Better sense with money than clothes

Better sense with money than clothes

Someone last year put me onto this idea that you would really be accomplishing something if you cleaned out just one cupboard or drawer on each of the 40 days of Lent. I tried it, and it worked. I had a lot of organized storage space, so I decided to try it again this year. Only this year it’s a little different because of my resolution to get rid of things.

As I was emptying my bedroom closet, I was struggling with things like: Should I keep this dress, even though I don’t feel entirely comfortable in it? Is 40 years too long to hang onto a jacket you love? Vanity and clothes seem all tied up in the same bundle to me. Until I was well out of college, we wore hats and gloves to church, while traveling and at any event that was a dress-up situation.

In the first 10-20 years of taking students to New York City, the rules were you would dress for the theater. That meant dresses for the girls and shirts and ties for the boys. They actually enjoyed it, especially when watching the audiences in their cold weather fur coats and elegant gowns and tuxes. Then we began to notice more casual dress, little by little. In the last few years we made the trip, some dressed, but others were often seen in jeans.

One year, in an attempt to be elegant, I, who had never owned a fur, bought a white fox jacket for the trip. The problem was I am short, thus completely overwhelmed by the bulk of it, and it shed. Those dressed in black did not want to stand next to me. When a young girl on the street giggled to her friend, “Look, the abominable snow bunny,” I resolved to unelegant myself, return the coat the minute I got home and tell the store I was allergic to it. I have to admit it was warm.

We had some dress rules at the school where I taught, but this did not prevent a couple of guys from appearing daily in dresses or girls in short shorts and combat boots. My rule was no B’s — bellies, butts or boobs showing — or you got to wear the dirty, old paint shirt that day in class. I did notice that during prom weeks when the boys wore tuxes to school, they got them free for the dance for advertising the company. They behaved differently. I thought maybe all of us should give it a try.

As a theater teacher, I dressed casually because we were constantly moving. Once, when I was going to make a presentation to a large group of adults, I decided maybe I should try the elegant thing again and bought a beautiful white raw silk blazer. It looked good, and I felt like a professional.

As I made my way to the stage, a friend grabbed my hand and said, “You have a huge blue ink spot on the back of your jacket.” I had sat on a pen in the dark, and there it was, no explanations needed. Still, I felt compelled to explain to the audience, all the while waiting anxiously to throw away the offending and expensive now piece of junk.

I had better sense with money than with clothes, so I decided to try to get the jacket fixed, took it to a tailor and had the offending spot removed. The first time I wore it, two people pointed out I must have sat in something. Next, a bright idea: have it shortened. That actually worked until I took it to the cleaners with strict instructions not to wash it but to dry clean it. They washed it, shrank and wrinkled it to perfection, and I finally got my investment back.

Today, I would like to dress up more often but am short on places to do so. You stick out overdressed as much as you used to underdressed. So I’m back to shall I keep this or give it to one of the local beneficiaries where probably no one will buy it because there is nowhere to wear it.

There are other benefits to 40 days of cleaning including 40 days of dredging up memories. It’s not all bad, and I expect to be amazed at the amount of space I’ve gained when I wake up Easter morning.

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