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True Stories about how fashion has made a difference in our lives.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thank you

Hello Heather, I enjoyed reading the blog/stories sent in to your contest. What an excellent web site and way to stay in touch with your clients!    Clothing and style are the touchstones of my life. I can date any family photograph by the hair , or the sweater my mother wore.  I was lucky enough to be the daughter of a woman who could turn her hand to anything she chose, and lucky for me she loved fashion as well as all the other arts. Although Mother made a living as a potter and later as a potter and watercolor painter,  in the 1950's when I was a small child,  she made fabulous copper enamel jewelry , wove (or hooked) all the rugs in our home, wove  fabric, sewed our drapes, and then sewed every single item of clothing (except our JC PENNY Panties).   I bought my first store bought item ( a lovely light blue voile with spaghetti straps and a bias cut swirly skirt and lace down the bodice of the sweetheart neckline)  in 1973.      Mom lovingly sewed everything that  my sisters and I wore until we were in college. We were the best dressed girls in our county, and looking back in most any county!     I have ALL the prom dresses mom made us, 4 per year per girl at least.  Each unique and always a shock to our contemporaries ( She taught us to make batik prints and sew them up..a bit different in our cow town.)      What came to mind however,   reading your stories, was, that there is a dress or suit or jacket or hat or  pedal-pusher, prom dress, wrap around pant, petti pant, skirt, blouse or costume to describe each and every time of my life.  Every time I tell a "growing up" story to a friend or customer in my pottery shop or a relative I include the fabric, cut, color, weave, or style of the clothing worn by us all.   As important to me as clothing is, I wonder why I make my living as a potter/glass artist!?  All I can be sure of, is that I tip my hat to all the wonder people who design and sew and sell and believe in the integrity of the lovely clothes I can buy today. Thank You!  Pamela Quyle

Three Generations

Three Generations: The Creation of a Wedding Headpiece and Many Memories 

Edna, Married July 2, 1949

My daughter Connie’s wedding was an important occasion. Every detail had to be carried out to perfection. It became a challenge with Connie living 500 miles away. She also had a job, which meant traveling to the Far East quite often. Connie, however had many good contacts and she found a dress that she liked rather quickly. We agreed that I was to create her headpiece. Connie shared with me the look she had in mind as well as the way she would be wearing her hair. Simple but elegant, that was our goal. We had considered using some lace from the mantilla that I had worn at my wedding. As we looked it over, however, we could see that the lace had aged and it was too yellow. We then decided to search fabric stores for a muslin cap, in a shape Connie liked and would fit her head well. I found fabric that matched her gown perfectly. Now I had to shop for pearls. They had to match those in the gown as well as the antique pearl earrings Connie was planning to wear. My mother had given them to me and I had worn them on my wedding day. I diligently searched for the correct shade of pearls as well as shape and size. Everything was coming together miraculously. Everything except the fact that it was now the night before the wedding, family and guests were arriving from out of town and I was frantically sewing pearls onto the headpiece.....into the wee hours of the morning.

Connie, Married November 10, 1984

I do not remember spending time as I was growing up thinking about what I wanted to wear on my wedding day. I do have very fond memories of passing by a black and white 8 ½” x 11” fancifully, framed photograph on the chest of drawers in my parents bedroom that was a lovely reminder of the happiness they shared and the dress and floor length, lace mantilla my mother wore to celebrate her wedding day. I actually found the dress I wanted to wear for my wedding when I was not looking, but in a small local store while on a business trip in Hong Kong. It was a few months later, while looking with my mom at the actual lace mantilla that she wore, and together tossing around ideas for a headpiece that the design concept began.  My mother offered to create a headpiece for me that would incorporate our ideas. Mom is an excellent seamstress and I was so happy that she would design and create this piece for my special day. Unlike her daughter, my mother does not leave projects until the last moment, so was I nervous when the night before the wedding she was still hand beading the fabric……yes! The headpiece was beautiful and it meant so much to me that my mom was the creator. Twenty-five years later, just last fall, I was filled with joyful memories when our daughter really wanted to wear some part of my wedding attire, and the beads my mother had chosen for my head piece were passed along to her.

Katrina, Married October 17, 2009

I am happy to hear the words ‘simple yet elegant’ used when creating my moms look for her wedding, because those were the same words I used to describe my own. Planning my wedding was a little difficult as I lived in New York City and my mom lived near our wedding location in Northern California. I remember my first trip home after announcing our engagement when my mom pulled out her wedding dress and headpiece for me to see. I had seen them in the past, but now was looking in a completely different light. I was surprised when my mom asked if I wanted to try them on, but happily stepped into the gorgeous period-pieces (two words: shoulder pads!). I knew I wanted to incorporate some part of her wedding attire into my own, and the headpiece seemed like the perfect item. I had heard the story many times of my grandmother frantically sewing the headpiece before my moms wedding, so it was both elegant and sentimental. On the morning of my wedding I sat in the hairdressers chair as she pinned the string of pearls into my hair. It was the perfect accent to my simple dress and the pearl necklace I borrowed from my mom. It was also a wonderful reminder of two very important women in my life, and the three generations in attendance at my wedding. At one point after my ceremony and before the reception I walked past the piano where we displayed photos from past family weddings. There was my grandmother in her lace mantilla, my mom in her pearled gown, and me in the reflection - all connected as we celebrated our weddings.

I Said Yes to the Dress

By Dr. Caron Ann Cioffi

I Said Yes to the Dress and Got on CBS:  The Wedding Gown Featured with Those of Caroline Kennedy and Princess Diana 
“People tell stories about themselves with their clothing.
There are lots of clues in how people dress.”
                                                Julianne Moore, actress 

Behind every great woman is a great dress.  Yet a dress is so much more than just a sketch executed in fabric.  It’s an expression of one’s soul in the quest for eternal beauty.  It is a dream waiting to become a memory.  As Oscar Wilde put it:  “Fashion is that by which the fantastic becomes for a moment the universal.”  A dress is only as powerful as its designer and its wearer, who form a symbiotic relationship centered in the imagination and based on originality.  As that perpetual iconoclast Coco Chanel knew, to be irreplaceable one must always be different.  Stylish women don’t just appreciate clothes; like Carrie Bradshaw and her real-life counterpart, they adore them.  It is a case of fashionista fate that Sarah Jessica Parker and I were both born on March 25th.
The dress one chooses for her wedding day reflects both the desire to be beautiful and the passion between two people.  It is a double love story and the stuff of fairy tales—Cinderella shedding her rags and waltzing in a ball gown with her Prince.  In my case, I followed Coco’s advice and broke with tradition.  That meant convincing my family that a big, fat Italian wedding dress was out of the question.  They wanted me to resemble a doughnut-shaped zeppoli; I was hoping for a streamlined cannoli instead.  Citing Diana Vreeland, legendary Vogue editor, I argued that elegance is refusal, and that a chic, fitted silhouette would flatter my body more than acres of bubble-shaped tulle.  “This is between me and my mirror,” I said to my weeping mother and hysterical godmother.  I made two concessions: the dress had to have beadwork to honor my late grandmother, who learned the craft in Italy and used it to save our immigrant family during the Great Depression, and a piece of my mom’s lace bridal gown would be sewn into my own.

The next step was a visit to Kleinfeld’s Bridal, now the setting for The Learning Channel’s show “Say Yes to the Dress.”  I met the owner, Hedda K., and got my first surprise “wedding gift”: an interview with CBS news for a feature-length story titled “Big Weddings Are Back.”  The premise was that all economic classes desire to lead a life of style, if only on that one blissful day.  I would implicitly be compared to several high society icons:  Caroline Kennedy (whose nuptials would include Jackie and California’s current first lady Maria Shriver) and Princess Diana.  Two royal families, one American, one British, and moi.  Letitia Baldridge, Jackie’s White House Social Secretary, would also be consulted regarding impeccable taste.  Wishing for an Excedrin the size of a hockey puck, I nonetheless agreed to have my entire wedding filmed and viewed on national TV.  Finding that special dress now took on a whole new meaning.

Thankfully, I knew what look I wanted.  My muses were Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca and Grace Kelly in anything.  I imagined myself as the star of my own movie—dramatic, softly feminine, subtly seductive, as elegant and mysterious as a swan.  Striking images came to mind:  floating clouds, angel wings, classical goddesses wrapped in sea-foam, Paris’s Cathedral of Notre Dame, The Mona Lisa, the poetry of Keats.  From that flood of metaphors, I realized that clothes are symbols that gather moments of life into an autobiography, and that they are poems of form and color to be enjoyed and revisited forever in the stream of history.  My wedding dress would be catapulted beyond the realm of family and friends and into the archives of a far vaster audience.

To say that the pressure was on is an understatement.  I began to tear through the racks at Kleinfeld’s with the ferocity of a Viking warrior.  And suddenly, magically, there was the dress.  It was by the then-unknown Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto, whose avant-garde fashions now appear in Vogue, etc.  I was drawn to the Zen-like way that the weight and textures of the luxurious fabrics harmonized.  The shape was modified mermaid, consisting of body-hugging Alençon lace embroidered with seed pearls and columns of rich taffeta ruffles down the sides and around the hem.  The neckline was face-framingly high and elegant, while the upper bodice was peek-a-boo lace that added some sensuality.  The sleeves were demurely long but of sheer lace, with set-in, slightly padded shoulders.  (The latter detail remains the hallmark of a Yamamoto design.)  The back consisted of a perfect line of silk-covered buttons that cascaded into a chapel length train to be bustled into a bow for dancing.  It was my dream dress, superbly made, objectified on a hanger, and I hardly needed to try it on.
When I did try on the sample, it fit perfectly.  As I watched my mom and godmother dissolve into happy tears, I knew that they experienced it too—the power of an unforgettable, sophisticated, breathtaking work of art.  In that dress, I felt like a Michelangelo sculpture come to life, like my best, most true, most beautiful self made visible.  We are what we wear, and how we wear it.  I was ready for my Warholian 15 minutes of fame; I was ready for the CBS cameras and the Kennedys and the Princess of Wales.  I said yes to the dress that I loved and that would carry me to the man whom I idolized.  Two life-long romances came together at Kleinfeld’s that day, because what is true of passion is also true of fashion—they are matters not of common sense but of uncommon sense.  I envision our son’s bride gliding down the aisle in my gown, because a great dress, like a great woman, never goes out of style.


By Jodi Zeisel

I come from a family with a lot of women. I am the youngest of 3 girls. My mom has always been very fashion conscious. I cannot say the same for myself. Growing up, my clothes were chosen for me. Anything I picked out, my mom either disapproved or made fun of. In college, I wore army pants and t-shirts without a bra! As an adult, I finally was able to find my own style. For my mother, shoes were always my issue. I have very wide feet with a high arch and a high instep. I used to wear a triple E as a child. I need shoes that are comfortable more than anything else. For most of my adult life, I owned 2 pairs of shoes, Birkenstocks for the summer and Doc Martin boots for the winter! I'd wear the boots with long dresses or short dresses with leggings. It was a look. My mother always gave me grief about this. Once, while visiting me for my birthday, she  commented that I had a "shoe problem"! I just let comments like these go, trying not to make a big deal of her judgments. I moved to California, and continued my boots with dresses look. A neighbor actually noticed and told me that my look was definitely dated! The nerve!  Well, I figured the time had come to seek a new style. I found new sandals, not Birkenstocks, but not exactly "pretty". It was a start. That was 7 years ago. I now have so many shoes I have to keep them in 2 long boxes under my bed!
 A couple of summers ago, I was visiting my Mom in Chicago before her open heart surgery. I was still wearing brown sandals with my pretty sundresses. She suggested a trip to Nordstroms to find a pair of pretty silver sandals. Trying to be a "good" daughter, I complied. Well, nothing jumped out at me. There was a pair that were almost identical to my mom's silver sandals with a giant jewel in the middle. UGH! Of course, she liked those. I had all but given up when I saw them. Silver, sparkly sandals! They were gorgeous.  I put them on. They made my Fred Flinstone fat feet look amazingly fabulous and feminine! I walked over to my mom and she agreed. These were some special sandals. Even the woman trying on shoes next to her said they were amazing. Then I checked the price. $175.00. Maybe not a steep price for a nice pair of shoes but these were actually jellies! Ok, fancy jellies with sparkles and silver leather, but still, I couldn't see spending that much money on this type of shoe. What if they were uncomfortable. What if they made my feet sweat. My mom offered to split the price with me but I just couldn't do it. Sigh. So, I ended up with the mother- daughter look alike sandals. She was thrilled to get me into something other than brown. Months went by. I was shopping at the Rack with my shoe enthusiast boyfriend and guess what? Yep. There they were.  I was breathless. I was in shock. I picked them up. Holding my breath, I checked the bottom to make sure. They were my size! I held them lovingly to by chest. I never expected to see these sandals again. When I showed them to my boyfriend, he seemed questionable. I'm like, "No. You don't understand. Wait til you see these on my feet." I put them on and he had to agree. Gorgeous! I called my mom. I said, "remember those sandals from last summer?" She knew right away. I was so excited I could hardly talk. She was excited too, but for a different reason. She was thrilled that I could care so much for a pretty shoe!! They were only $75.00.(I still can't beleive I said only $75 for a pair of jellies but these are Stuart Weitzman's, a name I had been oblivious to before) She was happy to get them for me as an early birthday present.
   You think the story ends here but it doesn't. Last Thanksgiving I had my suitcase stolen out of my sister's car in Phoenix. All of my favorite things were in there, including,of course, the sandals. I was sick. All day long I kept remembering things I had packed, some of them irreplaceable. It's a feeling I wouldn't wish on anyone. I decided to do what I could to feel better about this violation. I decided to replace what I could and forget about the red lingerie set from Italy, my new thrift store find, the gorgeous white ruffly top from The Wardrobe and all my other favorite things I'd packed that I would never see again. It took a few weeks but I finally found my sandals on Zappos. They came in the mail 2 days after I ordered them. Now, sometimes I can't help but wonder, who took my suitcase? What could they possibly have wanted with all my things? Whoever it was, I sure hope they're not a size 6!

Fashion Piece

By Kaitlin Ball

Vladimir, Russia, is known for a deep and bloody history as the ancient capital of modern-day Russia; it has never been known for its fashion.  If anything, Vladimir has been three steps behind European fashion since the tenth century.  Present-day Vladimir is no exception to this pattern, wrought with greasy mullets and track suits.  Therefore, it seems unthinkable that one would find some glimmer of fashion wisdom among the conventional industrial apparel that clothes most of the city.
      I spent a semester in the small town of Vladimir to get away from Western culture and immerse myself in Russian life.  And yet, nearly every day after class my friends and I would flock to the only mall in the province.  We would not seek out any pseudo-authentic Russian tea house, but instead always made our way to the chique coffee house.  The coffee house was full of sleek, red chairs that were as thoughtlessly manufactured as the pastries available in the display case.  We did not go here because it offered us something exciting and different; it only offered us something boring and safe. 
      And every day in this banal coffee house we saw a not-so-banal young Russian woman walk by.  She would strut by our coffee house like the poorly paved sidewalk was her personal runway, in a pair of jeans that seemed only to have drawn their inspiration from some synthesized boy-band from the nineties.  Like most Russians, she only had one pair of jeans, and she wore them every day.  These faded jeans had no pockets in the back (leaving very little to the imagination at times), and were bleached in a manner to imitate tie-dye, with a flare that ended awkwardly just at her ankle.  At one point, these jeans were probably very cutting-edge; but that flare had long since worn off. 
      Every day she walked past, going home from work or university.  And every day we saw her, and made fun of her.  Like most Russians in Vladimir, she had a sense of fashion that offended our need to assimilate to what was served to us by the prevalent fashion magazines.  This astounding young Russian woman was not at all unlike her peers on the street, from her hair color to her slender Slavic build, and yet we managed to spot her every day as she strolled by the coffee house. 
      Outdated and antiquated were among the kindest things we called her; it almost became a sport.  As it continued, I began to wonder why it was a sport.  Why did this otherwise ordinary Russian woman merit our attention every day?  I did not think it was because we led boring lives, we were constantly being enriched with new cultural and linguistic challenges.  Her outfits, however outdated and cliché they may have been, were thoughtful and much better composed than those of many of the men and women who often shared the street with her.  Why then, did I notice this young woman and her one pair of jeans every day, no matter what the weather?  Russia would hurl its best at her, wind, rain, and snow; and yet I never failed to notice her. 
      It took me over four months of reflecting after my departure from Russia to understand this young woman and her jeans.  It was not what she wore every day that drew our attention; it was the attitude with which she wore it.  Her very existence not only boasted confidence, but also some other mysterious ingredient that I am still unable to name.  She did not have many of the things we take for granted: the finances to invest in another pair of jeans, and even more likely many of the opportunities that allow so many of us to advance in life.  But she moved with a confidence and comfort that still have not mastered.  She did not draw eyes because of her keen following of some fashion guru in Moscow, she drew eyes because of her confidence and comfort with herself. 


By Mabel Yang

This is a pair of black Anne Klein sling back heels.

Classy, yet trendy enough for a 17, soon-to-be-18, year old senior about to leave behind the remains of her childhood  and step into the world of adulthood. I found them amidst racks of shoes in a discount store and scored them for an unbelievable $15. And they were completely new. It was probably love at first sight (and I’ve loved many a pair of shoes), but this was the pair I had to have and for such an affordable price, it was like I was meant to have them. Clearly, destiny was calling. It was perfect.

Looking back, I can only say that I was right.

They’re a little battered now, but I guess you can say the little scrapes and such are battle scars. They’re well-earned however and I’m happy, nay, proud to wear them still. These babies have been an essential part of my wardrobe and have been there for some of the most memorable events of my life.

Soon after I acquired them, I walked across the stage in front of my family, friends, and peers to get my high school diploma and to say goodbye  and hello to the next chapter of my life. They were there for the first of many job interviews and they were there when I finally landed the job. They were there for parties and shopping trips and reunions. And they’re still here and they’re gonna be here for a while as I experience many more firsts in the upcoming months and years.

They’re a part of my battle armor. They help me present to the world that I am a strong, confident person and they’re still cute as heck. They have sentimental value and when I look at them, I remember every single one of those moments.

(P.S. Thanks, Mom! Best grad gift ever.)

The Kook Dress

By: Joy Policar

My husband, Ray, of 18 years walked into my study and inquired, “What’s the kook dress doing out?” My 17-year- old son, Kyle, followed him in and asked, “Is that your wedding dress? Wow, it’s prettier than in the pictures, but it’s still weird for a wedding dress.” Although I bought the not wedding dress at Nordstrom, I truly believe this magical garment was destined for me to wear at our wedding ceremony on January 4, 1992. As I glance at it, informally draped over the top of its silver box, it strikes me that I have never seen any garment like this one before or since. Kook is a term of endearment used in our family to signify amusement and the appreciation of originality. It really is a kook dress!

This floor length straight white shift bedecked with pearls and iridescent white beads in vertical lines starting below the bust to the floor; and rhinestones, gold and silver sequence form patterns accentuating the bust, V neck, and gold fringed puffed sleeves-- do not speak wedding dress. This form fitting dress hugged my hour glass figure in all the right places. Although it may sound gaudy, it truly spoke elegance, sophistication, and refinement. The dress mirrored my soul.

I was 35 when I married the 39-year-old Ray—a second marriage for me and a first for him. When I left my first marriage of five years, I vowed that I would never settle again. I wanted a man that I was head over heels in love with. That was a tall order because for five years I had been divorced and was living in a beautiful condo I owned, enjoying my teaching career, and relishing the social life I had created. I did not have children, so my biological clock was ticking loudly. Yet I was holding out for a man who I was magnetically attracted to—namely, tall, dark, and handsome. Razor sharp intelligence, a quick wit, and social graces were also part of the criteria. I dated oodles of guys because I had discovered my power as a woman in my early to mid-thirties. I had come into my beauty—able to reel in 20 something guys, plus I had enough life experience and confidence to hold my own with men in their 30s and 40s. So I kissed lots of frogs and had a good time doing it, but reconciled myself to being single.

On Thursday night, April 11, 1991, after a long day of teaching my eleventh grade English classes, I went out for cocktails with a girlfriend at a popular singles bar in Sacramento. As I walked to the bar to get a drink, I struck up a conversation with Ray. Not only was I physically attracted to him; but also as we talked and laughed, I could not believe that he was measuring up to the standards from which I was unwilling to bend. I was bursting with excitement when he invited me to his house for dinner that Saturday night.

There was a drawback. Regardless of the fact that I held high standards, I did not believe that I deserved a man that could fit this criteria. Who wouldn’t want a man like this, and who was I to demand one? What’s worse, how was I going to deal with my insecurities if the man of my dreams was attracted to me? It was easy to date guys that did not measure up because I didn’t believe I did either. I was just a gal from across the tracks. I was the first in my family to get a Bachelor’s degree, and as a teacher, I was the star of my family of origin and extended family. I had pulled myself up, but felt I lacked refinement.

Ray was a successful attorney, and he was smart. He went straight through law school and had been an established attorney for 14 years. He had a beautiful home in Carmichael and a vacation home in Lake Tahoe. My insecurities were surfacing with a vengeance. I grew up in South Sacramento living in a 1,100 square foot home. College educations were not encouraged in my family, but in his family professional careers requiring graduate level degrees were an expectation. Ray’s mother made it clear to me that “Ray was not the marrying kind.” Although his family wanted him to wed, his family admired him for holding out. He was protecting the family’s assets while waiting for that special woman, and I couldn’t believe he had chosen me.
I have always loved clothes and for my wedding day, I wanted to wear a dress that reflected my depth and complexity. I could not bring myself to wear a traditional, demure gown—one his family might picture his bride wearing. Weddings always mark transition in a woman’s life, but I knew I was making a radical change. I embraced my new role as wife with enthusiasm, but I still wanted to hang on to my independence, and the place I had earned in the professional world. It was as if overnight my social class identity shifted, and along with this change, I might lose a cherished part of myself. My working-class roots are a part of my essence, a piece of my core that keeps me grounded and ignites my drive. The hand work that created the intricate sequenced and jeweled patterns on the dress told the story of the initiatory journey I was undergoing. When I slipped it on, it whispered, “You are brave and you wear me proudly—you are enough. I am honored to be on your body, so I can mirror to the world your bold elegance that defies convention. You go girl; I was made for you and you alone. I tell your story.”

Special Occasion Wear

By Helen Trejo

I learned to sew when I was 14 and ever since then I anticipated making a dress that reflected my creative spirit. This long awaited hope became a reality when I drafted patterns and constructed my prom dress. The dress is made of dark green satin and dark gray charmeuse. I chose dark green because green has been my favorite color since second grade and I thought gray complemented it nicely.
I was ecstatic when I completed my prom dress and wore it to my senior prom, but saddened at the thought that I would probably never wear it again. During my first year at UC Davis, my green dress hung in my closet at home, begging to catch a glimmer of light and my muslin mock-up lied messily folded up in one of my drawers, yearning for attention. It was my original, foundation piece that guided me as I made my green prom dress; unfortunately, it never received the attention it deserved.
Interest in my mock-up dress emerged during Winter Break as I looked through one of my miscellaneous drawers and found my folded mock-up prom dress under a pile of folders. I took it out of the drawer, unfolded it, and looked at the inside of the skirt where I sewed panels of different muslin pieces together. I remembered how difficult it was to create the perfect panels for the skirt section. I had to consider the circumference of the skirt when I joined it to the bodice front and back, and the bottom flare of the dress. As I looked at my mock-up, I thought of how it would look from far away and realized that the seams of the panels would not show if a person saw it from far away.
Streams of creative thoughts ignited as I held my mock-up dress. I opened my closet and took out my green prom dress. I looked at it and noticed uniformity in its texture and color. The satin and charmeuse were both soft and smooth at my touch, and the dark green and gray harmonized with each other rather than contrasted. I took out batches of left-over fabric I saved from previous projects and began to pick out fabrics that I liked. I cut them into rectangular pieces and laid them out on my living room floor. As I looked at the pieces, images of me making my first tote bag popped into my head, sewing my first dress for a class, my twin sister cutting out her fabric for a pair of pants, and my sister wearing the graduation dress she made. I was in awe of the load of memories my mock-up prom dress would have.
I appliquéd each rectangular piece of fabric onto the mock-up and made it more vivid with the contrasting colors and prints on the fabrics. I also hand embroidered swirls of different colors to make the dress lively and as dynamic as possible.
This dress transformed from a plain dress into an eloquent dress that could speak for itself by conveying an abundance of memories just by the sight of the fabrics. Although it took me an enormous amount of time to complete the handwork on this dress, I treasured every second. I was completing something that I shared a strong personal connection with because it was a mock-up of my prom dress and carried fabrics full of memories. It took a lot of patience and determination to complete and I am very proud this dress. By completing this dress I felt empowered to complete anything I wish. This dress was in the sustainable portion of two fashion shows and continuously brightens my day as it hangs in my living room.


Finding Confidence Around My Neck

By Lesley Miller

I stood in my closet, right foot resting flamingo style on the left knee. This is my thinking pose; and on Monday night I needed to make an important fashion decision for the following day.
Most days, getting dressed is a short process that happens while brushing my teeth in the morning. My office allows us to dress casually, so unless I have a meeting or event, I don’t need to look perfectly put together—which is fortunate because I’m not a perfectly put together type of girl. My makeup is minimal, my hair is usually straight, and the clothes I wear are often from Target.
I’ve always wanted to dress nicer than I do. Don’t most women say that? Even the ones who are always well dressed? I remember feeling fashion challenged for the first time in sixth grade when all the other girls got body suits and Guess denim shorts. Suddenly, the clothes I had from Limited Too didn’t seem as mature. My mom assured me I looked cute, but I sure didn’t feel as sophisticated as all the other girls.
Sophisticated is exactly how I wanted to feel on Tuesday night. A co-worker and I were nominated for a business award in Sacramento. It was an honor I didn’t expect, and one I felt highly unqualified to win. For that reason, I wanted to look the part of an actual adult. I didn’t want to be the 28 year old kid who shows up to a bar wearing Limited Too when everyone else has on body suits and Guess shorts.
I tried on several outfits. None of them seemed right. How do girls know which shirts go with which pants? When do I need a skinny belt? Can people see my bra through this? Does an undershirt look silly? It’s spring—but it’s raining—so what shoes do I wear? Open? Closed? And, do I have time for a pedicure?
Jonathan didn’t really get it. His most difficult fashion decision each day is deciding what tie to wear. Oddly enough, even this decision can be a challenge for him. And while he gently poked fun of my dramatic closet scene, I found myself lecturing him about how the importance of this very moment and how it might translate to the rest of my career. Was it overly dramatic? Um, yes. (*blush*) But, was it somewhat true? Possibly. Women remember what other women wear—right or wrong—and first impressions count. It’s no wonder we worry so much about finding the perfect skinny belt.
I settled on a short sleeve Target blouse and brown skinny pants. My older heels would have to work, and I’d go without a belt since I don’t own one. The next morning before leaving the house I decided to grab a vintage yellow necklace I’d purchased earlier that week at a consignment store. I’d never shopped at a consignment store before, and it’s rare that I buy jewelry for myself. The necklace was certainly, for me, a step outside the typical.
I fiddled throughout the day with my outfit. The shirt didn’t stay tucked in very well without a belt, and I was cold because of the rainy weather. I started doubting my choice of clothing as soon as I walked into the event not because I was dressed inappropriately but because I am new at this game of playing career woman.
After drinks and appetizers, the award presentation began. I didn’t win. I felt a sense of relief as soon as the last name was called. I wouldn’t have to tromp across that stage in heels with my shirt hanging out. I could go home, change out of the costume, and feel like a kid again.
Shortly after the program, a woman walked up. “You’re Lesley! I’ve wanted to meet you in person.” She was the owner of the consignment store where I’d bought the necklace, and she recognized me from Twitter. I smiled as my hand found its way to my neck.
“This necklace I’m wearing—“ I began.
“Is from our store? Yes. I know. My mom and I recognized it from across the room. It’s so cute. I’m glad you like it,” she said.
I stood a little taller, and smiled a little wider. My self worth isn’t based on appearances. It’s not based on winning an award either. But, in that very short moment, my yellow necklace made me feel like the grown woman I’d been pretending to be.
Maybe I don’t need that skinny belt after all.


By Maddy Y.

The one thing you want most when you step into your high school for the first time is to leave as soon as possible with a diploma in hand. That is what you are waiting for once you start out as a freshman. You have fun but you have to keep your attendance up, keep your grades up. It's the daily grind you repeat through sophomore and junior year before you finally become a senior. Senior year is THE dream. That’s right. Capitalized T-H-E. By now, you are able to drive your own car and you have the freedom to go anywhere you want. Since you've got nearly all the credits you need, you only have to take a few classes before you get to go home after lunch. Time passes quickly until the day arrives where you can put on your cap and gown, walk across the stage, and get your diploma. It is the day you finally graduate from high school.
    I start out as a freshman at high school. I have fun but I keep my attendance up, keep my grades up…. Sort of. Kinda. Okay, not really. It's the daily grind I repeat through sophomore and the middle of junior year until I get pulled into my counselor’s office. I’ve been in there so many times that my English teacher hands me the counselor’s note and asks me,” Why are they always calling you down there?” I wasn’t particularly worried since the only reason the counselor would call me down was probably to talk about my class schedule… or so I thought. My counselor doesn’t like to B.S. me and once I am sitting in the seat across from her, she lets me know that my current grades are sliding, I’ve failed classes in the past years that needed to be made up, and there is a possibility of me not being able to  graduate. When she said this, I almost wanted to deny it. I felt like I swallowed a rock that was stuck in my throat. I’m embarrassed to say that my eyes even started to water. She then tells me that I can make it up if I take summer school and spend my senior year retaking the classes.
    This was a much needed wake-up call. I didn’t take school seriously and this was the result. I was always procrastinating, talking to my friends in class and ignoring my work, not caring much about my academics… I had no one to blame but myself for the mess I was in. I agreed to retake the classes but I knew I would have to pass those classes with flying colors so I could graduate. I had to steel myself, keep myself focused on school. To help me do that, I decided to buy the shoes I was going to wear when I walked the stage. It would be a reminder for me to work hard so I could wear those babies when I walked the stage to get my diploma. No heels since I didn’t want to take any chances of me falling when I was walking the stage. Black because school rules said they had to be formal. I looked through many shoe racks in stores until I found THE pair. That’s right. Capitalized T-H-E. Cute black flats with a buckle and pinstripes. They were formal but not too formal. I didn’t even have to look for a pair my size since they fit perfectly when I tried them on. It was destiny.
    I left my "grad flats" on my shoe rack with all my other shoes. In the morning when I put on my shoes to go to school, I'd see the flats and that would be my little reminder to do well in school. Junior year ended. I spent my lovely summer vacation in summer school. Senior year was still THE dream. I didn‘t have a car, not that it mattered. I was too busy to be taking joy rides anyway. I didn‘t go home after lunch since I had retake classes for the rest of the day. Time passed quickly until the day arrived where I put on my cap and gown, walked across the stage in my rockin‘ flats, and got my diploma. It was the day I finally graduated from high school.

Special Occassion Dress

By Ruth Santer

I like clothes to be fun. I love seeing people show their individuality
through a creative outfit and a beautiful spring day feels more festive when
I¹m wearing a fabulous sundress. That being said, the past ten years of my
life, living in a small cow town, have been marked by a significant downward
trend in fanciness. I¹m a mom and I work at home and teach art at an
elementary school, and I¹ve been spending a lot more time in grubby yoga
pants than in the swirling miniskirts accompanied by cowboy boots that were
my signature style when I lived in New York City.  And I¹m 50 now.  Well,
51. I¹m not sure that look really works all that well any more.

But I still love to look at art and go to great performances, so when one of
my best friends suggested we make the trip to NYC to go to the Metropolitan
Opera for the premiere of an opera with a set designed by our favorite
artist, I said yes without a moment¹s hesitation.  Despite growing up on the
East coast and living in NYC for years, I¹d never been to the opera. ³But
what will we wear?² my friend asked, as we finalized plans.

I pondered it.  The tickets were a 50th birthday gift from another friend,
so I felt totally justified in splurging. And I knew just the place.
Although Davis is small, it has a few truly high-quality boutiques.  They
are the kind of places I¹d go out of my way to go to in a city four times
the size, and I love being able to bike there and check out the latest stash
of goodies. The party dress store carries clothes that make me feel
pampered, beautiful and feminine, precious commodities for a woman who
spends a lot of time cleaning up spilled paint.

The dress I found was perfect for my body and for the occasion. I love to
wear brown, but you need black for a night out in New York City, and this
dress combined them. It had a smooth velvet black bodice, a poofy brown
taffeta skirt and interesting hip detail where the two fabrics met that had
a slight, though not overwhelming, Renaissance feel.

I worried it would emerge from my suitcase crushed, and considered putting
it in a box like a wedding gown, but settled on rolling it up and it emerged
unscathed after my red-eye flight. We were staying with friends and felt
like little girls playing dress-up, as we got ready and paraded around for
each other before showing ourselves off to them. They were suitably
impressed by how elegant we both were, and sent us off in a cab from
Brooklyn to midtown Manhattan.

We got to the Met and I had to pose in front of the newly renovated fountain
that I had seen in so many movies. My friend was freezing, but I had my
grandmother¹s Persian lamb jacket and lace up spool-heel boots to finish off
my ensemble and could have stayed outside all night, enjoying the crowds and
the lights. She finally dragged me in and I noticed that the crowd was not
quite as dressed up as I¹d imagined.  This was a very avant-garde
performance, and it looked as though there were a lot of art and music
students who had saved up all year to attend. It wasn¹t the usual crowd,
perhaps, and we actually stood out and attracted lots of admiring looks. Not
an easy feat in New York!  We had amazing seats, the set was transcendent,
and afterwards we went downtown to the meatpacking district, which our
cabbie had informed us was the hip late night place for dinner. We certainly
stood out there!

Much later, as we got ready for bed in our room with a view of the Manhattan
skyline, I was sad to take off my dress.  I'd enjoyed buying it, I'd enjoyed
anticipating the event, and I'd loved wearing it and feeling powerful and
lovely.  Would I have another, equally worthy occasion? I hope so.


By Hannah Cole-Leathers

As soon as I stepped out of our hotel, I knew that this day was going to be one for the record books. The sun shone bright through the few clouds over Las Vegas, Nevada and I could see my reflection in the window of our hotel, the Mirage. I waited for my mother to hail a cab so we could start celebrating her thirty-fifth birthday, (for the twelfth time since I had been born). We had planned to come to Las Vegas to take a sort of pilgrimage to a fashion “Mecca” otherwise known as Caesar’s Palace.
      The stores of this expansive Greek themed mall were known to be legendary, and I was more excited than a child in front of a candy shop. Ceiling to floor was adorned with beautiful paintings, gushing fountains, and of course the flashing logos of all of our favorite designers. Every store imaginable was there, from Gucci to Pucci to Prada, not a soul could be disappointed. Of course my mother had to go pay homage to Louise Vuitton, and I would have gone with her, but something else caught my eye. There was a Dolce and Gabbana store just adjacent and I couldn’t help but to notice a flash of purple. I wandered in the store and was immediately drawn to the most amazing pair of heels I had ever seen. They were electric plum, patent leather, wedges. The heel of the shoe alone was about six inches off the ground and I swear that I could hear the straps begging to be buckled around my ankles. I was soon approached by a very cordial, very pregnant sales woman who wanted nothing more in the world than for me to try on these heels.
      “Size 7” I requested, and she was back in a flash. 
      She helped me buckle each of the shiny purple buckles and stood back as I attempted to stand up. Keep in mind that I was only about thirteen years old at this time and had not had the experience of heels before, or the good graces of balance for that matter. So, after successfully standing up I decided to take these magnificent shoes for a test run. I took my time mastering just walking to the door but I soon found my footing…somewhat. I waltzed as proudly as I could right down to Louis Vuitton to show my mother my great discovery. Luckily she was already on her way to meet me, so I didn’t have to attempt walking very far. She took one look at me and then the biggest grin in the world appeared on her face.  My absolute first pair of heels and I had chosen to try these ones, six inch, bright purple, wedges.
      I had no intention of taking these shoes off so I convinced the sales woman to let me walk just around the indoor plaza. I still remember thinking to myself, “left foot…ok good….right foot” and I continued on like this until I noticed that I had become somewhat of a main attraction. The people around had stopped focusing on their gourmet meals and had decided to watch me attempting to walk. Once I got the hang of it I felt like a model, stretching to almost six feet tall, with the six inch boost of course. My presence was commanding and my shoes were absolutely astonishing and I marched right back to my waiting mother, the expecting sales woman, and that fabulous designer store.
       I wish I could have purchased those heels that day, but alas; what is a thirteen year old girl to do with six inch, electric purple wedges? Nonetheless I will always remember those vibrant purple shoes as my first heels. The way I felt in those shoes is exactly how I imagine Carrie Bradshaw must have felt every day on Sex and the City.

Grown-Up Security Blanket

By Ashley Mariano

Knee-high in study guides, piles of homework, and a plethora of other school-related tasks to complete by the end of the night, I had just about given up. We all know the stress that comes with starting a new journey in life. It can be so unbearable that sometimes all you want to do is curl up in a little ball. However, that just isn’t possible when life is THAT hectic. So I thought to myself, “what did I do as a kid? How did I cope with starting a new grade or activity?” Well, if you can recall, we each had our own security blankets that we carried around. I would bring my favorite brown teddy bear, complete with a little pink ribbon, which I hand-made on a kindergarten fieldtrip or wear my cute-as-a-button jelly shoes every day.
But it would be crazy to bring those nostalgic trinkets to my college dorm, let alone wear them around campus. So one morning while I was rifling through my mom’s closet for the 93598th time, I found the most adorable ring! It has a classic, vintage vibe that blends perfectly with my overall style. A nameless ring without a unique story or even remembrance of the place she found it, this tri-color beauty soon became my very own Pandora’s box. But instead of unleashing all of the world’s sins it unleashed all of the strength I needed to buckle down and complete my tasks. Although it can be difficult living independently and away from home this ring gives me the security and reassurance that my family and friends are just a phone call or car ride away.
With all the ups and downs in life I know that just by having this ring on my right index finger I have all the strength, power, and love to persevere with my dreams. So in honor of mother’s day this past weekend, I just wanted to say, thanks mom! And as corny as it sounds, this ring never leaves my finger because your love will never leave my heart (I should start writing Hallmark cards). 



When I was searching for the perfect dress to wear to my film premiere it was no easy feat. It’s not that I couldn’t find plenty of lovely places to shop or fine clothing to wear; it’s that none of those clothes looked right on my figure anymore because 2 years earlier I had lost both of my breasts to cancer. Now I had no bosom, and having chosen not to reconstruct it I really needed to pick my fashion carefully. If I didn’t, I could end up looking less like a pretty wife and mother of two and more like a pre-teen boy ready for little league try outs.

My journey with breast cancer is the subject of a documentary film called The Breast Cancer Diaries and in 2006 it was about to have its premiere at The Richmond Museum of Science in Richmond, Virginia at the IMAX theatre in front of 200 people. I wanted to wear an outfit that would make me look and feel pretty, sexy, and strong--like the courageous person I was hoping I was. It had only been a few years since my diagnosis and I was still getting used to being a cancer “survivor.” Of course, not having died of anything else yet, I was clinging to the hope that I was truly a survivor of breast cancer--but only time would be able to tell.

In the meantime, I had little time left--just a few weeks--until I flew to Virginia for the film screening and following gala in the ballroom outside the IMAX theatre. I had been through countless magazines, shopped store front windows, and combed the closets of family and friends desperately searching for “the” outfit. As the days flew by, I got nervous that I’d be in sweatpants and a t-shirt if I didn’t find something beautiful for my body--fast.

And then one summer day as I walked through my downtown’s main street, a sparkle of fabric wrapped around the shoulder of a store front mannequin caught my eye. I went closer and gazed through the glass at the most gorgeous navy blue taffeta dress I had ever seen. It was cut just below the knee, wrapped closely at the hips, with an elegant drape across the chest. I looked up and down but could not find any straps--and yet it was so beautiful and fairytale-like I made myself question the impossible. Could a breast-less woman pull off this strapless beauty of a dress?

I went inside to see the dress from the opposite side. It had a beautiful covered zipper straight up the back and a handsome, veil-like wrap to cover the naked shoulders of the wearer of this dress. Would that be me? I turned to see the shopkeeper standing behind me, beaming. Would I like to try on this dress? She was certain I’d be gorgeous in it.

I went into the dressing room and put it over my head. I didn’t need to unzip it because it slipped right over my scarred chest. I looked at the profile of my reflection in the mirror and saw the place where my breasts should be. For once, that sad area that cancer had robbed felt alive. Wrapped in blue sparkles and shimmering from a swath of fabric, my chest felt like it was getting something back, if only temporarily. But short lived or not, this feeling was something I’d missed dearly; I felt beautiful. I bought the dress.

And then the shopkeeper and I worked together to pull and tuck the top across my breast bone so that there would be no puckering, no pouching, no where-are-that-woman’s-breasts? When she was done, the dress looked like it was made for me and unless you’d watched my film or knew me personally you’d have never known I had no cleavage.

A few weeks later I walked down a pink carpet, passing photographers snapping pictures and was ushered into a front row seat to await the opening of my film. Encased in the stunning outfit that I’d first seen in that main street shop window a few weeks earlier, I was the belle of the breast cancer ball. I felt happy and healthy and pretty and beautiful and I smiled knowing that beneath this gorgeous piece of fashion was a fighter; a woman who was down once but was definitely not out. In fact, she was so “in” this night that she was beaming; bathed in blue, sparkling like glitter, and pulling off a fashion statement that three weeks ago she would have thought impossible to do.

And it was all thanks to the dress.

Zap Me, Power Dress!

By Malisa Yang

It has always occurred to me that there was a spark missing from my life. Ever since I was a child, I always failed miserably in every venture I embarked on. In  my third grade Talent Show, I forgot half the dance moves a group of friends and I made up for Britney Spears' song, 'Baby One More Time'. In fourth grade, I started gymnastics, but after a month, I knocked out one of my baby teeth while I was tumbling. In fifth grade, I was in the school play, The Nutcracker, and I got stage fright during my shining moment. In sixth grade, I was in a tether-ball tournament, and in front of all my entire school, the tether-ball smacked me in the face, which was humiliating.   In ninth grade, I tried out for the soccer team, and when I kicked the soccer ball, it went in the opposite direction of where I was aiming. In tenth grade, I tried out for the soccer team again, and this time, I shot the winning goal into the wrong goalpost, ensuring the other team's victory. In eleventh grade, I built a catapult for a local contest, and out of the twenty people who participated, my catapult was placed at twentieth place.
    So all that I endeavored went astray, but everything changed when I bought this gorgeous dress. It really accentuates my waist, and makes my legs look slimmer. It gave me confidence, which really improved my outlook on life, and gave me the courage to keep on trying. Of course, it didn't magically give me David Beckham skills in the field of soccer, but my skills improved because I gave in more hours of practice. My grades in school improved dramatically because I started speaking up in class. Previously, I always shied away from asking questions in class, or answering questions in class, because I always feared I would say something embarrassing.
    The real clincher on how this dress added magic to my life, is that I was wearing this dress when I won fourth place in a speaking contest. This was the closest to winning I have ever been, and it was incredible. Even though I didn't win, I had successfully spoken confidently in front of an entire room full of people, without forgetting any words from my speech. My dress has been my saving grace, as it gave me confidence, which was the spark I needed to truly live my life joyfully.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I will never part with...

By Kathryn Grimes

After having worked as a Fashion Consultant for a major clothing store, and having had a lifelong love affair with clothes, I read your article on writing  a short story about a item of clothing that falls into the “I will never part with this” category, with interest. I know I am not a writer, but I immediately thought of the one item I own that I could never part with. 

Trivial as they seem and probably not considered at all when writing about your attachment to something you wear, my love is for a pair of socks. These are special socks!  This particular pair are black, thick (thicker than any I have ever owned), and warm.
My daughter and I both suffered from terribly cold feet (probably more circulation than weather related).  We were always looking for the perfect pair of socks, some we purchased were overly expensive and others just so cute you could not resist and you had to wear them over another pair for any relief from the cold.  These black socks however work magic, they were my daughters, and now they are mine. 
Some nights when the air is frigid and my feet like ice cubes, I go to my “house socks” drawer and though many pair are there, I reach for the black ones.  The fabric content must contain wool, for they are perfectly toasty and immediately make me feel comfy and warm.  They affect my whole well being, like slipping on a down robe over my body.  It is the socks? I can’t find another pair, anywhere!!! I look, constantly, in Department Stores, Specialty Shops, on line.  I can’t find them because I don’t really know what I am looking for, there is no label.  When I shop I need to touch and feel, and nothing feels like these. I have to ask myself is it because their thick and warm, and make me feel wonderful, or is it because they were my daughters?  Is it because of all the things she left me when she died two years ago, something I knew we had searched for together trying to find the perfect pair, that this was a quest we had shared. It was something we talked about and laughed about. It was our ” funny conversation” when she was so ill that nothing seemed funny and her smallest chuckles were music to my ears? Or, is it because when I am cold and put them on, a part of her is with me again? I imagine it is all of the above.

I just know that out of closets full of beautiful clothes, my favorite thing comes down to just a pair of socks. Her socks, now my socks, always our socks.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ode to the wrap pants

By Kimberly Anger

Once you grab a hold of the truly great fashion statement, you are reluctant to give it up.  If my 1974 wrap-style pants could talk they would have more than a few stories to tell.  They have accompanied me on 6 trips to Hawaii and 3 to Mexico.  They are my go-to vacation party pants.  Their diaper-type styling allows room to grow and keeps me in them through my menopausal weight gains.  As the original owner, I recall when the fabric was stiff and new.  The colors were bright and vivid and went with my entire wardrobe of tank tops.  Also the fact that you could flash a lengthly bit of leg made them sexy and eye-catching.  The trick to tying them was to make sure the final knot ended up in the front.  This prevented some party pranksters from untying the back knot and exposing your bare behind to the world.  But after a few drinks, that possibility seemed less and less intimidating.

Now the pants are soft with muted colors.  I love to tie them at the ankles and put on a pretty pair of sandals.  I have seen this same style surface 3 times since the 70's.  I never let them go.  When I wear them, I am 18 again with long tanned legs.  They actually make me feel good about where I have been and where I am now:  whether its on an island or in the backyard.

Zebra Suit

Zebra Suit

By Robin Kozloff

I call it my zebra suit because that’s what it is: a black and cream, zebra-striped, long-sleeved, loose-fitting, jumpsuit out of heavy soft cotton jersey, like a little kid’s sleeper without the feet. The stripes are not evenly spaced but are varied in width and jagged-edged just like a zebra’s. It has black buttons down the front, a tidy black collar at the neck and solid black cuffs at the wrists. My eagle eyes spied it from barely inside the door of the thrift store as it hung unaware among the pale flannels and terrycloths of the lingerie rack. I crouched, sprang, and pounced. It was a sixty-second kill. I trotted home with it in my teeth, gloating and triumphant. 
When I wear it belted, the top half blouses out but the bottom half gathers in sleekly, leaving my haunches long and lean. Without a belt, it’s a baggy, shapeless, comfy retreat.
I wear it to amuse my nephew at Thanksgiving family reunions when everyone stays over, sleeping on couches and air mattresses. I wear it to read the paper on cold, gray Sunday mornings when I can’t bear to get dressed in real clothes. I wore it once for Halloween with a black stocking for a tail and a mask made from a paper plate. And I wore it the night of our mother’s first surgery, when we all just waited at her house, and my brother found me hiding, curled face down on the bed. He sat down next to me patting my back and the kindness made me cry. I wore it rollerblading one fine, clear midnight, on a smooth dark road under a starry sky, swinging my arms, humming along, until some jackass grabbed my butt from a passing car window, nearly making me fall and filling me with a spitting, useless rage as the red tail lights faded into the distance.
Thinking it silly looking and sexless, I once put it on to discourage the advances of an overnight visitor, but before the night was over I shed my zebra skin.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Plaid Jacket

By Mary Lynn Fisher

In 1972, I made this plaid jacket at the age of 20 years old.  I still treasure it to this day because I was so proud of it.  Why?  Because my Mom taught me to "match the plaid" and as anyone who has tried it can tell you, it isn't easy to do.  And then I also made the buttonholes with only a zig-zag stitch on a $69 Singer sewing machine that my boyfriend bought me for Christmas.  The only thing is, since it was going on sale after the holidays, he actually gave me a box of Almond Roca for a Christmas gift and I thought it was all over between us! 
I don't know what became of the skirt I made to go with the jacket.  It was a gored style with no waistband in the same type of fabric in the heather lavender.
It was very timely when I read about your contest.  My Mom passed away in January this year and I had just run across the jacket in going through some old memorabilia.  I can still see and hear her instructing me on matching that plaid but she never took over.  Quite frankly, that wasn't like my Mom to stand back.  Like everything else, the jacket wouldn't be the same and I wouldn't be the same person without a Mom who cared enough to spend her time passing along her knowledge and still giving me the ability to take that pride and say "I did it myself."

Island Friend

By Susan Lee

I have never been one to pay much attention to my attire outside of what is necessary for
business or occasion, but fashion is perhaps deeper than on the surface. It is a sign of our
times and something whose meaning is formed in one’s sub-consciousness from an early
age. Being first generation, my parents had different thoughts about what was important.
Going through grammar school, clothes was merely functional and changed only if they
needed washing, so I was constantly wavering between fitting in and making do. From
my formative years, I never quite developed any fashion sense, or perhaps even fashion
common-sense, until the following experience.
I arrived in Sacramento via a job transfer from Texas armed with (1) clothes for work and
(2) an assortment of t-shirts, shorts, and jeans for casual wear. Around this time I
befriended a family of Polynesians – a tight knit laid back bunch. Having never been to
Hawaii, I was immediately attracted to what was exotic – from taro to pigeon English. I
was particularly close to Pua, who was closest to my age. She was a little thing and
relative to me, on the other end of the fashion scale, piecing together a stylish and unique
In this part of the story enters a faded round-neck lime green t-shirt. It was from REI and
had little tribal figures printed across the chest. It was soft, comfortable, and in the deep
recesses of my mind, very Islander. I was set! We passed the months together and my
impressionable self was starting to speak Pigeon.
One weekend in the early summer, Pua and I went shopping at the Galleria. I needed new
tops and she graciously offered to help me. We perused the usual stores trying on
different things but I didn’t end up buying anything. Near the end part of our journey we
arrived at a sporting good store to look for bathing suits. I was in my comfort zone at a
rack of summer sale t-shirts. I happily flipped through the hangers finding t-shirts with
palm tree prints, surfing logos. I sallied forth to the fitting room. When I decided on the
one I wanted I stepped out to show Pua.
In history, patience and silence has won battles. Pua did not say anything but she had a
look of concern in her eyes that teetered close to horror.
“NO,” she finally concluded.
“What – what’s wrong with it?” I questioned pressing my face downward to inspect my
newly donned light green t-shirt.
“You need to pick another color,” she finally replied.
“What’s wrong with the color, Pua?” I whined, “I look good in this color, the shirt I had
on earlier is…”
And then it dawned on me.
“You don’t like my t-shirt?”
“It’s not that I don’t like it,” she started slowly, “It’s just that…you wear it…a lot.”
A light bulb went off on in my head. Once or twice a week I would do my laundry and in
would go my lime green t-shirt. One or twice a week Pua and I would meet up for
dinner, hanging out, or a movie and coincidentally, out would come my lime green tshirt.
This had been going on for many months.
I was embarrassed and a little hurt.
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Sue-babes (this was my islander nick-name), I just didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
“But that’s my favorite t-shirt,” I explained,
“I KNOW,” she retorted.
And then, I started laughing. I buckled over in that store and laughed until I was crying. I
could not believe her restraint. I could not believe she had gone out with me in public
night after night enduring my green t-shirt. Little by little her story came out. She would
come to pick me up or vice versa and every time she would be silently thinking, “Oh
man, please don’t let sue-babes be wearing that t-shirt.”
Pua joined in my laughing. We would stop for a minute, sigh, and then bust up laughing
again. It turned out my beloved t-shirt was far from Polynesian. The little tribal figures
were Kokopelli, from the Southwest. Not that it mattered as my t-shirt had worn out its
welcome long ago. The t-shirt lived out its days as sleepwear, but long after its life had
ended, it has stayed with me as an endless source of giggling. I was lucky to find a friend
who could see past my one t-shirt and still love and accept me, all the while patiently
opening me to try something new. Of course, I still have made many mistakes, such as
my pique polo era, but that is a different story.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Kentucky Derby

Stephanie is watching the Kentucky Derby today decked out in a Wardrobe outfit. She is looking stylish in Nataya dress, Sue Wong coat and Toucan hat. Hope her horse wins!