Monday, January 5, 2009

Stash it, like Georgia


About this time last year, I was just finishing a biography of Georgia O'Keeffe in which I was impressed and surprised and somewhat bemused to learn that whenever O'Keeffe bought something new, for her personal wear or for household use, she would first put it away for a year before wearing or using it. The notion has stuck with me over the past year and although I'd never impose such a restraint on my own consumer patterns, it's a useful one to keep in mind simply because it demands that purchases not be subject to whims or trends that will disappear before the year is up.

I thought about O'Keeffe's practice most recently after buying a great new pair of Fiorentini & Baker boots back in mid-December (at B2's great sale, almost 50% off), at the beginning of the snow, ice, and cold that have rendered them inappropriate for almost a month now. Fabulous, rugged-looking, and well-made though they are, the soles are too smooth for ice-slippery streets, and the leather, even with its natural, distressed look, is not as well-suited to slush and salt as the leather of my Blundstones or the rubber and synthetic of my waterproof boots.But I did wear them in the apartment -- I love them with a long (mid-calf) pleated wool skirt I got at the Gap a few months ago. I topped the outfit with this cashmere v-neck, and really like the mix of greys and browns, heavier textures and finer ones. I especially like that this is a very simple outfit that I think packs a punch -- throw on a skirt, a top, boots, and I'm dressed, easy but not bland.
This poorly-lit photo gives you an idea of proportion --it's a fairly uncompromising look in many ways, with the long skirt and the flat boot, but I like it anyway (or because of?). If you're wondering what I'm standing on in our apartment hallway, it's a blanket we threw over the hand-woven rug that Skeena immediately claimed as her comfort zone in new territory. She was very well-behaved, as if she knew she wasn't allowed in the condo (we had to sneak her up and down the stairs and back door for bathroom breaks), but she gravitated to the one item she could wreck just by lying on it. This solution seemed easier than constantly scolding and trying to move her.

I'm curious -- what's the longest you've waited before wearing something new? And was that deliberate or oversight or simply because of circumstances?

16 comments:

  1. I love that silhouette, and envy the boots. I have tried hard to find a pair but cannot get the zip up on most because of my high arches.
    It sounds like you have had a great holiday, I have loved looking at your snow photographs, trust me the stuff appears to be everywhere except Austrailia!
    Although maybe not quite so crisp and deep and even.

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  2. That's a fabulous ensemble, and I'm seriously coveting those boots!

    One of the Deep Discount jackets I purchased recently (the straw-colored one) will probably languish in my closet until late spring. When I shop end-of-season sales, it's often with the knowledge that I'm six months or so out from wearing the item in question, but I can't imagine sitting on something new for an entire year!

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  3. Oh, I have things in my closet I still haven't worn! And at least two pairs of shoes I bought ages ago, but haven't found the right occasion to wear. Your boots are fabulous! Happy New Year!

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  4. If she didn't wear for a year, did Georgia then give the item away? I in fact have done this quite a bit, usually by buying something seasonal, packing it away and forgetting it.

    I like this ensemble!

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  5. Georgia wore timeless things, so no doubt she wore them forever once she started to wear them. Did the book explain her rationale for doing this?

    I've found myself holding things back when I've changed sizes or the garment needs alteration to have the right fit. I need to get over that and wear my clothes instead of buying more (often of something quite similar!) I also buy on clearance for the following season like Deja Pseu.

    Love the boots! It's tricky to find good ones for ice.

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  6. Alison: These have no zip and getting them on requires a very long-handled shoe horn, plenty of conviction, a good sense of humour, and possibly a partner to push or pull! Admittedly, they get easier with each wearing, but it's an endeavour to get them on.
    Pseu: I'll sometimes go weeks, and sometimes months for reasons similar to yours, but a year is beyond my patience, I'm quite sure.
    Tara: Shoes for me too -- and, for some reason dresses, especially LBDs. I always think they'll be more versatile for everyday life, but then when I go to wear them, feel as if they're a bit too. . . So they hang, and wait . . .
    Duchesse: I've done that too! Most often either forgetting that I've bought something OR forgetting what safe place I've put it in.
    Nancy: No, the author didn't say why O'Keeffe did this. But I remember reading years ago that up until not too many decades ago, most Europeans tended to live on what they had made the year before, saving this year's earnings for the future -- and it seems to me that O'Keeffe's practice would be congruous with this approach. And, as you say, her tastes were quite timeless, so she wouldn't likely be unhappy with last year's purchases.

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  7. I cannot imagine waiting a year. I would be curious to learn her motivation. I could never do that. I usually wear something waiting 24 hours of purchasing it. Your gorgeous boots would have been on my feet at the store. I have managed not to wear my new Valentino shoes yet. I am saving them to amplify a special occasion.

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  8. I waited a year before I fit into a t-shirt I bought...one of those "this will motivate me" purchases. Not sure if it did, or if I just got tired of waiting.

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  9. LBR: I once told Pater, in Paris, that I really didn't need to shoe-shop 'cause I had two pairs at home I hadn't worn yet and he commented that there was some kind of problem there. I said, emphatically, that yes, there absolutely was, and why wasn't he taking me to the places and events where my shoes needed to be worn!!
    Thomas: So . . . a t-shirt is the best that you can do, waiting-wise? Not in Georgia's class, my friend, sorry!

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  10. I can see O'Keefe's putting it away as an austerity practice, testing whether it was necessary... but the next step is giving it to someone who could use it now.

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  11. I'll wait months. I really don't like "new" things. I like items that look like they've belonged on you forever, and sometimes keeping them in the box or the closet gives me that illusion.

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  12. Miss C: I'm finding more and more that enjoying an item in the closet for weeks, months even, enhances my enjoyment of it once I start wearing it -- my new R Rodriguez skirt, for example -- I love seeing it hanging there and feel no rush to pull it into everyday wear.

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  13. I'm so proud of you in that sweater, Mater! I always knew you were a woman of taste, but this just confirms it! Animal print! You know what would be a great finishing piece for the outfit? Rhiannon's scarf! If I've got the colors right I think it'd be a "go"!

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  14. Karen: Yes, I do love my animal prints -- and I knew there was a reason I should have kept that scarf!

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  15. Can you get it back for a re-post? I really want to see how it looks. Wear it like Rhiannon, with a good deal of the dark grey showing so it relates to the sweater. Pretty please?

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  16. Karen, I'll see what I can do (maybe I should just start making another, pour moi).

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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