In velvet and tatters

This one’s not something that I ever really talk about, but I have a real problem with clothes.


This may seem ironic coming from someone that sews their own, but there it is. Effectively, on a disturbingly regular basis, I don’t know what to wear. Not just the fairly-normal “I don’t know whether to wear jeans or cords to this event, since I don’t know how formal it’ll be” but ranging from that right up to “I know I have to leave the house, but I don’t know how to even start thinking about getting dressed.”


It’s weird.


I’ve got, in efffect, two “wardrobes” – One of them is fairly modern, skewed towards goth just because it’s on me; T-shirts, army surplus, fleeces, one pair of jeans, and the other is the stuff that I’ve made and the things that go with it; Suits, trousers cut in a slightly Victorian fashion, collared shirts, waistcoats. There’s not a formality or practicality difference between the two – I’ve got slobbing-around-the-house-to-be-seen-by-nobody waistcoats, and t-shirts that I only wear when I’m really trying to impress – so I suppose the first hurdle is always “Which wardrobe do I pick from?”


Even in the absence of that, when I know that today is definitely a modern dress day, or definitely a made-it-myself day, I usually don’t know how to get dressed. I spend so much time in pyjamas and a norgie that wearing anything beyond that is stressful; What will people think of me, wearing a T-shirt and jeans? I’ll stick out like a sore thumb and look like a slob. What about in a waistcoat, where people will think that my cane is an affectation to look eccentric? How do I button up a collar, will it look wrong without a tie? If I wear jogging bottoms, where will I keep the things I normally put in my pockets?


This all gets worse once you start trying to also account for the weather – I genuinely have to be reminded to get a coat, because I’ll be cold. My friends are proud of me when I independently remember to wear gloves, or underwear, and in summer they’re even more proud when I manage to do something – anything at all – other than lie around in the house naked and ignoring everyone.


Then it gets worse again – if I’m going somewhere with someone else, what will they be wearing? I don’t want to look like a total scruff next to them, or look pompous, or, worst of all, match. Especially if that’s matching-and-both-looking-eccentric, which is basically always a likelihood.


Somehow, I find this all much more embarrassing to talk about than things like, for example, micro-enemas. Most of the time I would literally rather share graphic details of putting things up my own arse in an attempt at removing a few kilos of faeces, than talk about how I have managed to get to thirty without knowing how to dress myself reliably in the mornings.


It was easier when I worked in a lab. I had a pair of assault boots, a pair of steeltoed boots, six or seven T-shirts which were identical but for the colour and logos, three pairs of chemical-stained jeans, a hoodie, and (once I got to work) a short-sleeved labcoat. They got worn in rotation, with thick boot socks and thin undersocks, and there was no question about what I needed to wear, or when to get dressed. The bus was at 8.10, I left the house at 7.45, I was in work by 8.40 at the absolute latest.


Prior to that, it was even easier when I worked for a conservation charity – Steeltoed boots, canvas trousers with as many pockets as they could hold, green T-shirt with the charity’s logo on it (one of several, in various sizes and with varying degrees of paint spatter and ingrained sawdust), and either a padded hi-vis or a barbour jacket in winter.


Nowadays, it’s just difficult. The combined anxieties of “Are my clothes clean?” “Do I look presentable?” “Will I freeze/boil?” and “Will I be ale to do all the things needed whilst wearing this?” result in a lot of days of just lying in the house in my pyjamas. When I ned to go out, I’ll usually get Best Friend to phone me and talk me through getting dressed; “Do you have a shirt on? Good. It’s cold, so you’ll want the houndstooth trousers or the moleskine ones. Do you want a waistcoat? You don’t need one, but they’ve useful for carrying stuff. Bring a wooly jumper, either way…” complete with usually one or two utter panicks on my part where I take everything back off and sit there wrapped in a duvet and saying that I don’t need to go out at all.


If there was a routine that I didn’t feel nervous about, I’d probably manage, but it clashes with so many other anxieties. Maybe I’ll just wear a toga from now on.


I know I’m not the only person who does this, but nobody talks about it.




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