Slow Fashion October, Week 3: LOVED

Slow Fashion October, Week 3: LOVED

Week 3 of Slow Fashion October is upon us, and this week’s theme is LOVED, as in your proudest accomplishment / most loved item / most frequently worn item / thing you saved up for / investment pieces / thing you worked a long time on / oldest thing that’s still in rotation. (I just noticed that’s seven suggested prompts and I might literally do one per day on Instagram this week.) What is it about those items that makes them so cherished?

I wrote last week about some of my most-loved and most-worn pieces, but in anticipation of this week I’ve been thinking about the times in my life where I put on an outfit and thought, man, this is it. This is what it feels like to put on clothes that are me. The first time it ever happened I think I must have been 11 or 12 years old. My mom told me she’d heard about a new children’s boutique one suburb south of us and she thought we should check it out. I was old enough to be mortified at the idea of being taken to a children’s boutique, but shopping was also something of a difficulty with my mother and me, and I was not about to turn her down. It turned out to be full of things that made me drool, but the defining moment was when I tried on a burgundy velvet pantsuit that fit as if it had been custom made for me, and was the coolest outfit I’d ever been near, much less in. My mom or the shoplady, I don’t know, had picked out a dusty pink blouse to go under it, and there happened to be a matching pink “silk” (who knows) scarf with Karen written on it in burgundy caligraphy. Which of course got tucked under the collar, ends dangling so you could see the name. It sounds horrific, I know — it must have been 1979-ish? — but I’m telling you, I felt like I could rule the world. I’m sure it was expensive, by our standards, but my mom agreed it had to be mine.

I’m pretty sure I felt the same thrill every time I put that outfit on, and it was definitely a lesson in how good clothes could and should be, but I think that was also the outfit that ultimately taught to me to steer clear of statement outfits. When something is that much of a standout, and thus memorable, you don’t get to wear it very often. People will definitely recall that you had it on the last time you saw them. And I either didn’t yet have the hang of mixing and matching, or I didn’t have other pieces in my closet that would work with just the pants or just the jacket. I’m not sure how often I wore it or what ever became of it, but it was the garment love of my life at that stage. And probably also the birth of my love of a good blazer.

Flash forward to 1994. I’m 25 years old, going through one of my biggest hardships, and had been briefly and tumultuously dating an older man named Bob. We’d decided to stop dating, having found it impossible to get through an evening without having a massive fight about something ridiculous. But before the break-up, I had bought two tickets to a Counting Crows show and made a date with him, and it turned out he still expected to go. Obviously, I needed to look amazing. I was broke but an excellent bargain hunter, so I hit the mall, and I came away with these two items that together gave me all the confidence I needed to go on this awkward non-date. The natural linen tunic came off a clearance rack at The Limited (made in Hong Kong — I just checked) and black linen mini skirt off another clearance rack at The Gap (made in Malaysia). I already had the perfect black sandals. It was the summer of the best tan of my life, and it was also blazing hot in Kansas City — the year all those people died in the Midwest. So the outfit would help keep me cool (physically, anyway) in addition to boosting my confidence.

Bob and I have been together 21 years now. I don’t credit this outfit for it — it was a trouble-filled evening, and we definitely did not get back together that night — but at least I felt amazing in uncomfortable circumstances. And I knew he noticed.

I loved both these garments and, as you can see, have never been able to part with them. For years, they were in an underbed box with some other souvenir clothes, almost all of which I finally parted with when we were packing up for our cross-country move last year. But these two remain. The tunic went back into my closet — I figured it would be useful in the Tennessee heat, and I’ve wound up wearing it multiple times a week since we got here, including through the winter under sweaters. At this point, it’s threadbare and a little discolored around the edges, and I’m glad I have the sewing skills now to make a pattern for its successors. The skirt is a little too small and a lot too short for me now, but it’s still one of the best-designed pieces I’ve ever owned and I think of it all the time. (In fact, there’s a bag in my sewing WIP basket right now that’s black linen with contrast stitching, inspired by this skirt.) It has the perfect shape, perfect pockets, perfect amount of detail. I apologize for not ironing it, but it’s a garment I’m studying and thinking about how to translate it into something that will work for me now. Garments with long lives and legacies, that’s what I crave.

I just realized the most recent instance of pulling on an outfit and having that magical feeling has a lot in common with the linen combo above — it’s the linen and wool combo below, which I don’t apologize for posting again! Perhaps somewhere in the back of my mind it reminded me of my Counting Crows clothes, or maybe it’s a coincidence. But it’s nice to feel that old feeling again, this time in clothes knitted and sewn with my own two hands.

Slow Fashion October, Week 3: LOVED

PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Elsewhere

39 thoughts on “Slow Fashion October, Week 3: LOVED

  1. You look amazing in this outfit and should be very proud that you were the person who created it.

  2. I love the idea of dark linen + light linen — I would not have thought of that on my own, but your Counting Crows outfit is just perfect. And yes, your new outfit is sort of like its negative image, with the darks and lights reversed. Beautiful!

    Because I am slow about Slow Fashion October (ha), I just posted on the “small” theme a few minutes ago. I found myself winding towards the concept of longevity (which I know is on the docket for later in the month) as you’ve also done here. I love the idea that a garment might have a second life after we are done wearing it by inspiring a new, slightly different, version of itself, or by inspiring the use of similar techniques/aesthetic in a different kind of item. That feels really right to me.

  3. My favorite silhouette is a tunic over loose leggings. This resonates with me in part because it is remarkably comfy and in part because of the distant relationship to a Salwaar Kameez suit worn by some ladies in South Asian countries. My daughter came home to us from India and our family culture has been strongly influenced by the art, fashion and colors of her first home. When I discovered Eileen Fisher style had similar influences, I was hooked. Still today I have EF leggings and wool crepe tunics from many years ago that I wear to work – in shades of black and gray. Then I accent with brilliantly colored scarves or handknits. I am trying to knock off the A-line tee she used to make because it fit so well and provides the summer version of tunic w/leggings.

    • A third, very important point is that the salwar-kameez type outfit is very flattering! I have a number of tunic tops from my native India and I wear them over skinny pants and it is a great look. I like your idea of accenting the black and gray with brilliant scarves, that is reminiscent of the dupatta with the salwar-kameez except in India the entire outfit is bright contrasting colors that somehow work together!

  4. Reading your recent entries has me itching to buy some linen yarn and knit something amazing. And I will – in a few years, when I’ve knit through more of my projects-in-waiting and the idea of adding yarn to my house brings pleasure instead of stress.

    I have a yellow cotton skirt I knit about a year and a half ago, and it is much loved. I wear it all the time: in the summer with a plain slip underneath and brightly colored tops. In the winter over woolly tights. I’ve never been happy with other projects I’ve made out of cotton, as it doesn’t hide mistakes the way wool does. So with this skirt, I ripped back and fixed things. I ripped back to make sure the size was right. I took time weaving in ends. It took me a month to hand-stitch the elastic waistband, because if I hand-sew too long at one stretch I get sloppy and that wasn’t an option with this skirt.

    Here’s a link to the Ravelry page: I was wearing it to Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Festival in a few pictures – it’s my go-to festival outfit because who doesn’t like showing off the thing I’m most proud of making?—lace-tiered-skirt

    • Such a good point — it’s worth it to take the time to get projects right, rather than just rushing to get them done.

  5. I’ve been savoring every day of Slowtober–so much food for thought, and oh the pictures! I’ve managed to incorporate some element of the kinds of pieces in focus this month into my wardrobe almost every day.

    Today, I find myself perfectly attired for this week’s theme. I happen to be wearing a pair of Hudson Jeans that my bf got me for Valentine’s Day year in Portland, OR. I wear these jeans a lot and I hope to continue doing so for years to come, so I did some anticipatory patching on the insides of the butt and crotch. I bought iron-on patches from the dollar store, which I sliced up and then reinforced with machine stitching that matches the blue of the denim. I’m also wearing my recently-finished Uniform Cardigan, in Q&Co. Loft (Camel). I hastily attached the vintage buttons, so they’re already loose and, doubly unfortunate, the Lark is pilling like crazy! Even so, I adore this cardigan. I made it extra long and roomy and, other than the pilling and making the pockets too shallow, it is absolutely perfect. I’ve worn it everyday since finishing it on Friday. I’m also wearing an oversized, synthetic “silkie” H&M button-downwith magenta roses on a black background. It was a Xmas gift from my bf almost 5 years ago when we were in HK. Depending on what I pair it with, it perfectly walks the line between professional and hip. I wore it at least once a week till about a year ago, when the seam on one of the armpits unraveled. I finally got around to mending it last month and now it’s back in heavy circulation. Its roomy design keeps it light and air, in spite of the synthetic material, and the fabric itself is quite durable and requires very little care. It perfectly embodies all the advantages of man-made materials–and also cheap, fast fashion–and I love it, even though my closet leans toward the local and natural.

  6. There are many older pieces in my wardrobe that I cherish simply because they have been around so long. But to speak to Week 2 of Slow Fashion October, one of my resolutions has been to wear what I own until it becomes so worn as to be literally unwearable. It means I will never throw anything out and that I am forced to choose classics if I want to stay sane. Fortuately I seemed to have anticipated this in the past and a lot of my decades old pieces do not look out of place today. But love? These days I feel the most passion for some of my recently completed knits. I have been working on improving the finer points of my knitting and it really shows in the details. My pattern choice is also falling into place with what I really like to wear. And I finally worked through a lot of my stash and allowed myself some lovely new neutrals – mostly greys – that were themselves thrifted/recycled. I have also been ripping out finished objects that were obviously not right for me or no longer suit me. Without remorse. The most beautiful things are being reborn out of them, as I also have a better sense of matching yarn to pattern now.

  7. Pingback: Slow Fashion October — get ready! | Fringe Association

  8. Wonderful post, Karen. It really got me thinking, as has much of this whole SFO idea. It is amazing how meshed, clothes and memories can be. Your essay inspired me to pick up an old photo album very early this morning. I found a shot of myself as a toddler, in a pair of pajamas my mom had made. I remember them perfectly, the feel of the flannel on my skin. I think I was two, maybe three yrs old!

    I don’t often give my mom credit as a maker. I usually save that honor for my grandmother. My mom’s sewing and crafting was a bit on the sloppy side, while my grandmother’s was perfection. But in remembering those pajamas, I also remembered that she had made them along with several other pairs for my three brothers. Her sewing was driven by necessity and a very small budget. And time was an issue as well. Different priorities and circumstances. Now, at 86, the craft she loves (and can still do) is quilting. She does it with patience and pride. This makes me happy.

    Thanks so much for such a thought provoking and inspiring couple of weeks. I can only imagine how much time and effort you have put into it. So beautifully thought out, and damn near brilliantly pulled off. Huge hat tip to you and deep appreciation for what you have inspired …in me and in so many others.

    • Thank you Clare for writing what I am sure many of us think-thank you to Karen for prompting us to
      stop and really look at how we buy and what we love.

  9. Loved for me is a piece that fits me, my wardrobe and my budget. It’s Irish Coffee tunic by Babycocktails – blogged here: For me it fits the SFO in many ways. I want garments like this that fit me and that I can wear with many options. I also am mindful of the Canadian yarn (briggs and little) purchased at my LYS. I don’t buy wool online. The Canadian dollar makes most yarn out of reach now that the exchange rate is far from ‘small’. Add duty (we pay 13% tax here) and shipping and I admit that if I can’t find it in my LYS it doesn’t get purchased. Not a bad thing to have to purchase locally, support a small business, and plan with that in mind.

  10. Oh my-how to not embarrass myself! Your earlier posts prompted me to weed out 5 bags of clothing and 3 of shoes this weekend. BUT what I realized is that most of my “stuff” are bargains. Bought because they were on sale. I have never really allowed myself the gift of buying EXACTLY what I wanted although I am sure I spent more money on the accumulation of bargains.
    If I was in therapy I’d have to say, Well doctor, this probably started when I was 9 years old–1965, Wichita Kansas and white go-go boots were the in thing. My sister and I got a pair, but they were from K-Mart (all my parents could afford) and not nearly the real thing so I wore them but never liked them. That has stuck with me 50 years so it really affected my psyche. I need to tell myself it is okay to have quality, well-loved items.
    Someone send me a Sundance catalog now!

  11. Your burgundy pants suit reminds me of a dusty pink wool boucle vest and skirt my mother bought for me and brought home “on approval.” It had a matching blouse with a loose bow and drapey sleeves–tres chic–at leadt to me! I wore it endlessly to church and on dates the fall and winter that JFK was killed. It is long gone, sadly, but I hung onto the Capezio pumps in black leather with deep purple suede toes until 5 years ago when foot surgery made it impossible for me to wear them. That outfit made me feel elegant as a 16 year old, and I will never forget it! Thanks for the memories. :-)

  12. I can’t see the skirt as clearly as I’d like, but am wondering if it is not very similar to the Hollyburn skirt pattern from Sewaholic

    I am always looking for ways to find patterns that will get folks into their cherished garments without trying to re-draw the actual pattern, or copy an actual garment, both techniques that are NOT as simple as one might think….

  13. I had a flash while reading this post and your Mom story… High school, most likely ’66/’67 and it felt like every penny in our household was important. I had an after school job for my small expenses. Birthdays and Christmas was when the special things showed up. One fall day my mother unexpectedly presented me with the most wonderful fake fur coat – white with dark tips on the ends of the fur. All the comfort of a teddy bear! I had so wanted one of those coats but had known better than to even ask. Your feelings around your velvet pantsuit totally triggered that memory. I LOVED THAT COAT and kept it way beyond its “time” just for the happy memories it invoked. I felt so very cool in that coat.

  14. I’ve always been a person who has thought about clothes and a wardrobe as a necessary evil, and I’ve never focused on loving it. Since I’ve started making more clothes, however, I’ve realized my wardrobe is something that I can enjoy. Even with the simple pieces, I can be proud of what I wear because so created it. I’m starting to get a lot of wear out of some sweaters that I knit over the summer, and I have a few more in the works.

  15. Coincidentally, I lived in Kansas (Army brat) from 1974 – 1979 and one of my favoured outfits reminds me of yours – crushed velvet (or velour) pants in grey with a matching grey “fur” vest. Oh yeah, we’re talking high style.

    I have a skirt that I’m hoping to find on ebay again. It’s a J. Morgan Puett/Shack skirt that my mother had bought for me. It’s an amazing brown that verges on burgundy, but it took me a few years to start wearing it. Once I did, I realized how versatile and gorgeous it was, and it became my go-to skirt. Unfortunately, it’s silk and after a number of years started to shred. I still have it but am reluctant to wear it frequently. My mother gave me one in black that she’d bought for herself, which I wear but lacks to frisson of the brown. I guess the last time I wore it was in 2014 – If I had the time, skill, and material, maybe I’d encase it in beeswax (something J. Morgan Puett has done with some of her designs).

  16. Pingback: Stories of clothes | my casa azul

  17. I have been *trying* to keep up with Slow Fashion October blog posts this month. Granted, I just started posting actual content to my blog rather than just show notes. Please check it out!

  18. Pingback: Slow Fashion October Week #3 | notes sur un coin de table

  19. Pingback: Slow Fashion – Loved | Beads and Barnacles

  20. Pingback: I make stuff, right? | Fringe Association

  21. Pingback: Wardrobe Planning: Mind the gaps | Fringe Association

  22. Pingback: Idea Log: The cinched shift, take two | Fringe Association

  23. Pingback: 21st-Century Thrifting: On the Hunt for Dries Van Noten | Fringe Association

  24. Pingback: FO-2016.21 : Striped pullover | Fringe Association

  25. Pingback: Loved, worn, mended – One Last Stitch

Comments are closed.