A while ago I sat and looked at Olive. She was happily cruising around the living room all stylin’ in her jeans with the rolled up pinstriped cuffs, cute white cap-sleeved shirt, and handmade yellow leather shoes.
She was just rocking the whole outfit and I got a rush of pride that I had some small part in creating this image, this confident little girl. She was smiling and healthy and she looked damned cute, according to this completely impartial observer.
Then I had to go to the bathroom and as I was washing my hands I looked in the mirror and I thought what. the. fuck. (this deserves a real f bomb)
I did not look confident or cute. And my “outfit” (if you can call an oversized tee and leggings an “outfit”) was disheveled and half-assed and it was one of those moments where I realized that if for some bizarre reason, an ex boyfriend knocked on my front door, I would not have one ounce of indecision before choosing to hide in my bedroom and pretend not to be home rather than be seen in all of my homely glory.
An intervention was in order. But it was one of those strange situations where I desperately wanted to change the situation, but had neither the desire nor the energy to put effort into actually making the necessary shifts. And then it came to me that I should develop a uniform. a MOM uniform – because I am a mom now and everything I do has to have that prefix, mom-yoga, mom-jeans, mom-time, mom-blog. I AM A MOM JUST IN CASE YOU FORGOT THAT THIS WAS MY PRIMARY IDENTITY, OKAY. Jesus christ.
Here’s what I came up with. My easy peasy mom uniform. Good jeans and a white v neck tee shirt. That was the base of it. Classic, effortless, clean, pulled together. Can’t get much simpler than that, right?
From there, layers. In summer, bracelets or necklaces and flats/sandals. Maybe a hat if I wasn’t so pea-headed. In fall, boots and a scarf. In winter, layered underneath a bulky knit sweater or cardigan. But the base, the jeans and white v neck would be the starting point, something I didn’t have to think about, something that would be as easy to pull on as leggings and an oversized hot dog tee, with considerably more aesthetic appeal.
So when I last went to Victoria, this was my mission.
For months now I have had jeans in two different sizes, pre-baby pairs and a few post-baby pairs that I bought in the weeks right after having Olive when I still couldn’t button the pre-baby ones if i wanted to breathe at all that particular day.
It makes sense that the post-baby jeans would be too big, but oddly enough the pre-baby ones are, too (I don’t know. Breastfeeding? Giving up dairy/gluten? Whatever the reason I am five pounds less than I was.) so my plan, my extravagant plan was to buy a few new pairs of good jeans that fit, and a schwack of white v neck tees.
The jeans were easy. Well, as easy as buying jeans can be. YOU know how it is. You choose eleventeen pairs from the wall of ninety seven distinct styles and washes, spend forty five minutes in the dressing room staring at yourself in each of the increasingly unflattering pairs, wondering seriously, who is SHAPED like this? and then finally find one or two pairs that skim your hips without looking like spandex, button without digging in, taper to your ankles without seeming like bell bottoms or needing a shoehorn to get your heel through AND (this is the tough part) don’t cost two hundred dollars each (because really? for denim? I refuse purely on principle.)
I had avoided smaller stores and headed to a department store because I wanted to avoid the hovering, the too-helpful salesgirl, the solicitous knock on the dressing room door, the chipper “How’s it going in there?” just as I felt like attacking the three way mirror like an animal because it had the audacity to accurately reflect my ten year old boy bum.
In department store no one cares what you do or what you try on, the place is so huge and sprawling, the demarcation between departments so incomprehensible that the whole thing comes to embody diffused responsibility. No one knows whose job it is to hover outside the dressing room door, issuing chirpy questions, so no one does.
After two hours I found two pairs of jeans, one dark wash, one black. Both skinny jeans (but not, I feel it important to note, NOT jeggings) and I paid for them and made a mental checkmark on the “lower half of my uniform” checklist and then headed out to buy the tee-shirts.
Did you know that white v-neck tee-shirts are going extinct? Did you know that finding a well-made tee shirt in a flattering cut, whose v hovers perfectly between scandalous and matronly is next to impossible? Did you know that when you DO find this you will sound like Mackelmore, gasping “Fifty dollars for a tee shirt?”
Also, do you know that when you sit in a group of your sisters’ early-twenty-something friends, lamenting the dearth of good quality tee shirts out there, you will immediately feel approximately eight four years old? An elderly tightwad, miserly fingering the stitching on a garment before haughtily pronouncing it inferior.
I swear, I am not even thirty yet.
Anyway. Before embarking on this journey, I thought it was the jeans that would give me trouble. I was totally unprepared for the fact that decent v necks were impossible to find and the whole experience left me frustrated and irascible, so naturally I took to my Internet Blog to rant, and naturally my older brother emailed me within twenty minutes with a solution.
This is what Liam does. I talk about forgetting my password to something and an email appears with the link to a magic online encrypting password storing service. I discuss my struggles with being a curmudgeonly pessimist and he sends me this talk, which is so timely and floors me so completely that it inspires me to order the book and gradually start to change my whole outlook on life.
And when I rant about never being able to find a decent white tee shirt- poof, an email arrives with a link to a site called Everlane.
(Unnecessary to note – because I am so utterly small potatoes – but Everlane has no part in this post. This is simply a public service announcement for similarly mom-uniformed crazy people out there)
Why Everlane? Well here is the thing that no one in the western world talks about: Virtually all of our clothes are made in sweatshops. This fact is easy to ignore because we never see the sweatshops and we never hear about the sweatshops, until one day one of those sweatshops collapses and everyone starts indignantly huffing and puffing and vowing to never shop there again! but um, how did you think it was being made possible for you to purchase a pair of pants for $20?
And furthermore, where exactly ARE you going to shop? Because the only difference between those $10 clothes and the $10 clothes at the other name brand store down the street is that their factory hasn’t collapsed.
This is the reason I try and shop secondhand as much as I can, because it’s a sad fact that we are so utterly divorced from the cost of clothing that when we come across something that HAS been made in North America with fair-trade working conditions, the price seems so completely astronomical that we can’t stomach it. Myself included. So I shop secondhand and delight in finding beautiful clothing that doesn’t directly support sweatshops, that somehow has an air of recycling, of making a slight left to a better choice. But white clothing is hard to find secondhand, because chocolate. And red wine. And large dogs with muddy paws. SO.
Everlane is a clothing company that exists entirely online. Their approach is “radical transparency”. They too were frustrated with the choice between sweatshops and astronomical prices, and also with 800% markups on well-made clothing, so they did what I can not do, and they started making their own.
You can check out their factories (their tee shirts are made in Los Angeles) and their materials and write them directly with questions. I found white tee shirts for $15, and the whole thing seemed to say, “This is what a white tee shirt costs. This is what it costs in materials, fair labour conditions, a slight profit for the manufacturer and the utter absence of both advertising and bricks and mortar stores. $15. That’s what a tee-shirt actually costs.”
It felt decent and honest, and I ordered four.
That brings us to today. I have the beginnings of my mom uniform and it feels way less resigned that it sounds. Next are some cute rose gold studs, maybe some oxfords. I’m not quite wearing The Uniform every single day, but it’s somehow relieving to have this standby available on those days when Olive is cranky and we’re up late and between breakfast and potty time and laundry and writing I don’t have time to stand, as I used to, hemming and hawwing in front of my closet for twenty five minutes to find something to wear.
Did you ever think you would read 3000 words on the topic of plain white tees? well you just did. Happy Tuesday!