Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Clothing optional

Some mornings I look in my closet and think, "I'm tired of clothes. Finding clothes, buying clothes, matching clothes, mending clothes, assembling clothes into a professional ensemble that doesn't need ironing--I hate clothes. Hate hate hate."

But of course it's not true: I don't hate clothes or I wouldn't waste so much time on the New York Times website looking at the new designer collections during fashion week. I'll never try on or buy or wear the milkmaid-fetish red vested dress by Meadham Kirchhoff or Jeremy Scott's hijab-meets-gogo-boots fantasia, so why do I spend so much time looking at the pictures?

These, of course, are purely theoretical clothes, clothes designed to embellish those whose lives are performance art. For a cranky academic struggling to create a professional wardrobe from the dregs of retail stores available in Appalachia, clothes are not so much art as aren't.

I bought a new suit last month at a local shop. The fit is good, it looks professional, and I like the color, but it's made entirely of petroleum-based polymers. I generally prefer the look and feel of natural fibers even though I hate ironing, but in local stores these days, natural fibers are as rare as fresh strawberries in Antarctica. So I tried on this great suit that looks good and feels comfortable and fits my budget, and I told myself, "So what if it's polyester? Plenty of my colleagues wear polyester all the time without complaining. If they can wear polyester every day, why can't I?"

Because I can't, that's why. I've worn my new polyester suit twice now and I really don't want to wear it ever again. It's fine for the first hour or so, but eventually I start to feel as if I'm trussed up tight in a Hefty trash bag sealed with duct tape. I can't breathe in here! Somebody let me out!

But of course I'm not interested in throwing off clothes entirely. One of the advantages of keeping one's clothes on is that one is unlikely to be splashed semi-nude all over the pages of European newspapers. (And one of the advantages of not being a British royal is that the paparazzi are so busy acting like idiots at the merest glimpse of a title that they tend to leave us commoners alone.)

So I guess I'm in the midst of a love/hate relationship with clothes. It's cool this morning so I'm glad I have something (or a variety of somethings) to cover my flesh and keep me warm, but I'm annoyed at the limited options available in Appalachia for those of us who aren't in love with polyester. And don't even get me started on mail-order clothes, which rarely bear much resemblance to the photographs and descriptions available online. My most recent online purchase is a lovely fall sweater that looks great online and on a hanger, but on the body the thin fabric turns effectively transparent. 

Maybe a hijab isn't such a bad idea.

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