Challenge Update: Week 11

Two and half months into my Buy No Clothes in 2021 Challenge!

Challenge Rule 1: Buy No Clothes/Don’t Covet

I stayed away from temptation this week: I had no need to wander in town and accidentally window shop. I hate feeling like the only way I can break myself of the urge for something new is to just stay away from stores. It’s like I’m an addict of some kind. Maybe that’s what it is. If two and a half months isn’t long enough to break the addiction, then what will be?

This week I found a subtle shade of difference between appreciating what someone else has, and coveting, wanting it for me. I know I’ve claimed to have found this shift before. But this week the word “appreciate” came to mind frequently. It’s a nice word to have on tap.

Challenge Rule 2: The Inventory

I was bored with my options this week, wishing that I could find something in my closet I hadn’t worn before or in a long time. (Like how I lucked out on the navy shirt dress last week!) This feeling was distinct from that awful urge to actually go out and buy something new. This was more akin to the “I have nothing to wear” thought of the people people, but not quite. There was no desperation in the thought, just “ho hum.”

I have been keeping around two handknit skirts for more than a decade. One is goathair, a lovely fuzzy white, the other is your basic gray acrylic. I made them from an extremely complicated pattern. One of them got pretty chewed up by the moths, but I had made heroic efforts to save, the other was miraculously preserved in a ziploc (with a blue mohair sleeveless top) through one summer, which I ended up forgetting about until a few months ago.

Long story longer, From the start, they were skirts. They were always a little too short, and I am not fond of my knees, so they never got worn very much. Add to that body changes, etc etc, they were too short so I wasn’t wearing them as skirts. So I decided to wear the one I hadn’t forgotten about as a poncho for a while.

Then, in the midst of my people people groan, I got the idea to try doubling them with a petticoat and boom! They worked as skirts again! This scratched the itch and these got added to the inventory as skirts!

Knitted skirt, petticoat, cat

Challenge Rule 3: Go-To Catalogue:

I relied on my Go-Tos, since I was feeling rather uninspired this week with the exception of my skirt finds. I looked at my little photo catalogue and said, “This will work.” I felt so relieved to have items I knew would fit and would do the job!

Challenge Rule 4: Mise en Place/Plan Ahead:

Again this week weather forced a few midday revamps, but the life changing magic of mise en place remains inestimable. If I remember to, I want to write this week about how this adventure in mise en place has impacted other areas of my life, notably my bedtime and early morning routines.

Challenge Rule 5: Repair and Mend, Alter when Necessary:

Only one small refashioning project was completed this week. I wish I had taken better before pictures, because the extent of the improvement on this little beige chemise de corps can hardly be seen here. I used the French words my mother-in-law uses for tank top, chemise de corps, because this thing is too pretty and too well-made to be dumped into the banal category of “tank top!”

It was a hand-me-down I received with the petticoats. It is made in Denmark, which seemed slightly absurd to me. I thought they only made Vikings and Legos in Denmark, but I digress. It was either way too big for me, or the style of it was simply something that didn’t suit me. But the material, the detail…everything was so luxurious that I had to keep it around, even if I barely ever wore it.

Last week I decided to wear it, in spite of its weird fit, and remembered just how amazing it felt to wear something beautiful and beautifully made. But I knew that if I wanted to wear it more often, I would have to make tailor it. (Watch out Jennifer Aniston. I am tailoring my tank tops now, too.)

The fact that it was made in Denmark had me asking all the questions: maybe the fit was supposed to be like this. Maybe there was something wrong with my sense of style that I didn’t like the “sack of potatoes” look. These are strange questions, I am aware. But I really felt like I was missing something. Is this a look? Is it just too big? Is my sense of style out of whack?

Like I said, I wish I had better photos of the sack of potatoes, but here it is peeking out:

Can we agree that that is too much excess fabric?

So, after a week of worrying that Thor was going to spring into my home if I decided to actually re-fashion this top, I decided to take action.

I took my favorite boring black tank top and carefully, oh so carefully laid it over this precious Viking made chemise de corps which I had turned inside out. I took my handy-dandy red marker and traced my tank, adding an extra inch on both sides. This garment was not ever going to be a simple tank top, so I didn’t want to make the mistake of tailoring it too close to the body. I wanted this to be something I could wear all by itself when the weather turned nice, without worrying that my lumps, bumps or any other imperfections would be visible.

Never have I ever pinned so carefully, selected my thread to match with such scrutiny, wound a bobbin so impeccably, sewn so meticulously or finished an edge with such care. Whereas with many of my refashions, they are on items that I wouldn’t cry over if they got ruined, destroying this piece was not an option. It was simply too beautiful and too precious.

Here is my freshly tailored Viking made, American in France tailored chemise de corps:

Please excuse my messy room. All my energies were focused in not messing this up..

Round up

There is something to be said for “quality over quantity.” By not shopping at all this year, I have not increased the quantity of items in my wardrobe, which used to feel like a moral imperative. Items of quality, hand in hand with items that I have made or refashioned myself demand a certain reverence from me that no cheap fast-fashion item ever could. This is a slow-won revelation, but one that I am happy to be making!

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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