Growing up, our extended family looked like The United Nations. Only not so much with the United part. Holidays found our nuclear foursome piled in the Jeep, heading out for a day of ham, greens, biscuits, and raised eyebrows. We weren't dark enough to suit half the table, we weren't light enough to suit the other half, and let's leave aside the fact that the table itself was a mix of about seven races in the first place.
But in my mind, I was a gorgeous exotic bird! Some alien life force, gracing the scene with my plumage! I gazed with benevolence at the humans I was strangely related to, knowing that their inferior brains could not process the abstract language of my mismatched cloth!
As Ruggy and I discussed the upcoming avalanche of holiday occasions, we cringed over the one or two events that will likely be more chore than play. There's always a couple of those, aren't there? Now, I plan to dress to the nines at all of the festivities, naturally, but when we spoke of these particular little wrenches, I breathed, through clenched teeth and with fisted hands: I AM GOING TO LOOK FABULOUS.
And it hit me: I use clothing as a weapon! Of course you do, Ruggy soothed.
WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS?!
Long before I learned to sew, my childhood self would rifle through an eye searing closet, and assemble the most outlandish ensemble I could think of, adding a few stars on my cheek to top it off (I held a high rank in my own personal army) before racing down the stars to the delight of my Mom, who loved to see what I'd come up with next. (Actually, the delightful Corinne and I just talked about this very memory in a recent episode of The Sewing Affair that I've been remiss in linking! I guess it's on my brain.) By the time my Dad got home from work, I was in hand painted oversized tees, practicing arias under my breath while we made midnight ice cream sundaes together. I regarded my brother's black ensembles with confusion, but respect. That was his mark.
But man, I put a lot of responsibilities on my colorful childhood closet! Though I could stand on stage completely alone and sing out in a spotlight, when it came to walking around in everyday life, I was super, crushingly shy. So I let my clothes speak for me. My ensembles did the talking, the fighting, even did the socializing for me: every weekend was spent at the mall hand in hand with my Nan, shopping sales, strolling happily past the cliques draped about the food court. My daily outfit was my technicolor armor, meant to blind the popular girls before they could come up with a sour glance, meant to raise my cousins' eyebrows to skyscraper heights, meant to trumpet for me: I AM DIFFERENT AND I KNOW IT. YOU ARE TELLING ME NOTHING NEW.
Not much new being said here either. Ruggy received my realization sans surprise. He assumed I knew what I was doing. Always a bad assumption. Of course we use clothing as a weapon, a crutch, a bandage. A spotlight! By nature of our skill set, we're very much aware that it's more than cloth. But it really hit me: my passion for this woven arsenal came from growing up in a family that was branded as "different" in society, in school, in our own extended family. My parents' mission to make that branding be a positive sent me charging out of the house to fight a colorful battle enswathed in the most outrageous version of "different" that I could be.
Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad. For real.
What do you use your clothing for?