Appearances Matter (news only to me)

I’m a freelancing, work-from-home techie mom, a crafter, and a gardener with small-scale urban homesteading tendencies. I cook, I clean, I do a lot of laundry. I’ll usually make the first attempt at various home maintenance tasks. I tend three gardens: the ornamental front yard, the edible backyard, the p-patch plot down the street. I can spend a large part of my day at my desk with my computer or at my other desk with my sewing machine. Most days, the farthest I travel is all the way across the street to the mailbox. When I travel further, I’m usually ferrying Caitlyn to ballet or circus class, then stopping for milk on the way home.

I’m not seen by very many people. I have very few I need to impress. Add in my wide practical streak, and I bet you can imagine my daily wardrobe:

Jeans, in various stages of disrepair (patches on patches!), and an increasingly ancient collection of knit shirts, about half of them oversized and super baggy, all of them faded. When it’s cold, I have a handful of sweatshirts for an extra layer, all of them shapeless.

While these habits are, if nothing else, supremely practical, it’s gradually become clear that they haven’t done anything good for my view of myself. It’s easy to think of myself as schlub and as not really worth knowing when I routinely see a ragamuffin in old clothes in the mirror. Sure, I’m ready to take on moving top soil in the garden or recaulking the bathtub at the drop of a hat, but I’m never really ready for people or fun.

So, for the last several months, I’ve been quietly experimenting. If I take the time to put some care into the clothing selection for the day, does that change how I feel about myself? Do I lean more toward positive adjectives for myself if I make sure my clothes are not falling apart or hanging off of me?

It’s been a rather unscientific undertaking, with no notes and no controls and very little consistency. I’ve not tried to make sure it’s all about the clothes and not about dessert or extra sleep. But I think the answer has been a yes. It does make a difference.

(Admitting this makes the anti-consumerist in me cringe. Why should it matter what anyone wears? Isn’t finding value in a nice appearance just buying into marketing messages that want me to buy more stuff? And what about the people who don’t have the resources I do? If appearances matter so much, aren’t I guilty of prejudice?)

The good news here is that I have found I feel less like I’m slouching through life, like I might actually be interesting and appealing to other people, when I invest some time and energy in my appearance. The bad news is that I’ve started paying more attention to my closet. Nothing quite like deciding to care to make one realize just how many times I’ve told myself I’ll just make do with something that doesn’t quite work: a shirt that should be long-sleeved but isn’t on me, pants that look like I’m expecting to go wading, etc.

But don’t worry! The story isn’t going to end here. I have a plan!


  1. I've struggled with these same issues at different times, particularly not wanting to contribute to the poisonous "fashion" world that continuously tells us all we don't measure up unless we are wearing their latest non-functional, uncomfortable clothes and shoes. I do think it's possible to look and feel good in clothes that fit well and function well for an active lifestyle and that will last and continue to look good without buying in to toxic consumerism, especially if you sew for yourself.

    One current popular solution to changing a wardrobe without giving in to consumerism for people who sew is up-styling or re-styling garments purchased from thrift shops or just plain using the fabric to create a whole new garment unrelated to the original style. I really like some of the things I've seen from this trend. Often you can find really great fabric in out-dated garments that people discard after only a few seasons of minimal wear if you don't mind cleaning and pulling the garments apart. I've been tempted to do this but already have enough new fabric to keep me sewing for a long time and I should wade through some of that before I invite used garments into my house as fabric…unless someone issues me a challenge or something…

    I can't wait to see your plan come to fruition! Please post photos!

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