Sunday, 20 February 2011

Clothes that Last

In spite of not being completely 'with it' I am really interested in what I wear.  Rather than adopt a throwaway approach to my clothing I prefer to have things that I own over a long period of time and fall deeper and deeper in love with.  To do this  I need to buy things that last and don't fall apart and leave me when I'm in the first throes of passion. But, although I spend more on individual garments than in squanderous youth, this is not always the case. There are still charity shop finds gracing my wardrobe and whilst I don't usually shop in the supermarkets and pile them high shops, dirt cheap purchases aren't ruled out altogether.  For example, I've given up buying expensive white T-shirts as these seem to be a magnet to the type of dirt that ordinary stain removers refuse to tackle.

Having said this, I don't always treat my clothes with the respect that they deserve.  After all, I am a full-time working mum without a bevy of household help (although Mr Lovelygrey does pull his weight).  Nothing is hand washed or dry cleaned so must stand the test of a 40 degree wash cycle and a steamy iron on the hottest setting if it dries creased.  To survive my rough treatment things have to be tough in the first place and I have to admit to a few casualties.   Through trial and error I've learnt to recognise things to wear that will stand up to my brand of tough laundry love and fickle fancies.

  • Regretfully I've stopped buying soft, cosy woollens due to my propensity to turn them into felt. It is particularly easy to do this with cashmere. Instead I opt for pure or mixed cotton knits.  I'm hopeful that a couple of recent sweater purchases from Gap and Howies which are nonetheless soft to the touch will stand the test of time,  like my lovely Boden mercerised cotton cardie and a White Fish macaroni hoodie. They still  look as good as new and  are going into their third and seventh seasons of wear respectively.
  • I  avoid 100% cotton jersey and look for tees  with a bit of stretch so that they keep their shape. Primark is a good source but the stars of the show are a couple of long sleeved black Asda numbers bought for £4 each at least six years ago and still going strong.  Or else, I'll look for ones with a heavily, robust knit like my authentic St James Breton tops.
  •  I veer away from high fashion items that won't stand the test of time from an aesthetic viewpoint. Rather than going down the 'classics' route and growing old before my time I've developed my own personal style.  Ankle length skirts or little short numbers worn with black tights, fitted hoodies, scoop necked sweaters and bootleg jeans have been staples of my wardrobe for many years now.
  • Generally, I'm not a big charity shop spender as I've learnt from experience that these places are not a source of items that I cherish.  There are one or two exceptions, my 'French Resistance' style coat which is vintage C&A and a natty A-line French Connection skirt that is now in its sixth winter of use with its second owner and defines the word 'snip' as I bought it for £4. 
  • Storing away my clothes out of season relieves the boredom of seeing the same things in my wardrobe day in/day out  When I release them from their vacuum bags when the weather changes is like greeting old friends after a long absence.
  • When buying block coloured garments I think about their potential for being dyed once their colour is faded.   Natural fibres fare the best when treated to a salty, chemical wash but I keep this recycling habit secret from Mr Lovelygrey and it has to be done when he's out of the country
  • I buy good quality shoes that might come into the dreaded category of 'classic'.  Plain colours, sensible heels and all that!  I look for ones that don't need huge amounts of maintenance or repair.  Stiletto heeled suede jobbies from a bargain basement store would be my worse nightmare.   
  • In winter I choose things that suit being worn with leggings or thick cotton or wool tights rather than ridiculously things that those thickness is measured in deniers.
It seems that we can be much more eclectic with our clothes these days without an outpouring of riducule or scorn for wearing a  skirt that  is passe because it's an inch or two too long or short. Perhaps, I'm wrong and it's only that I'm past the age where being an out and out fashionista is de rigueur.  Maybe there is a troop of sneering teenagers following me around mocking my style faux pas.  But who cares.  My failing eyesight means that I'm less likely to see them now and I'm blissfully happy wearing my ageing, much loved clothes collected through the ages.

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