A Jacket of Jade & a Raspberry Beret -- A Little Holiday Outfit Inspiration
Something Old, Something New, Always a Story
When you walk into a department store, what strikes you first? Vibrant displays against sleek white tiles, or perhaps the smell of newness set to a beat of a low bass or smooth strings?
This environment may summon a feeling of excitement ; your fingers may jump to touch a plush new sweater or silken skirt. It’s fun to shop, and exhilarhating to sport crisp paper bags filled with new “friends.”
But the problem with new friends is the lack of history.
Fun fact: Kelly just got back from Dubai, UAE where his team from Virginia Tech just spent a month constructing a house that won the World Solar Decathlon competition for architecture.
Today I went to Portland to meet up with my cousin Kelly who’s home for the holidays from Virginia Tech where he studies architecture. We both came from generations of agriculture and grew up in small towns. Somehow both of us went off the deep end and decided to become artists.
Kelly was dressed in grey with leather boots, grey beanie and a scarf. Our first stop was Mill End Fabric Store where I wanted to pick up some Christmas present makings. I suspect that we were able to use his student identification for a much appreciated discount because of his artist “vibe.”
Kelly’s mom, my Aunt Hally, takes thrift shopping to a whole new level. When Kelly comes home for Christmas he’s usually greeted by a plethora of garage sale treasures. However, there are some things he will splurge on for himself simply because it makes him feel more “Kelly.”
“I have an entire wall of my apartment lined with shoes,” he said, biting into a Korean food cart burrito at lunch. “And my hats. Mom does not buy my hats.”
In the morning, when I open my closet door, it’s not the colors I see first. Instead, I hear the whispers of stories as old as hand embroidered roses, I smell the places I’ve been and hope to go. I taste crème brûlée and peanut butter picnic sandwiches. I feel cobblestones on my bare feet and the weight of velvet in motion.
There’s something magical in the way a thrifted jacket just seems to know the world already. When it starts to rain you can be sure they aren’t the first raindrops it has kept from skin, and it’s almost comforting, as they seem to carry their stories around with you.
It’s important to me that my clothes tell stories. I like retelling those tales by wearing them. If there’s a blouse hanging in my closet that doesn’t remind me of whimsy or adventure, it’s probably going to be re-homed.
Today I was excited to debut a new-to-me Chinese Silk Jacket that I found at Finds That Shine downtown Silverton last week. I haven’t much history with it yet, but the excitement of pulling it out of an old wooden barrel on a rainy afternoon is something I’ll always associate with the piece. The lining suggests a previous life of being well loved and equally well mended. Whomever owned it prior to myself took very good care of their clothing, but was also brave enough to actually wear it; often probably.
The jeans and the locket were purchased on my sixteenth birthday. My first grown-up gifts to myself. The jeans were new from Mother and the first I’d ever found where the knees were actually where my knees are instead of closer to my ankles. I don’t have to tell you about the struggle of finding a pair of jeans that fit.
The locket was in the store next door to where I bought the jeans. I’d always wanted one and thought sixteen to be the appropriate time. I’ve kept it empty all this time to remind myself that I have more to be thankful for than what could fit in a half-inch photograph. I’d open it on the Subway in New York and imagine the faces of everyone I ever missed, or in a park in London to imagine home and the grasses that grew there.
The frog pin belonged to a woman who worked for Disney. I found it a few weeks before the jacket, under a box of scarves at an estate sale in her home. Two dollars they asked for it, and it came with a matching lily pad pin.
The shoes were T.J. Maxx last fall in Brooklyn. Twelve bucks. I just needed something to wear to a cocktail party I was working at, but they were so comfortable I wound up wearing them to school most days. They remind me of my bundled-up walks though the flower district between the R train and the Fashion Institute, and also of my personal assistant job and the people I came to love there.
Top it off with my Raspberry Beret, “the kind that you find at a second hand store.” Prince would be sad to know I actually bought mine brand new, but it came with no shortage of charm. There’s a little hat shop on Thompson Street where the most eccentric and quintessential New York proprietress sells handmade, one-of-a-kind masterpieces.
I loved looking at the marvelous confections and easing a few stories out of the lady of the shop. Once I got her talking I knew I was about to have my whimsy quota filled for the entire week. I couldn’t afford to buy a feathery fascinator like the ones she helped me try on from time to time, nor did I have many occasions for such a creation, but I felt compelled to own something from her shop, and at last she convinced me to try the beret. I felt like she was crowning me “Artist,” as she secured it a little off to one side and hinted at a tiny smile. It was the only time I could get her to slightly break character.
My closet makes me feel like I have a star on the door in the backstage of a production set.
It’s like a child’s dress up chest, where the costumes are almost as important to the story as the story is to the costumes. Where a hot-glue tiara gives you confidence and a paper-towel-saber makes you feel brave. Of course your story doesn’t depend on the costume or accessories to make you who you are, but the stories they tell may remind you.
Kelly can tell you where everything he has on came from, and he’ll probably smile when he tells you. “I made this ring in high school metal shop.” His fourth finger is perpetually green from where the copper rubs against it, but the ring is significant to him and very much a part of his story.
I’ll never outgrow playing dress-up.
My dearest friends won’t either, and maybe that’s part of why we have so much fun together. It made my day to see Kelly wearing a scarf. Men seem to forget that they can wear scarves too. I love when Julia takes me out for lunch and we wind up trying on 1950’s prom dresses, or when my boyfriend shows up in a bowtie to take me to the Library. When my grandpa wears his polyester slacks to church. When my little cousin decides to wear a princess dress with her muck boots to feed the cows. When my sister-in-law wears her wedding dress while vacuuming, simply because it makes her feel pretty.
You don’t need an occasion. Your story, and your clothes’ stories are the occasion.
Let’s try something new. What’s something in your closet that has a special story to you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
The Look: My Closet
The Look: Shopping
Vintage Purple Hair Pin
^ I got mine at Finds That Shine downtown Silverton. They have one more in stock! If you aren’t local to Silverton, check out Etsy for more options.
Dune London Oliah Suede Heeled Boots
Fabric Shopping at Mill End Store