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A Cardigan Tale

May 29, 2009

I don’t buy many clothes from J.Crew. In fact, I think I could almost say I buy NO clothes from J.Crew — although I like their clothes — because they don’t really fit me and they are kind of expensive for the basic things I would like to buy from them.

However, long, long ago, when I first moved to California and shopping by the Internet was a novelty — oh, about 11 years ago (really? have we been shopping on the Internet for only 11-12 years?) — I bought a few things from J.Crew that were on sale. They used to have really good sales.

I still have two items from that long-ago shopping spree: a tank top, now relegated to pajama-wear, in a beautiful coral color. And, a black cotton ribbed cardigan.

The perfect cardigan.

I’ve almost given it away about five times, and every time, I swipe it back out of the thrift shop pile at the last minute, and happily wear it again and again, comforted by its faded perfectness.

By now, it’s a bit stretched out in the arms. One of the sleeves — the left one, near the cuff — has been mended multiple times because I keep getting holes there for some reason. I almost lost it a year or two ago when I left it at a big event; luckily my friend was still there when I called, and she saved it.

It’s the sweater I pull out when I need comforting. When I need to snuggle into something that I know won’t itch, pull, confine, demand or intimidate. It’s soft and warm. I always feel happy in it.

Today was a ‘casual day’ at work. I wore jeans, flipflops, a comfy T-shirt and my sweater (and a big Stevie Nicks scarf). I was supremely happy in this outfit. I wish I could wear it every day.

I notice now that the edge of the sleeve is definitely getting frayed — more mending needed. I’ll happily spend the half-hour or so it will take to stitch it up. This sweater, like a beloved pony, deserves some coddling in its old age.

I think this is one reason why I am enjoying shopping in thrift stores so much these days. The clothes have already had a life — they are loved, broken-in, still ready to make someone happy if you just give them a chance. I’ve decided my new style is artsy-boho (but without the big floppy skirts and clogs). I need old things, comforting things — nothing too demanding or hard-edged. My roots are country-hippie-thriftshoppy-artsy. I’ll go back to what I know best. After many years of attempting to become a city girl, I throw in the towel. No crisp black suits for me.

The more I draw on my old self — the one I was before I moved to California, the one from before that, before I lost my way — the happier and more content I am. Who knew that I had all I needed already, so long ago? I like to mess around with paints. I like funky old clothes. I like to sit outside with a book. I like to spend hours at the library. I like fairy tales and old illustrations. I like the small, and the cozy, and the quiet and the charming. These days, I am ultra-sensitive to harshness and the demands of trying to ‘keep up’. I don’t want to keep up, anymore. I want to retreat.

So the black sweater stays. She is joined by some new friends: a comfy over-shirt from the Gap, circa 1993. A rayon tunic, still lightly scented with sandalwood. A well-worn-in jean jacket. All are making me more happy than any amount of shiny new clothes, of which I am not sure I would quite measure up to right now. Old and faded suits me better.

Maybe I’ll post some photos of my finds? Oh, but that would require downloading photos, which seems to be too much of an effort these days…

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