Clothes: Make, Rent, or Buy

A Friday chat!

business casual, when your “business” is “kicking ass and taking names”

ESTER: Nicole, hello! Have you ever made or rented an item of clothing?

NICOLE: I have definitely made my own clothes — and I did just think of that in Julie Andrews’ voice, by the way. “I can make my own clothes!”

I went through a sewing phase that probably only stopped once I no longer had access to my mom’s sewing machine. I made those enormous Looney Tunes boxer shorts in junior high, I made curtains for my first dorm room, I even made the dress I wore to receive a university honor, which … may have been a mistake? It was a sheath dress in an understated plaid, but I was also the only person of any gender not wearing a suit or skirt suit.

Even now I regularly whip-stitch or alter my stuff so that it’ll fit me a little better. If I had a sewing machine I might do more, but I also don’t have the time that I used to, so I might think I would do more and then never do it.

Nicole in her dress, pre-alteration
Nicole in her dress, post-alteration

So yes, I can make my own clothes. I have never rented them, though! How about you?

ESTER: Wow! I’ve never made so much as a lopsided scarf. But I do like to admire pictures of other people who are more handsy and adventurous than I am. And I also, for a long time, had my great-grandmother’s iron Singer sewing table. We put a piece of glass on top of it and used it as a bar.

NICOLE: I used an antique sewing table as a desk all through high school. I can’t remember where my folks found it. I do remember it had the treadle at the bottom, which I loved. I’d push it while I worked. Did yours have that treadle?

ESTER: Yup. I would have All of a Kind Family flashbacks sometimes looking at it. I guess you haven’t been sewing recently enough to participate in Me Made May?

Me-Made-May May Not Be Made for Me

NICOLE: I have been Me Making Money May, but not clothes. I have this fantasy that I’ll take all of the sentimental ratty T-shirts I’ve collected and turn them into a T-shirt blanket. I have a bankers’ box filled with T-shirts that I can’t bear to throw out, even though I just recycled two garbage bags of clothes earlier this month (and thanks to Team Billfold for showing me where to take them!). Do you ever think that you’re going to do big crafty projects like that? Someday?

ESTER: Never. It’s not in my DNA. I get super tense doing small repetitive tasks and start hearing voices screaming inside my head. Maybe I was caught in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire or something in a past life?

No, I’m more tempted by Rent the Runway, especially when I consider the wreck that is my closet. The idea of having fewer things, each of which I love, is tempting. Not that I have that much, but I do have a tendency to buy something because it’s on sale rather than because it’s perfect and then let it languish.

NICOLE: Yeah, I’m trying to do less of that “I’ll buy it even though it only kinda works, because it’s cheap!” But it’s hard, because not buying the cheap thing that sort of looks good (but not really) means either not having clothes OR buying more expensive clothes. And then you don’t wear them anyway, because you don’t feel that great when you put them on.

ESTER: Exactly. I’m in a weird situation right now because my body’s in a transitional stage: not pregnant anymore but not back to its pre-pregnant state yet either. I hate how I look in a lot of my clothes — the maternity stuff and the non-maternity stuff — but how I can justify going out and spending money to buy pieces that I’ll only need temporarily? On the other hand, what’s the cost of feeling bad about myself every day?

NICOLE: I’m scanning Abigail’s piece again — one of those sites is a “rent the everyday” thing, right? Le Tote?

On Clothing and Anxiety

Because being able to rent the black-tie stuff is great, but renting high-quality everyday wear and then sending it back in two months because it doesn’t fit anymore would also be great. (Yeah, it’s totally Le Tote.)

ESTER: It would! I will look into that. It’s also tricky because I’m just at home most days. Who sees me except the UPS guy or preschool teachers? So, should I spend anything to boost my self-esteem? But I guess that’s a variation of the question we all must consider when it comes to clothes.

NICOLE: Self-care takes so much money! Or at least “more than we think.” Either that, or cheap clothes wear out too quickly. Probably a combination of both. Le Tote is only $59 a month, which … actually doesn’t sound that bad.

ESTER: Are any of these sites rent-to-own? I wonder whether people ever get really attached to certain pieces and want the option of keeping them.

NICOLE: If you only get new pieces when you return the old ones, what happens when you never return them? There’s probably a rule in there about that. But I don’t see anything in Le Tote that says you can keep the stuff forever. Oh, no wait, there’s a reviewer that claims you have the option to purchase.

ESTER: That must be nice. And useful. Do you wish you’d had the opportunity to try out your haircut before committing to it?

The Cost of Getting a Pixie Cut

NICOLE: I’ve done the pixie cut before, so it wasn’t a total surprise. I knew it was time to do it when I spent a Saturday afternoon learning how to crown braid my hair, and I looked at the finished product and thought “okay, I should just get my hair cut short so it looks like that all the time.”

crown braiding!

ESTER: Ooh, crown braiding! That’s so Game of Thrones. Is there a GoT character you most identify with, btw?

NICOLE: That is a very complicated question! Are we going book characters or TV characters and are we thinking about the characters before they’ve had unnecessary traumatic experiences that were not reflected in their original narrative, or afterwards? I mean, I always said I was Team Sansa, but… it’s tricky. Do you identify with a particular character?

ESTER: Team Arya, forever and ever. But I only know the books, really; I’ve seen maybe three episodes of the show. I was a tomboy for a long time and raged against what I felt like was puberty forcing me into having to identify as a girl. This is maybe too intense for Billfold Friday chat, but it’s one of the reasons I still resist and resent some of the pressures put on women to wear make up and dress a certain way. To just be … Arya, to get to fight and wear neutral clothes and be taken seriously without objectified …

Ah well. Maybe my mood is a combination of still wearing my pajamas and not having gotten outside yet today. Self-care! Drink water and get some of that sunshine.

NICOLE: I will! I hope you do too. It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon!

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