Thursday, August 10, 2006

On fashion escapes and need

I pass the window of an expensive dress shop and my eyes lock on a grey suit in the window. It's a 40s inspired number - rounded collar, some elegant pleats and tucks, a fitted waist and short peplum, narrow pants. The T-shirts in this store run about $175 and the jeans around $300, so I can imagine (but not without gasping) the price of this suit.

And I want it. I want a pair of expensive pumps with dangerous heels to go with it. Oh. And a stylish haircut and killer red lipstick.

I want to take all my loose, floaty, comfortable clothes, and donate them to Goodwill.

And why? Because I've realized that for the next 18 months, I have to squeeze my pay cheque until it bleeds enough into my savings account to keep me afloat for the first year I retire. In case I'm not fabulously famous for my craft work by then, or Wal-Mart isn't hiring Greeters. Suddenly, the thought of this plunges me into poverty mentality.

Suddenly I want the uniform of unlimited wealth. I want clothing that says, "I don't have to ask what it costs."

That has to be it. Because I don't have or plan to have a lifestyle of the rich and famous. I'm unlikely to end up as a member of the board for a famous ballet company or large non-profit organization. God knows I don't plan sit around beading in such an outfit. I live in a city where wearing a skirt is cause for people to inquire as to why you're dressed up.

Or maybe it's resistance of a broader kind. Resistance to my future life - the one where I don't suffocate on the number 20 bus every day, don't sit at the same desk, doing more-or-less the same thing, bored or frustrated to near-stupification. The life in which my time belongs mostly to me and I can write at 4:00 a.m. without thinking about an alarm clock. But also the life in which decent income and dental plans are a mere memory and expensive grey suits hit the category, "hallucination."

Some larger part of me looks forward greatly to the challenge of life without a safety net, doesn't mind the thought of shopping at Frenchy's and Value Village, likes the idea of salvaging and fixing disgarded furniture, going miles out of my way (via bus pass) for a bargain on brown rice or coffee - but that part is silenced suddenly by the grey suit.

That suit is a previous, anxious life in a larger city. A time when being in style mattered sadly, desperately. When being myself wasn't quite enough.

Nerves from that life, I'm shocked to realize, can still twitch and bother.

I think about owning my time, as an antidote. I think about moving to Dawson, the Yukon, population roughly 2,000 - where a good snowmobile suit would be the height of fashion. I think about writing at 4:00 a.m. - and about Jess saying, about indiscriminate whim-shopping, "what hole needs to be filled?"

And I hang the thought of the grey suit at the back of the closet. Right where it would be, in reality, if I owned it.

PS On the other hand, Weedy's son once said, "Anyone who thinks stuff doesn't make you happy hasn't had good stuff."


herhimnbryn said...

lj, When moving here, I eventually gave all my 'work' suits to Goodwill. Wearing a skirt has the same comments here too!
As I type it's 6.20am and my elegant outfit consists of fleece track pants and top and warm slippers! The one 'posh' outfit I now own comes out of the closet maybe twice a yr.
Retirement will offer you so much. A new journey, new challenges and joys. Whoopee!

Koru's Daughter said...

Hey, you got a visit from a powerful female self. Did you remember to say hello? There is no Patriarchial rule when that bad girl is walking (with a sexy swagger).

What makes you think that you will only be a frugal self when you retire? You might live frugally but your enormous (and you have a really big one) choir of different selves will sing away in its wonderful harmonious cacophony.

I have complete confidence that you are up for your retirement adventure.

chuck said...


If you are thinking of moving to Dawson City, Yukon, read Robert Service's epic poems first.

The poems give one a feel for the long winters!

Summers there are great...and at summer Solstice time, there is no night-time. They have a nice public swimming pool in town, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

And, there is lots of lore about Dawson City...including the discovery of GOLD at Bonanza Creek by First Nation folk, 'Skookum Jim' and 'Squamash Charlie' that led to the Yukon Gold Rush- and the human stream of prospectors that ascended Chilkoot Pass from Skagway and descended to the mighty Yukon, where they assembled their belongings onto rafts that they floated to Dawson City.

Darkmind said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LJ said...

Herhimnbryn...Some days, I get the yen to give ALL my clothes to the Goodwill
and level it down to a couple pairs of pants and tops. Period.
And I think you're right. Generally, I'm really excited about retirement. Just to have half my week all to myself seems full of amazing possibility. And I need the change so much.

KD - Nice to think I can count on the choir, when the time comes. (The choir's THAT big, huh? No wonder it's so damn noisy in here.) And heartening to look that the grey suit self as powerful rather than needy...

Chuck - I've been reading up on Dawson and looking at pictures. There's just something about the prospect of not
HAVING to live any place in particular that inclines you to shop around. And the other day, I heard they don't have cell phones there! Want to go panning for gold with me?

DM - I actually salvaged a dress from the dump once and "strutted" (after washing the thing and adding accessories)and you're absolutely right. This is a very creative solution - and I've always thought that followers of fashion were sad...and creators of fashion had all the fun.

beadbabe49 said...

We live in "coastal casual" here...sweatsuits in winter, jeans & tees in summer...and "fashion" is something we go to the big city to see......
but it sure feels good to come home! (Don't you have national health in canada?)

LJ said...

Hi BB! We do have national health...and at a certain age (65, I think)I qualify for some help with prescriptions. I'm not sure about dentistry. I can get a cat scan or MRI or surgery through medicare - but not antibiotics, unless I'm over that age limit or on welfare.
I had a tiny, tiny chip in a front tooth repaired the other day. It took about 8 minutes. A little filing, a little bond and no freezing. $164.00!!!!! So - I'm not losing sleep over it, but drugs and dentists will be a major lump in the five year period until I'm 65.
And yeah...mostly these days I'm happy to live in a "casual" city - and concern myself with something other than whether I'm passing a fashion test.

zhoen said...

I have so been there. Good stuff has a real impact. The sense that I am worth good stuff.

You are worthy of that suit. You can choose to leave it to the self absorbed, though.

It's good to dress up on occasion. Inside good matching outside good.

Teri said...

I really relate to your grey suit musings here. This has inspired a post for me this morning - thanks!

phlegmfatale said...

Amen about the good stuff quote. I find forties inspired suits to be bewitching, too, however impractical they may be. I was besotted with Sean Young's Rachael in Bladerunner for the glorious 40s styling. Classic. No doubt this would look deadly-vixenish on you. I understand the yearning this post speaks. Hey, if I run away, maybe I'll acquire a snowmobile and drop in on the Yukon... :o)

Jess said...

I've bought some wonderful clothes on spec, hoping the right occasion would arise. Most of them came from Goodwill, and have gone back there as I've downsized (and by that I mean my closet space, not my... um...) without ever having been worn. Interesting to consider that some of them may never have had an outing. Pity! Not about the clothes, but about the dreams they stand for.

LJ said...

Zhoen, Teri, PF, and Jess...

I wobble around covering (attitude and experience wise)most of what you've said here. Rachel in Blade Runner knocked me dead. I adore the 40s look - painful as it was (the hobbling skirts, the pinched waists, the elaborate hair)- it was a truly power look on women, I think.
I love nice things. By that I mean I appreciate quality and good workmanship, design and attention to detail
-as well as "fashion."
It's fun to be piss-elegant, yes.
And Jess - uh-huh - me too. The opportunity doesn't arise often.
Thank you all for your thoughts!

chuck said...

While the Yukon sounds fun (in summer), balmy Belize might be a "breeze".

In truth, I love California's Northcoast- a very temperate climate (though the Smith River's temperature is beginning to drop).

Jewels said...

And that, my friend, is why my most recent 'rechute' has occured in the shoe hording department... Hey, if it fits....

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