Friday, September 4, 2020

Facing Unsolvable Clothing Problems: Searching Out the Benefits of Admitting Fashion Failure

I've resisted writing this. I'm the person who thinks up do-it-yourself solutions for everybody else's fashion troubles. It's humbling to admit I get desperately stuck in the wilderness of dressing well. To add that it happens periodically feels downright shameful.

But a mentor recently reminded me that his most raw and honest story produced the strongest connection with his audience, and the most uplifting outcome. So I will gird up the loins of my courage and share with you where I fail.

There is a fashion challenge that brings me into a state of frustration and despair, burdening me with a sense of depression I try to ignore but cannot shake for months at a time.

HELP! I've Got Nothing To Wear (That I Like)

It starts when my available modest clothing choices become saggy, stained, torn, or too small. I run out of repair or upgrade options, I don't have the time and energy available to make new garments, and shops don't stock the kind of modest clothing that I want or in my price range.

This leaves me with a sense of panic and much wasted time browsing my closet when I'm dressing to go out. It also leaves me with a sense of miserable disinterest in getting dressed for the day when I'm not going out.

Plan Something To Wear *That I Like*

I've learned to prioritize two things.

A) Prepare one smart outfit and reserve it for outing occassions. Keep it clean and looking nice.

B) Prepare one practical at-home outfit that I love to look at and that makes me happy when I get dressed. Wear it every day.

This might sound simple, but this year I couldn't even stay in control of these two solutions.

In the southern winter of 2019, while I spent hours on the couch recovering from a sprained and broken ankle, I planned one all-occasions dress for the following winter, to make me cosy and presentable whether I was visiting friends or convening a meeting.

As I regained my mobility in the spring, I got the fabric cut out...and came back to sew it towards the end of a super-hot summer. Feeling victorious, I hung it untested in my closet to await cold weather. 

Mistake Academy

When chill airs arrived, I realized that some of my newly enjoyed plumpness had departed. I'd measured the dress for a bigger me, and because it was lined, it would be a mission to resize it. I was too disheartened and too busy to fix it. The empty bodice felt demoralizing, but I had to wear it anyway.

Then I discovered I'd made three other mistakes.

The layering I'd planned for the dress didn't work as well as my mind had imagined. The drapey stretch polyester dress clung close enough to my waist to show the lumpy outline of large jeans pinched smaller. The merino top, which I'd bought specially so I had ONE without moth hole repairs, turned out to have a neckline too low to hide my cheap cotton/spandex tee (NZ $9, which after just three months' wear become saggy and off-colour). Even if I'm wearing a fresh tee shirt, the shifting tide of the different layers seems disorderly and I do not feel well-groomed.

After a winter of wearing my embarrassing Priority A outfit, I still feel frustrated at myself for not planning better. I have not yet found a solution that makes me feel good wearing it. Maybe by next winter I will have.

However, a few weeks ago I had a BREAKTHROUGH DISCOVERY with my Priority B outfit.

Happiness Versus Cosiness

Practical and comfortable for at-home, Priority B is the denim Yoked Tunic Dress featured in a previous Boutique Narelle post.

I realized I was feeling repelled by the delicate viscose bodice becoming unsightly with pilling and pulled threads. A tidy-up with a snag needle soon had that resolved.

Those cheap white tee shirts did not make this outfit look beautiful either, but a navy polycotton tee with a smarter rib neckline made me feel gloomy with all the dark fabric. 

A royal blue merino top was an improvement, but my *Bingo!* of delight came when I tried my aqua cashmere top with it. Merino is warmer than cashmere, but I decided to put up with less cosiness because of what the colour of this cashmere does for me when I look at it. It makes me feel HAPPY.

I haven't totally neglected the cosiness factor, because, surprising though it may seem, in southern winter temperatures, happiness won't keep you warm for long. I can say this cheerfully, because I found an aqua replacement for the warm but inky fleece I was wearing over the dress.

At NZ$9, it looked overpriced for a slightly pilly, slightly grubby secondhand fleece hoodie, but I really wanted the colour, so I took a risk. A warm soapy wash did wonders.

Thence followed a loose-thread-snipping and de-pilling session, then cottonbud application of isopropyl alcohol to stubborn stains. I've been comfortable, cosy, and happy ever since.

What I've Learned From This Process

It helps a lot to...

  • admit that clothing impacts my state of mind;
  • acknowledge how my closet challenges are making me feel;
  • identify one simple solution to pursue;
  • be patient with myself while I'm searching for that solution;
  • be humble in admitting my failures;
  • be kind to myself, remembering that failures are natural, acceptable, and valuable;
  • encourage myself that through openness, creativity, and persistence, there is hope for success;
  • take photos of the problem and discuss it with someone -- I might see it differently and discover a solution!

I hope you've seen something beautiful and inspiring here today.

Fiat lux!

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