“Women Recovering Our Clothes” sent me on a journey through time. I love fabric, beads, yarn, and cord, all things that potentially can be made into something to be worn. I love the colors, the textures, the memories, the chance to put it together as inspiration leads. I love making things that are more than just things. These are warm things, things with spirit, living things. As gifts, these things are tangible reminders that someone cares. Iris Marion Young summed it up: touch, bonding, and fantasy.
Now to reminisce about clothes from earliest memories.
Toddler through age 4: Shirley Temple was so popular. My parents loved her dressed me in a fashion line called Shirley Temple because I looked just like her. I hated the dresses. They had lace around the sleeves that scratched the underarms and were so uncomfortable! I hated the little girl Shirley Temple movies. I did not want to be like her. The other dresses were okay. They didn’t scratch and I was allowed to play in them. No one joyously told me that I looked like someone else or displayed me as just like a child celebrity.
Grade school: My godmother gave me a pair of matador pants that her daughter had worn. I loved those pants. They were red velvet and when I first wore them they were full length but as I grew they become short like real matador pants. Touch: soft and fuzzy; my godmother’s touch. Bonding: brought me closer to her and her daughter. Fantasy: of course! My godmother also gave me a huge (even by adult standards) of fabric scraps left over from making her daughters ballet costumes. That was the prize! I did not like baby dolls much but I loved fingering the different textures while putting the fabric pieces together to create costumes and making up stories to go with them! I also had a sailor hat that I loved. There were only two other kids in my neighborhood close to my age. The girl who was great at making up stories with me died when we were in first grade. The other was a boy a couple of years older than I was and lived next door.
Junior high and high school: By far my favorite clothes were the those of the formal black for playing in orchestra concerts. I played in the city symphony orchestra and the college chamber orchestra as well as school and state orchestras and musical productions. My favorite of all was a long-sleeved black velvet dress that could be worn as either short or full length for evening performances. For years, I could just touch the dress in my closet and it brought back all of the feeling, sound, music, and magic of performances. When I wore it, I felt one with the other orchestra members and felt connected to musicians in the more famous orchestras, even dreamed of playing with the Philadelphia Philharmonic or the London Symphony Orchestra or under the baton of Leonard Bernstein or Eugene Ormandy or Arturo Toscanini. I dreamed of being on the podium conducting in Carnegie Hall, the first woman! Of playing solo viola with a major orchestra — a woman breaking into a man’s world!
Undergrad and beyond: A new formal black for concerts! Awesome! And cut off jeans and t shirts. I loved clothes for comfort. There were so many things that were important in those days, way more important that fashion: equal rights, population growth, hunger, the Vietnam War . . . I do remember that I would get particularly attached to one outfit or item of clothing and wear it into the ground. One example is a muted turquoise dress and jacket. I don’t remember why I liked it. It just felt like me and I remember the shopping trip with my mom when we bought it. Maybe it tied me to her after she passed away. Maybe it was the color or that I knew I looked good to myself and anyone else. Maybe because it was versatile appropriate wear.
Any chance to wear a costume was always big on my list. I loved creating an outfit that was completely from my fantasy world or a collaboration with someone. I have always loved experimenting with clothing and making up stories. Clothing enhanced my perception of always becoming — no matter what. Try on things, imagine, Change — becoming!