I purchased this tank top from H & M the second week of July in 2012. I remember this because I was frantically scouring the mall for clothes to take with me to a family vacation. That’s what I always did for vacations; a profoundly unhealthy habit of accruing a whole new wardrobe just for a short trip. Cheap clothes that fell apart in minutes.
I haven’t bought a single ready-to-wear clothing item since. Almost two years for both me and K! Okay, I’ve gotten some socks and underwear for K, but aside from that, nuthin’.
A more logical person would have waited until the two-year mark to talk about this since “22 months and 3 weeks” is rather awkward and underwhelming to say. However, M was having a rapidly depleting underwear crisis and because of his refusal to wear handmade boxers, I went to The Gap two days ago. That stirred up an eddy of emotions for which I was unprepared, and I wanted to jot them down before I forgot. This could also be considered a long-winded precursor to my thoughts on Me-Made-May that I’ve been trying to organize in my head (which will be much shorter, I promise).
So here are the sentiments…
Emotion #1: Surprise
It’s not as though I haven’t been in any retail stores in the last couple of years, but I haven’t spent any extended time looking at RTW clothes up close in a long time. I was surprised about a couple of things. First, how simple all the clothes seemed to be. “I could make any of this,” I thought. Not in an I’m-all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips way or anything, but with genuine astonishment. I kept mentally deconstructing all the clothes that caught my attention, and filed through my brain archives of patterns I had at home. For most of the garments, I didn’t even need a pattern.
The other surprise was K’s behavior. She was with me and was helping me pick out M’s underwear (yes, I know that’s weird, but she loved it and instantly gravitated toward the brightest pinks). What I couldn’t get over was how she completely ignored the kid’s clothes. Not even a glance at the sparkly tees. She was obsessed with the flip flops because I’d been promising those for a while, but it was as though she knew instinctively that I wouldn’t buy her any clothes or maybe she has too many already so she’s not interested. Either way, I was agog the whole time.
Emotion #2: Peace
Apparel stores have always been minefields for me. It was a constant struggle to find clothes that fit or looked half-way decent on my abnormally long torso, too big chest, short legs and non-existent waist, and it was hard to tell what would set me off into a very unhappy place. It could be mild exasperation at the way a top emphasized a bulge, or it could be a mental tirade at myself for not sticking to my diet when a pair of jeans shortened me to troll-like proportions with elephantine legs. In extreme cases, I held back tears of frustration (oh so embarrassing and oh so true) because the clothes and mirrors reflected a vision that was so far from what I’d hoped. The clothes all seemed to be meant for statuesque or skeletal frames — all wrong, that’s how I felt.
Once in a blue moon, though, I would find something flattering, and for those rare moments, I shopped constantly, like Juan de Leon Ponce searching for the Fountain of Youth (which is allegedly a myth, by the way). Maybe this store or this season will have clothes to make me look normal, to make me feel pretty, I would think. I was horrified on a cerebral level that I was so caught up in the superficiality, but I still partook regularly in the emotionally charged ritual. Trying on clothes was like having the mother of all PMS attacks. Imagine when I actually had PMS!
In The Gap with K a couple of days ago, I didn’t feel even a glimmer of an urge to buy anything. Sure, we got the flip flops and I tossed in some socks for K along with the underwear. But this was all pragmatic and easy and there was no desperate sensation attached. I wasn’t trying to fill a void in that clichéd way through material goods. Part of the reason I went on a fabric fast is because I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t continuing the same cycle with fabric. I’m happy to report that I’ve been mostly successful on the fabric front too (there were some necessary purchases but they were minor).
Through sewing and making my own clothes, I finally feel….unemotional about my uniquely shaped body. That it is what it is, and it’s a good, strong, functional body. Peace.
Emotion #3: Triumph
And that realization was a triumphant one. I felt like I’d conquered a shameful secret, or perhaps let it out into the wild to roam elsewhere far away from me. And with triumph comes…
Emotion #4: Freedom
I have so much to say about the media and the imposed ideals and trends and negativity, but I will spare you. On a sunny afternoon in a shop at the local mall, the overarching emotion I experienced was freedom. “I don’t need any of this,” is a powerfully freeing thought. “I can make something better that I love,” is an even more powerfully freeing thought.
We left the shop, I took K’s hand and that was that. Oh, and she wore her new flip flops all the way back home: