Character in Style

My hair is usually three days old. My capris are bamboo and faded and lovingly worn every other day. As an act of public service, I try not to expose my feet beyond the bath mat. There’s baby-puke on my sweater and cat hair on my toque, a hole in my sock, and a thread where that pre-pregnancy button once worked on my pants. I find my husband’s boxers both functional and comfortable, don’t care either way about brown with red, and have been (honestly!) surprised at comments on how a piece is back in when I had no idea it went out.

In spite of the above…I love fashion!
I love dressing up. I give a second glance to a ‘perfect’ outfit, that certain scent, an intriguing concept in fabric. I have a secret obsession with Project Runway (reserved for 2:00am feedings and when baking alone) and try to reconcile with my sewing machine about every six weeks (only to be rejected yet again). I used to collect compliments from students regarding my classroom garb, and there was a time when our bedroom could house my wardrobe alone while Jeremy’s was sent to the office down the hall.

But then, as you know, we began to change. We moved and sold and moved and travelled and lived and thought and moved and gave and lost and…well, stuff happened. I traded heels for hikers, tailored skirts for a mix of maternity wear, canvas barn pants, and capris at a length which wouldn’t drag in the spring mud. We evaluated labels for ethical design and materials, made friends with some local designers, consigned and thrifted, and tried to get friendly with that aforementioned sewing machine.

In the end (well, in the midst of it all) we now have much less hanging in our closets. What we do have, we wear, or better said, we’ve worn. Now, on the brink of ‘going city’ and back to the classroom and workplace and public eye, a few things have come up.

(ah…and now the point of this post! Sorry for the delay 😉 )

We’re moving to the Big City. Jeremy has some major interviews and professional engagements booked for next month. The closet is looking, er…ranchy, to say the least. Given our timber-trashed and straw-laden aesthetic, we thought it time to go purchase Jeremy a shirt. Just a shirt. He needs to look sharp for the main interview, he has a decent pair of khakis and I know there are shoes hidden somewhere, so a shirt could make it acceptable.
Packing both boys, we ventured past the Clinque counter and into one of Canada’s ‘decent family fashion’ stores. We browsed. Knightley began screaming. Jeremiah had no clue where to begin his rampage. Security was on Jer within five minutes. Seriously.

As my husband finally wandered over to me to discuss the shirt options we had collected, I stopped. Yup, I literally stopped and stared. There he was: bristly home-cut hair, thick denim levis ( you know the kind; not the ‘hug your tushie’ denim, but that thick ‘ride a tree’ dark blue jean that isn’t often seen in public….), baby-spotted shirt, once-upon-white sneakers, and…him. Him, being that quietly confident “stop killing me with your eyes Kona” man who has been living on a mountain ranch with a whole lot of life, and just needed a shirt.


The salesladies arched their eyebrows and shared tight smiles. Knightley increased his volume while Jeremiah dove for the display of gourmet chocolates. Jeremy shrugged on the pretty shirt over his worn organic cotton to the expressed discomfort of the supervising women. I stood there, red-faced, stammering; torn jeans, unpainted face. We paid for the shirt and hustled our rough-and-tumble family out the door.

As we drove away, J quietly stated, “When you look at me like that, and say those things, I feel you’re looking down on me. We just went in to buy a shirt. We don’t need to feel like bad people….”
“I know”, I replied. “I really know. I finally get it.”

I’ve spent the past day reflecting on my reaction. Why did I suddenly see my partner differently; through their eyes? And why did it matter? Why did I want their approval? Why did I feel so much…less?
Truth be told, we weren’t dirty. We weren’t dangerous. We just looked ‘low income’ and ‘out of touch’ in a zone which demanded a certain awareness and expression of wealth, fashion, and popular culture. Our actions weren’t inappropriate and we invested our money into the store. But I wanted to be pretty. I wanted them to see J as I see him; strong, competent, ruggedly sexy, able to wear those tushie-huggers when he wants to. I wanted to be valued, and to feel like I knew the world and could offer something as well.

And why?

I’m going to leave this post as is. Partly because Knightley is a little insane today and I haven’t slept since the night before last, but moreso because I’m still thinking. I’d love to converse on these points, if you feel inclined to share J
– How can we express style which is unique, beautiful, and attractive, yet affordable, appropriate, and ethically created?
– How can we support our partners and children towards expressing themselves and their personalities, and not simply regurgitating what’s in style for that time?
– How can we (I…) not let those critical eyes and judgments affect my own judgment of others, especially how I view myself and my partner?
– Does any of this matter? Was I just insecure in the moment and as I look to re-entering an urban lifestyle? Am I just …post-baby?

Well. Good night. I wish you all rest and peace to clothe your hearts, accessories of joy and patience, eyes filled with mercy and kindness , feet rooted in what is Good.

11 Responses to “Character in Style”
  1. Jamie says:

    Dea. Before I try to interact. Let me just say: I LOVE this post. Beginning to end, I just grinned. I get what you are saying, but I LOVE the way you wrote it. SO well said. It is my favorite post that you have ever written. Perfect command of language, lovely flow. It is just really, really good!!!

    And secondly. Bravo to you for tackling the is-this-ethical question in regards to your clothing. I haven’t done that yet. It’s probably the next step for us in the living-sustainably-and-honestly category, but we haven’t quite gotten there yet.

    And thirdly: I can really relate. Why do I care what the utterly fashionable 20-year-old girl with every detail perfectly in place thinks of me? But I do. Why do I care what others think of my husband? But I do.

    Partially it is because my biggest hang-up is the fear of rejection. I’m learning how much I really fear what others think of me… and, as is usually the case when we admit our fears, I am learning to overcome it. By God’s grace. I started a post on this earlier today… maybe I will get around to finishing it sometime soon so that I can think through this stuff a bit more and respond to your post better.

    I think that being a mom and finally seeing my worth through Christ’s eyes is enabling me to let go… to an extent. Although now I must fight against the alternative idolatries of wanting to have all the most eco-friendly, fair-trade-est, most-Etsy-chic everythings. So back to the Word I trudge, seeking to remember who I am in Christ. Matthew 6 – life is more than food and clothes, right? So we seek to live purposefully and worshipfully in the midst of our clothing and eating decisions, but they are not the purpose of our lives nor even the whole point of it.

    Rambling… but does that make any sense?

    • Dea' says:

      Jamie! Thank you! Your comment is so encouraging and kind…wow! And I love that you can relate, and I laughed at home much I related to the ‘etsy chic’ line.

      I want to respond to all of these! Alas, this cub is craaaazy and I have to run! Thanks friends!

  2. Delynne says:

    Ohhhh…. (Hi).
    This post makes me want to have been there with you. Let me tell you, those smug sales ladies wouldn’t have smirks on their faces anymore!

    Having said that… No, it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. It’s our culture, and we’re desperate to fit in to it, but it really doesn’t matter. At all. Your heart matters, and when you get sucked in to the appearance-is-god mentality it wreaks havoc on many other parts of life (i.e. it’s not just about clothes, it’s about how well your kids do, how successful your husband is, etc). It is kindof like the stereotype of a woman who has more and more plastic surgery, trying to achieve a certain standard or image when really the problem is within her (her confidence, etc). Even if you had all the clothes and the sales ladies were all over you, there would still be that uncertainty within you if you measured up, or if they would realize eventually you were actually just a hick in nice clothing. It’s all meaningless – you strip even the richest most powerful man of his accessories and power and he’s as vulnerable as the single welfare mom he used to look down on. We have to fight against this! And you’ve begun the good fight with your choices so keep going! (Obviously, Jer should still have the new shirt and dress appropriately for what he has to do, we have to “fit in” to a certain extent..) Don’t give in to feelings of inferiority over something so un-heart-related! You are a beautiful family! Be the change you want to see in the world, right? You don’t like that, so change it! Enough of us are doing it it’s bound to make a difference someday (-:

  3. Kimberly says:

    Just a guess from the mommy of a six week old—some of it is just the sleep deprivation and hormones. 🙂

  4. Lola says:

    still thinking about what I’m going to respond with but loved the post!

  5. Natasha says:

    Great post. I don’t think it’s just post-baby hormones, because I’ve never even been pregnant and I so get what you are saying!! I have been wrestling with this myself quite a bit over the last few months. I remember the first time I went to buy makeup at a department store a year or so ago (instead of Target). I had to literally circle the makeup counter numerous times before I worked up the courage to walk up to it, because I was so sure all the ladies in their perfect makeup were judging me as less and lower. After I made my purchase, I slinked away to my old, rusty, dog-hair covered SUV, feeling sheepish. And with my husband, ugh…what you bring up here in terms of your own relationship interaction is something that I have realized I do in different ways to my husband, and it just makes me sick to my stomach…how can I so quickly turn on my best friend, the one who always makes me feel welcomed and accepted? I have realized it is because I myself am highly insecure and in that moment of fear, my heart is vicious even to those I love most. I have been trying to work on making myself more okay with me, even if other people aren’t.

    As for the first question “How can we express style which is unique, beautiful, and attractive, yet affordable, appropriate, and ethically create” – PLEASE, please let me know if you figure that one out!! (My sewing machine also hates me.) =)

    Anyway, thanks for the vulnerability you show in this post. It’s beautiful all on its own.

  6. Delynne says:

    Jamie I just re-read your comment and have to say I know exactly what you mean about “all the most eco-friendly, fair-trade-est, most-Etsy-chic everythings”… aren’t we humans funny?!

  7. Lola says:

    I’m back and I’m just thinking about how much I struggle with this topic and what a walking contradiction I am. I’m with Jamie and Delynne in that I hate how now I idolize all of the eco-friendly, fair trade “stuff” and am embarrassed to own anything other than those things. Or how I don’t care at all one day about fashion, and then the next I care too much.

    And so many times when I feel shabby and grubby, and I just want to shake the women who are so clean and perfect and tell them that the earth that they keep so perfectly away from them is the life-stuff that heals. That it grows their food and nourishes their soul. That the wind that whips and whirls their hair and gives pink to their cheeks is the real gift that God gave to them.

    But I promise I’ve never actually given that speech 🙂 that would be awkward.

    And now that I’ve managed a wordy comment without actually answering any of the questions that you asked I will leave without any parting words of wisdom other than…

    Keep asking yourself the questions and you’ll be ok.

  8. Kmarie says:

    i agree with Lola- The questioning means you are somewhat balanced. I feel the same ways. With the extra pounds from the last child ( three years ago) that won’t budge no matter what I do- I have reserved many moments of feeling trashy and pudgy. My naturopath said its hormones and I may be 15 pounds over for the rest of my life without hormone therapy. So which one is worse? Taking a bunch of pills I don’t need yet just for the wieght or beating myself up and wondering what others think. Insert ( “oh I already lost my baby wieght in the first year- she must be binging or not exercising”) thoughts here.
    It is regularly humbling..but you know- In high school I was one of THOSe women. I had it pretty together near the end. I liked my curves, My body, my face was clear…the only thing was my crooked teeth. Now I have straight teeth but none of the above. And I am happier….but I would be lying if I said I was more confident. I think about it every hour. I remember the admiring glances and catcalls and I feel I am lacking. I feel frumpy, old, pimply and tired. Going to the city is where this complex arises full blast.
    The problem is there isn’t a solution-we can pep talk all we want but inside we ladies are a judgemental group. We also get sucked in to media and even support it for our future kids. We need to do something about our mentalities first on weight ect. And that takes constant awareness.
    It’s tough to find balance. I guess try to re-wire your brain to see the beauty of someone’s soul while doing your best to maintain your soul beauty along with healthier choices.
    Can’t wait to hear more from all you ladies on this!

  9. Miranda says:

    Just catching up. I hope you still get this…

    I LOVE this post. There’s something about it. Just like others have said. -And yep, grinning the whole time.

    Fashion fits into the larger category of “female maintenance”. It’s a money maker. There are some really inspiring things out there. And then there are just money makers. Like this ageing “new” trend of grown out roots: people going in to have “fake roots” created by stylists. Seriously? Yes. Wow.

    It’s a money maker.

    Maybe some of the required elements are confidence in priorities, “peace of Christ”, and good will to all men?

    The person who is judging you (theoretically, the sales associate in your post) is either holding to a set of priorities that are so deeply rooted, her heart is hardened and frozen to the realities of humankind, OR she is projecting the judgments that she herself is trying so hard to avoid. In the first case, you hold strong, and fill out a customer comment card -but make sure you ask HER for it, get her name and the exact dept she’s working for. In the second case, you love through her threatening demeanor with the same mindset as a wise and humble vineyard owner spending time as a vine dresser in the fields.


    I hope this makes more sense than I think it will.

    I love you and your process.


  10. Jeanene says:

    I can resonate with what you’re written and enjoyable post to read and well written. After living the highlights of a Miami lifestyle then moving onto a farm in DR completely isolated from the rest.

    I gave most of my wardrobe to the local people that live in the village and I now wear the same capris, denims and t’s,, so when we go to Miami I do look rather ranchy,, my husband still kept some of his clothes because he was always back and forth, of course he comes from Paris the city of fashion and his mother’s a fashion freak, who is always trying to get me to go shopping when we visit. I’m sure my husband feels that way about me some times when we go to Miami.

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