I view shopping for clothes somewhere along the lines of a root canal. But "clothes make the man" it's said (or woman). From our Christening outfit to our burial outfit, something special is to be selected, even if you're not in a position to even care. Even the Bible has it's own fashion standards, white linen for the resurrected or the angels, sackcloth and ashes for penitence or mourning. Priests wore robes of purest linen while Job's flesh was clothed in worms.
Our scars are our stories, not what we wear.
When I was in six grade, there was this one little girl who wore a different outfit every day, for weeks on end with shoes and accessories to match. I had five or six dresses, sewn by my Mom. Beautifully made actually, but still home made, for which she made fun of me at every opportunity, words hurled like fists, invisible bruises blossoming under fabric. I remember one day vividly, when a cheap mustard yellow purse I got to try and "accessorize" was ripped out of my hand by her, held up for group ridicule as she and the popular girls ran off, leaving me there, flapping in the wind like a lone shirt on a line. That was the only time in my life, that something like clothing mattered that much to me.
I pretty much lived in Levi's, "waffle stompers" or sneakers and turtlenecks, purchased cheaply. As girls we decried those of our friends going to the Catholic school that had to wear uniforms, fashion being about choice, then wearing almost identical clothing to school each day.
But there were other dresses in happy colors, there were pep sweaters and handkerchiefs, fragranced with perfume, and stained with tears. There were thick winter coats dusted with snowballs and bright colored swimsuits that leaped from rocks into the river, suspended in the air like jewels tossed away. Then there was graduations and there were bell bottoms and uniforms, the stiff fabric that shielded us from cold, the soft cotton lace of a nightgown on which a broken sonnet was etched in blood.
In another closet, there's my Dad's "Pinks", the clothing that marked military service, still standing stiffly at attention years later. There's a blue shirt, a man's shirt, that brings about the most wistful of smiles. There is a sweater that was my mother's. She left it draped on the chair when she left, where it remained for weeks, as if my Dad expected her to walk in again, healthy and whole. I try to picture it being worn, but can not, the garment laying flat, still beautiful, but one dimensional, as if painted upon canvas in which there is a tear.
That night, we don stiff jeans and shirts softened by the hands of a hundred washes, we prepare a drink, an amber hallelujah pouring from a shot glass, as out on the railing, the coveralls hang, waiting for another season of need. So many good memories there in that faded garment that still smells faintly of gunpowder and woodsmoke.
All around me now are bits of clothing, some mine, some not, getting organized, making their own memories. A pillowcase lays across the chair like a lovers shirt, the dog makes a nest of sweaters there on the floor, hoping not to be noticed. The clothing of two lives is strewn about in happy disarray, shoes and shirts and hats, and paper, like a Captains log scattered, missing a few entries but for silken laughter. Half of the stuff doesn't match, some doesn't fit, but I don't care; bury me in the fabric of this place, where I am happy.
I take down a box from the shelf, the leaves blowing past the window reminding me of the winter and of needed warmth as I head out for a walk. My coat is years old, the hat, the hat is hand knit, my gloves and my socks do not match. Outside in the village, someone aims a camera, taking a picture of the new cafe, but framing me instead. I laugh and wonder if they will print it with a black box over my eyes and the words "fashion don't!". I don't mind, for what has value to me, is not which we wear on our backs but what we carry with us, our faith and our hopes, as strong as stiff boots, as delicate as old lace.