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Posts Tagged ‘clothes’

A few weekends ago, we were totally, immersed-ly blessed to participate in S. and A.’s Big Love Party.

They were our neighbors for one year on the third floor, and moved east so S. could serve as an assistant rector. They are wonderful, and true.

I was the designated head decorating fairy (Matt was my helper elf), and they also asked me to participate in a duet-reading of a (very juicy) selection from Song of Songs.

Unbeknownst to them, I was also asked to testify during the sermon.

And, they stayed with us for the few days before the wedding, and I got to co-host the bachelorette party. It was quite a week, and I loved every minute of it.

The big love ceremony was the most moving I have ever been part of– some of that was because it was an Episcopal liturgy, which already moves me. Part of it was because the music and space were incredible. Part was because I recognized so many people there.  The hugest part of it was S. and A. themselves.  I would post my testimony, where I described them as True and truly courageous…but I gave them my notes.

My students helped make paper flowers–which S. and A. gifted back for our use in _Romeo and Juliet_, and we harvested birch branches and greenery from a community garden here in the Bronx.  Matt found the perfect font, and we printed selections from Song of Songs onto translucent paper, with we turned into luminaries.

My local tailor saved the day by making a last minute alteration to S.’s custom made gown.  We stayed up late chatting, and eating papusas with S. and A.  I was inspired all weekend long. I could barely choke back the tears during my testimony, and definitely not during the rest of the sermon and their vows.

Matt and I left feeling more deeply in love and committed than ever, and I came away from the whole thing feeling braver, more lovely, and more in touch with God.

I also got to wear my super hot ball gown.

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Ironing, and thankful

I spent more than four hours on Saturday ironing. Even when I worked for April Cornell, even steaming and pressing endless linens for store openings, I never ironed so much in one setting.

It’s “back to school” this week, and with it comes magazine spreads of fall fashion, window displays of new outfits, and blog posts on desired shoes, sweaters, and stockings. I haven’t purchased new clothes for myself, apart from my wedding dress last year, in nearly two years. My last new dress my mother-in-law bought me for a family wedding, as a birthday gift, last October. Happily, too, because I then wore that dress for a bridal shower and then for my own rehearsal dinner. I just haven’t had the money for new clothes, and I also want to be in a place of re-using, and appreciating, and not consuming too much.

And yet… the “back to school” attitude made me a bit “want-y,” a bit restless, a bit desirous. I set out, last Saturday, to cull my closet, repair buttons, and iron all my clothes. So that this week, and next–the first two of school–I might have clothes and outfits I feel excited about, and eager to wear.

In all the ironing, I noticed a few skirts I haven’t worn in months, and am excited about. I found two skirts that need to be mended by our tailor, and one pair of slacks I haven’t worn in a year because of a broken button. I pulled out things that are too big, or that are so uncomfortable I dread wearing them. As I ironed, hour after hour, I noticed how much I like the clothes I have. I saw new outfits I could make. I remembered when I first got various items, remembered wearing them at Oxford, or in Vermont, or in Prague. I started feeling thankful for the sheer volume of clothes I have.

I replaced the button on those slacks, and pressed them like new. Voila: a pair of pants I haven’t worn in a more than a year, ready for fall.

I have a jacket I’ve had since before I came to the city. It’s olive green, with pink satin piping on the inner seams. It has been missing its front three buttons for at least a year. Each cuff originally had four buttons; they’ve been falling apart for as long as I’ve had the jacket.

Over Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me a big baggie of assorted buttons, all used, mostly old, often beautiful. I poured them out on the table, and searched for 11 buttons that would either match or look good together, for the jacket. Then, I gave the jacket a make-over. It took a few hours, of on and off work, but eventually, I had a new jacket. The faded silver buttons, with English horns and laurels, look fantastic on the jacket. I kept the jacket hanging outside of the closet all day, just so I can appreciate it.

I have a long-distance friend, Sr. Adele, who has been recently sending letters to a group of us. She’s been recovering from an injury, and has taken the time to write missives describing her life and her recovery, within her semi-cloistered community. It strikes me, when I hear from her, how few material possessions she and her sisters have. So anti-modern, nearly anti-American, to have nothing for one’s self. No earnings, no paycheck, no house full of goods, no shopping sprees or impulse buys. I know these sisters, though, and have seen the intensity, creativity, peace, and brilliance in their eyes and actions.

Sr. Adele’s glimpses into her life remind me not to be too grabby when it comes to things like new clothes. Her descriptions of joys and challenges are stark counterpoint to the recent issue of Marie Claire I read. I was genuinely thankful, if weary, by hour three of ironing. I have a lot of clothes!  They all fit, they are in good repair, and they are pretty.

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Underdressed

I went to a benefit last week, in my capacity at my journal.  It was incredible, an amazing evening, I was moved to tears, inspired, and made lots of great connections.

When I walked into the very famous, architecturally wow setting, though, I flinched because I was ever-so-slightly underdressed.

Actually, I didn’t “walk into” the venue.  A man in “dinner clothes” saw me coming up the walk, and opened the door for me.  He even had a carefully handlebarred mustache.  Did he grow it because he knew he’d be pulling the tab on a pop-up storybook dinner every evening? Or did he have it, which led him into this job?

As the door swung open, I saw first golden glasses of champagne. It looked more yellow than I remembered, and the platters swung towards me in pleasing arcs.

I had taught all day.  At home, I thought about the event. It was to benefit a group that trains and fosters teens who live in conflict areas, to dialogue with other teens from the same area, but from the “opposite side.”  For example, white and black kids from Johannesburg, Catholic and Protestant kids from west Northern Belfast—where there are apparently still walls that separate neighborhoods.

I thought: young people, dialogue, interfaith stuff, charity, education.  I knew I had to dress up, but it didn’t occur to me to dress like I would for a formal evening wedding, for example.  In sum: I did not wear a dressy dress with stockings.  I wore a pretty dress, in a slinky material, with slouchy little leggings underneath (not tights, but again, slinky like.)  I wore a moss colored jacket over the dress, and topped the whole thing off with a hand-embroidered scarf from Palestine.  I wore my black Mary Jane crocs down, but had some gold flats in my bag. (They’re actually my wedding shoes, and I need to break them in.)

I should have worn one of my black dresses, with stockings, and some fancy jewelry that I have. No hand-embroidered anything, and not so many layers.

After the champagne, I noticed who was there, and what they were wearing. I saw many very slender older ladies, in shoes whose names I know from magazines, but cannot spell from memory.  In knit black dresses with trim jackets.  I saw young women with shiny, shiny hair, and chic little bags.  And the photographers!  They were all sidling around behind everyone, in opposite arcs from the passed hor d’oeuvers, snapping away at people smiling at each other.

The first time I ever felt undressed was in the 8th grade.  My English teacher, Mrs. Van Winkle (who had gone to school with my grandpa and taught my mother and all my uncles, and would go on to teach my sister and all my cousins) took me, as a treat, to St. Louis to the Fox Theater, to see a production of The Nutcracker Suite.  At the time, my dad was still laid off from the coal mine.  I hadn’t had new shoes (nor had my classmates) since the first lay offs.

I had dresses and many skirts. Despite my unchurched parents, Sugar Camp Missionary Baptist Church had been picking me up in the church van every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening, for years.  I also loved to wear skirts to school, and had slightly fancier dressed from yearly Christmas pageants at school, and singing competitions. In hindsight, I should have worn one of those dresses, some tights, and some shiny black shoes. It was winter, after all.

I had never been to a play, or anything with live music, and had rarely been to St. Louis.  For some reason, I thought that white pants, with white shoes, with no socks, would be just the most elegant thing.  Perhaps _Miami Vice_ influenced the white pants and no socks with shoes thing.  I definitely felt very elegant and “city.”  For the top, I wore a turquoise sweater. I parted my hair on the side and curled and hairsprayed my bangs.

We went in Mrs. Van Winkle’s car. It was a Lincoln Towncar.  It had leather interiors, maroon.  And I noticed that it was much less bumpy inside than any car or truck I’d ever ridden in.  Later, my dad did ask me what the inside of the car was like.  I sat in the back seat, so perhaps Mr. Van Winkle came along with us, although I don’t remember him.

The Fox Theater is incredible.  I can’t remember how interior design critics describe it.  Think: lots of gold, gilding, high baroque, tiling, cabochon jewels in every cranny. Sweeping staircase, drapery, ornate carpets.  Even now, I find it gorgeous. But twelve-year-old me?  It was the fanciest, most rich place I’d ever been. It was like every glamourous ball I’d ever read about, better than two dozen Little House on the Prairie town-bought Christmas presents and a party for the Little Women girls thrown in.  It was the kind of party the master of The Secret Garden would throw.

Other little girls were with their families.  They had on Christmas dresses with cute little wool coats–red and black and grey–over their dresses.  Oh, I had refused to wear a coat that night. All I had was a denim jacket, and it didn’t match.  My parents, typically, didn’t insist.  I hadn’t ever yet been in a suburb, and hadn’t ever yet met the kind of people who had dress coats, or who took annual family trips to The Nutcracker.

It’s hard now, looking back, to separate what I felt when I walked into the lobby, with what I know now about suburban middle-class St. Louis, or what I have experienced about the kinds of families that take annual family trips to the ballet.  And I definitely know about and have a “dress coat.”  But I knew, when my white shoes stepped onto that gorgeous carpet, that I had worn the wrong thing.

I had already felt the cold air on my ankles and legs, and reassured Mrs. Van Winkle that I wasn’t cold, on the way from the car.

Soon, though, I was in my seat, the lights went down, and I saw my first live performance. I pretended Mrs. Van Winkle was my mother, and I had a very fancy bedroom at home.  All the way home, I pretended this, and fell asleep in the car imagining that I rode in it all the time.

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