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It’s finally over! I’m free! I don’t have to worry about going through my entire wardrobe anymore, because It’s. Just. DONE.

So. What do I do now?

I guess, the obvious answer would be: just wear your clothes! But this challenge has really changed the way I think about dressing every day. I’m far more aware of how many articles of clothing I own. I’m aware of how often I wear each piece. I’m SO aware of how I’m presenting myself, how I feel, how I look in every outfit I now put together. I want to give each piece of clothing a fair shake. I want to represent every article in my closet regularly.

BUT.

I also really want to get back to my daily “uniform” of jeans and tees, paired with a fuzzy, worn cardigan (my husband calls it my “crazy cat lady sweater.” I adore it). So, I suppose that one of things that I’ve learned from this challenge is that I’m still working on my personal definition of “minimalism” and what it means to me to only own what I need.

Some other lessons I’ve taken away from the last 38 days/outfits:

  1. I feel so guilty for all of the superfluous things I own. I whittled my wardrobe down from 38 tops to 23 (I actually got down to 21 of my original tops, then bought two new tees, after I had to get rid of so many of mine–just a plain white one and a green one), and from 7 bottoms to 6 (again, I gave up halfway through and replaced four pairs of old pants with new jeans). And I could still do more! I don’t even know if I’ll end up wearing all of those regularly! And, while we’re at it, what about all of my other stuff? Bookshelves, and drawers, and cabinets full of, well, stuff. I don’t need this stuff. My kids don’t need this stuff. Is it making my life better? Or worse? Am I being too nostalgic? Or am I heartless? Or am I just overthinking it? Or, or, or . . .
  2. Even while carrying around all of this extra guilt, I still couldn’t bring myself to actually eliminate all of the clothes I probably should have. Instead, I’ve decided to create a “Time Out Drawer.” Those pieces of clothing that I just couldn’t quite part with have been placed in an empty drawer in my bedroom. If, after a month or two, I don’t find myself looking for or missing that piece, I think I’ll finally be able to just say goodbye and cut the chord. (At least, I hope I’ll be able to.)
  3. It was kind of nice not having to think about my clothes for so long. for the last 40 days, I had a list. I had a plan. There was no forethought needed. Dressing myself again for the last week has proven to me that I still don’t quite know what the hell I’m doing, style-wise.
  4. I’m totally okay with duplicates. The new green tee I bought is amazing. I seriously wish I had bought it in every color. It’s soft, flattering, washable (oh, so necessary!), and has some nice details with contrast stitching that give it just a tiny little something extra. And I discovered that I don’t really care if I’m “caught” wearing the same thing over and over again. Not if I feel good in it.
  5. I can relax. People don’t really pay that much attention. Going back to my point above, I think that wearing the same shirt (in different colors) every day isn’t really the crime against fashion I’ve always feared it was. Because nobody really notices. I stopped myself from wearing one of my favorite shirts to my book club a couple of weeks ago because “I wore it last time!” It took me forever to realize that 1) It had been six weeks. Nobody but me knew what the hell I was wearing! 2) I certainly didn’t remember what any of my girlfriends had worn, so there was no way they were keeping tabs on my outfits, and 3) Even if one of us DID notice a repeat outfit, so what? What kind of horrible thing are we expecting to happen? Are we going to be punished? Mocked? Shunned? Yeah, I think not.

Any, now for what you really want: the clothes!

Day 31

Day 31: Goodwill for the win! Bought both the top and the wide leg jeans at the local Goodwill. The shirt is SO soft. And I will punch my mother for a good pair of high waisted, wide legged jeans.

Day 32

Day 32: Weirdly enough, I felt like I was wearing lingerie all day in this outfit. The leggings were bothering me, and I had to keep hiking them up to get the crotch back up to starting positions. The top is not even close to the most revealing thing I own, but I felt just uncomfortably exposed in it. They both went to the yard sale pile!

Day 33

Day 33: Do you know that this is my ONLY button-down shirt? And do you know that I bought it for easy breast-feeding access? Six years ago! But, hey, if I’m only going to have one, I’d better have a wicked CUTE one, right? Keep.

Day 34

Day 34: I wore this outfit to go see a concert with my husband. When I walked up, the doorman looked at me, looked at my top, then said, “You know about your shirt, right?” “You mean, that it’s see-through? Yeah. I’m aware.” Even with all of my goodies on display, though, I still felt comfortable in this outfit. I thought I was so sexy! And, all I have to do is add an undershirt, and I’ll go from concert hall to conference room. So versatile!

Day 35

Day 35: This top is breaking my heart, you guys. The embroidery is So. Freaking. Cute. But it’s also So. FUCKING. Itchy! I was wearing an undershirt, and it STILL poked my chest raw all day! It’s like they sewed those feathers on with fishing line! Seriously, dude. BUT. I really love this shirt. I love the style. (But now that I’m looking at this picture, is it too long on me?) So, I put this one in the Time Out Drawer. I’ll see if I feel like trying it out again in a few weeks.

Day 36

Day 36: Okay, so I like this top. But it’s double layered polyester. So I don’t love it. The high neck makes me sweat. But, it’s kind of romantic and flowy. So, Time Out Drawer. We’ll see how I feel about it after a bit.

Day 37

Day 37: Cozy. Soft. Yes, I already have a pale blue racer back tank top. BUT I don’t already have one that is this light and cool. Perfect for blazing summer days. Keep! (Also, check out my ass. Oohlala!)

Day 38

Day 38: The final day of the challenge! And I did NOT end with a bang. The shimmers in this top give it a great detail that elevates it from a standard long sleeved tee. But the shiny parts of the shirt were seriously sewn in tinsel. Like, tinsel. Like, pulled off of somebody’s Christmas tree. (To be fair, I bought this shirt to wear to a Christmas party. But I didn’t realize that I’d be decorated like the damn tree!) C’mon, clothing manufacturers! Doesn’t anybody stop at some point in the process and say, “Hey, you know what feels completely fucking HORRIBLE against a person’s skin? Tinsel. Maybe, I don’t know, we should switch to like cotton or something? Guys? What do you think? Guys?” Gone.

There you have it! All of my clothes! Are you as sick of them as I am? Yeah, thought so.

But, if you’re not, check out the previous posts in this series!

Wardrobe Challenge–The First 10 Days

Wardrobe Challenge–Days 11-20

Wardrobe Challenge–Days 21-30

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My Nana’s eyes were filling with tears, but she was still smiling.

“He agreed to fix all of the shoes for the women in the shop, and in exchange, they gave him silk stockings for all of his girls.  All three of us and my mother. Even though we didn’t have much money, I always had silk stockings. It felt so good. You can’t even find silk stockings anymore.”

Her eyes let me know that she was no longer sitting in the kitchen with me, in 2012. She was walking past seemingly endless rows of tract houses on Chicago’s south side, in a close knit, poor immigrant community. She was helping her mother butcher whole pigs and bake kolackys, but not in the traditional, wrapped way that her mother had learned growing up in Czechoslovakia. No. “We are in America now. We do things the American way. The easy way.” Instead of wrapping the sweet apricots or sesame seeds up in the flaky cream cheese dough until they looked like snug babushkas, my Nana watched her mother roll the dough out flat, and cut it into circles using one of her husband’s whiskey glasses. She pressed three fingers into the middle of the circle, making “puppy dog feet” in the center, and filled the indentation with apricots, baking the cookies flat.

“I never knew very much Czechoslovakian, because my mother refused to speak it once she got to America. ‘We are American now!’ Steve was the one who was fluent. He taught me so much.” She ran her hands along her dented and scratched kitchen table. “He used to say that he would have to work forever just to keep me in silk stockings! He and my father would laugh about it. My father would tell him, ‘Keep her in silk stockings,’” finally, she smiled up at me. A small jolt ran through her as she looked at me, saw me, her grown granddaughter, breastfeeding a newborn great-granddaughter to sleep. She paused.

“I can’t believe it’s been ten years.”

I nodded. “I miss Dedo.”

A familiar look crossed her face. I never knew if it was sadness, or worry, or some combination of both, but we all recognized it when we saw it. Her brows wrinkled together, and she placed her fingertips up against her lips, lightly patting them, almost trembling. Soon, she’ll start picking her nails. She’s always so anxious. Dedo was the only one who knew how to calm her down.

“Is there anything you wish you could still say to him? Or do for him?”

The second I asked the question, I was sorry for it. Why am I trying to make this 87-year-old woman remember her loss?  Her loneliness? Am I trying to make her feel the guilt of her regrets? I wanted to get closer to my memory of Dedo, but did I have to do it by torturing her? I looked down, and forced a chuckle, “I mean, Dedo was the first adult to swear at me. He called me a little shit. Do you remember that? He was such a hard ass . . .”

“Eggs.”

“Huh?”

“I never made him over easy eggs.” The worried look was gone. There was a calmness, a solidity to her expression that I rarely saw. “After his heart attack—you know, that was back in 1968—all of the doctors told you to stay away from eggs. He loved breakfast. He’d eat it for every meal if he could. Every morning, I’d wake up, pour us some juice, get the paper, and we’d have our breakfast together. Drink coffee. Read the paper. And he loved runny eggs. He would beg me, ‘Helen, please. Just one egg.’ He loved to dip his toast in it.” Rye toast. Another nod to the old country. Nana has only ever had rye bread in her house. White bread just doesn’t have enough flavor for her. “But I never made him an egg. I made him eat these awful, powdered eggs. You had to add water to them, and then cook them. They only came scrambled.  They were like rubber.” She stared down at the well-worn kitchen table, running her fingertips along the deep scratches and roughness. She whispered, “I could have made him an egg. Just one egg.” She looked up at me. Solid once again. “It would have made him so happy. And I could have done it. But I never did. I never did. Just that little thing. It would have made him happy all day. And what would it have mattered? Just one egg. You know, now they say that you can have eggs, even with a bad heart. I kept arguing with him and arguing with him. ‘Steve,’ I’d say, ‘You have to follow doctor’s orders!’”

She smiled a little. My grandparents were almost always engaged in loud, lengthy power struggles. Both were too stubborn to admit defeat.  Too proud to apologize.  Dedo was an adventurous spirit. A tinkerer who never read the directions. Nana was a dutiful daughter, close to her family. Dedo made sure she left the house every now and then, and Nana made sure he didn’t electrocute himself. They both were determined to do it on their own, and they both could never admit that they were lost without each other.

“Just one egg. It would have made him so happy. I could have made him so happy. And I didn’t.”

My mind flickered back to a conversation I once had with an Iraq veteran. We were splitting a six pack while crashing at a friend’s house, and I once again couldn’t stop myself from asking the wrong question, “So, what was it like over there?”

His beer stopped halfway to his mouth. Our friend’s orange kitten jumped on the couch next to him, and he scratched her small head for awhile before answering.

“You couldn’t get good eggs over there.”

“Huh?”

“None of the eggs are pasteurized over there, so you have to cook them all the way through. The scrambled eggs would be brown on one side. They’d just cook the shit outta the eggs. You couldn’t get good eggs.”

Then, we watched Jeopardy.

That was all he would say.

 

Love, and family, and home. Those all sound like really big things. Things that need big gestures, or big structures, or big people, or big moments.  As I spoke with my grandmother, holding my new daughter, I kept waiting for, looking for, anticipating, something big.

But maybe all of those things are actually very small.

Maybe home is that scratch on the counter where your husband sliced the rye bread without a cutting board.

Maybe family is baking kolackys the “easy” way.

Maybe love is pair of silk stockings.

Maybe love is bickering for hours, then splitting a glass of orange juice over the morning paper.

Maybe love is watching every single Cubs game together for fifty years.

Maybe love is a single, runny egg.