear.

Gaining weight can be a deterrent to buying clothes, or it can be the impetus to go out and buy clothes that fit…until we can squeeze back into our smaller-sized duds once again. Been there; done that. Now in my 60s…I’ve donated most of what use to fit to Good Will.

English: Photo of Chico's in Hudson, Ohio

Chico’s has my patronage now that I fit into a size 2…1 1/2…and 1, depending on the piece. Did I forget to mention that Chico’s is very astute at marketing to more mature women. In other words, they’ve tricked us chubbier women into thinking we’re really smaller than the rest of the world thinks we are. The retailer has taken the standard sizes…4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18…and morphed them into 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, and 3. Pretty clever, huh? And women like me fell for the scam…hook, line, and sinker.

But you know what? Chico’s nudged me out of my comfort zone with blacks, browns, greys, and blues…catapulting me into all the colors of the rainbow, and some. 

I didn’t only eat sherbert, I was wearing sherbert…colors.

As I’ve aged, I’ve toned my choices down a tad. No more teals and tangerines for me. However I have picked up some bling. I’m not over-the-top with it, just enough to turn a few heads, whether in admiration…or shock. Oh, well…

…vanity…thy name is (wo)man…

………hugmamma.

(p.s….did i mention i’m to blame for my daughter’s now being a “clothes horse?”…and needing more closet space?)

...dressing to the 9's...once-in-awhile is ok...

…dressing to the 9’s…once-in-awhile is ok…

a tribute to my mom…ironing

Ironing board

Image via Wikipedia

Do you iron what you wear? With drycleaners popping up on every corner, and the grunge look being in fashion, and ripped jeans looking cool, why bother to get the wrinkles out of everyday wear? I’ve got a small stack of shirts and jeans, both mine and my husbands, sitting atop the dryer waiting to be ironed. Sometimes I pull an item or 2 from the pile and give it a quick press when I’m in a hurry to wear it then and there. But most of the items have been patiently waiting their turn, collecting dust. Literally. It’s kind of an “out of sight, out of mind” thing.

When “the mood” hits me, I’ll gather the load of folded, by now very wrinkled items in my arms, bring them upstairs in front of the TV, and plop them down on a chair. Then I’ll ask my hubby to drag the ironing board up as well. He’ll usually go the whole “nine yards,” situating it in its usual spot, plug an extension cord into the nearby wall socket, plug the iron into that, and voila! I’m good to go. I’ll find a good show to watch on TV, and start ironing away. Once I get started, I can hardly wait to see the pile of clothes get smaller. It’s like a competition with myself, but also against the clothes. Will I get through all of them, or will I get pooped first?

Toritama produces 15% of the Brazilian jeans

Image via Wikipedia

Because my husband’s clothes are larger per square inch than mine, ironing them seems to take twice as long. But I muddle through, knowing I’m being a good, no great, wife! Truthfully, I think he’d probably wear his clothes wrinkled. In fact, he’s tried that. Upon closer inspection I’ll give him the thumbs up, or thumbs down. The older I get, sometimes I’ll just squint and give a quick thumbs up.

How my mom ever managed to work for years as a laundress for a Catholic orphanage, I’ll never know. She spent 8 hours standing on her feet, ironing, ironing, ironing. In between that she’d put loads of wash on, and then hang them out to dry. She dealt with pieces of clothing that ran the gamut from kids’ play clothes to nuns’ habits, including their head gear. Starching items was a biggie in those days. For those not familiar with that term, select types of clothing were doused in thick liquid, that really seemed like glue. I don’t remember if it was then lightly rinsed, or just wrung out and hung to dry. What puzzles me to this day is how my mom managed to get the nuns’ heavy, black, woolen uniforms, and head pieces, looking like they’d been drycleaned? She should have gotten an award or something. I imagine her pay was even paltry, given the orphanage was run on a dime and lots of prayers.

Needless to say my mom taught my siblings and me to iron correctly. On a shirt or blouse, we learned to iron the collar first, then the upper neck area along the back, then each sleeve, then the front of one side, moving around the back of the shirt or blouse, to the remaining front. On a pair of slacks, we would iron the front, then the back, then fold the legs together so that we could iron one side at a time, being certain to iron the inside of each leg as well. It was expected that when we opened the pants up again, there would be creases down the fronts of each leg.

Image by me. Larger version available on Flickr.

Image via Wikipedia

Talk about learning to iron as if we were artists, or scientists. My mom took great pride in not only mastering the technique, but having each item of clothing looking a thousand times better than when she got it. And that skirt or overall may have passed through her hands a gazillion times! No matter, my mom washed it, dried it, and ironed it as if for the very first time…and never complained. Even when she developed varicose veins as a result of working barefoot on concrete floors. The sight of her calves marred by streaks of blue bumps, were a constant reminder to me of how my mom sacrificed her own comfort to keep us kids fed, and clothed, with a roof over our heads.

Being widowed at such a young age, 30, my mom was immensely grateful to be working. And the Maryknoll nuns were like guardian angels always hovering to make certain we had enough food and clothing, even if both were surplus from the orphanage’s own stockpile.

So yes I still iron, however minimally, in memory of my mom who made the task monumentally important. Such a small, everyday occurrence, that for her meant all the world.

i try not to underestimate the small…for they are usually larger than they seem…hugmamma.