On Solitude, Capes, and Norms

IMG_1836As a mother of a brood of half a dozen children (all chatty extroverts) and the wife of an extremely social husband, myself being an introvert on the level of a wannabe hermit, there is no greater luxury for me than time alone, time quiet.  The thoughts I find there simply don’t surface amid noise and clamor and others.

A half hour of picking berries in a quiet glen, the ruby red wineberries rolling into my palm with a touch.  The birds spoke, and I gathered words and impressions along with the berries, so tart and so sweet.  The quiet; it clears space, it clears the throat of my innermost voice.

I push a cart through the thrift store, a favorite haunt, to see what the spinning machine of materialism would spit out upon the racks and shelves.  I take it in, the sequined mini skirt, or tube top perhaps?  Who went to a store and said to themselves, “Why, this is JUST the thing!”  There, sagging on the hangers, were the wide lapel, navy-inspired office suits with their gold braid buttons and polyester glory, shoulder pads showing bravely stiff amidst the drooping.  Nappy sweaters that had fooled their owners:  “I am so nice and soft!”, and one dryer cycle later, “Never mind, I am shamefully matted.”

My hands run over the racks, pausing when my fingertips feel linen, wool, silk, cotton.  I check the ingredients.  Rayon, polyester, and any of their clever aliases go back.  I examine the silk lining of a short cropped jacket (a sign of good craftsmanship), wondering if it would go well with a makeshift Regency costume.  Why?  Well…a person with an imagination always has reasons.

A friend found a sparkly purple dress at a yard sale for a dollar.  She lamented that she had no occasion to wear it to, to justify the great expense, of course.  So she invented an annual occasion, The Purple Dress Party.  I attended, I came away inspired.  I’ve been somewhat smitten with period dress since the newest Pride and Prejudice came out.  I wanted to wear everything the characters wore.  I was spurred further on by reading Ruth Goodman’s delightful works “How To Be a Tudor” and “How To Be a Victorian”.  A question that I’ve had percolating for nearly twenty years has been this:  “If I love the dress of another era, why do I not wear those clothes?  What stops me?”  And then, “Well, I suppose I could throw a Jane Austen dinner party every year….”

A friend wrote on Facebook the other day of her insatiable desire to own a full length cape.  I heartily concurred.  What stops me?  Only the lack of a Caped Caper Club, an annual night when lady friends don capes and walk a local trail in hilarious seriousness. Think of the urban legends that may result!?!

Whatever it is that’s kept me relatively normal apparel-wise, it may not always hold such sway.  Already I wrap myself in pashmina shawls, wear long skirts and soft leather shoes.  There are hints that I embrace a more romantic form of dress; that the barest threads of convention to norms is all that keeps me from capes, pinafores, and muslin gowns.  That and not wishing to hopelessly embarrass my teenagers.

It’s a small thing, to hear those oft-muffled thoughts, yearnings of dressing artfully and beautifully, but it is a gift of the quiet, a gift of solitude.

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