Friday, October 28, 2011

What do You Wear Around the House?

An early photo of Pauline Trigere in one of her gardening frocks

I once read that the chic French-American designer Pauline Trigere hated the idea of getting rid of a dress just because it was worn or outdated and was known to garden in her cast-off evening gowns. While I can't imagine it's true, what a wonderful visual that makes. My own mother never wore slacks to clean house. Her pants were the palazzo type and reserved for travel on the cruises she enjoyed taking. As far back as I can remember she had special "house dresses", which, while quite attractive, were really one step before a maid's uniform. When I came home from school I changed clothes to go out to play, of course.

I don't remember when I went wrong and ended up wearing the rattiest bits of wardrobe around the house. It may have started as a teenager when I realized I loved fashion but had limited funds. I would much rather buy (or sew) something fun to wear out than spend any money whatsoever on looking good out of the public eye. This worked for a while because I was living at home or on my own in New York City. I once remember not letting my sister in my apartment, after she had just driven 550 miles from Cleveland, because I was still in house-cleaning garb. I sent her to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and told her to come back in an hour. She did too.

Once I was married it behooved me to wear cuter things around the house, so I went out and bought some little t-shirts and capri pants to change into after work (very Mary Tyler Moore). Inevitably I'd be running late and end up cooking and eating dinner in work clothes (sans apron). Then I would have to change because I'd inevitably spilled something. By that time it would be pajamas. There is really no such thing as lounging pajamas or a lounging robe. It's still pajamas and a robe with all its sloth-like connotations.

The one and only time I was fired I bought myself a rainbow-striped rib knit turtleneck to cheer myself up and wear as my-staying-home-till-I-find-a-job outfit. I hated being out of work so much that wearing the sweater made me feel worse. It headed off to charity resale before I cashed my first new paycheck.

Many years later I still have a rag-tag assortment of house wear. It mostly consists of tops in decent enough condition that I just don't love anymore (or may never have loved enough). Same with the pants. They've stretched, sagged or pilled too much to wear beyond the mailbox but good enough for the lawn guy. My favorite around-the-house pants are actually in good condition and even fit. But they are giant red strawberries the size of cantaloupes printed on a blue background with lots of nice green leaves. They are fabulous but even I know those pants are not going beyond the garden gate.

We really don't learn our lessons. Since I'd be home bound several weeks with foot surgery I went out and bought 2 pairs of knit pants in a pretty warm teal and a nice rust from a chic boutique. I put together some coordinating tops and made sure I had cute flats for the good foot. Now that I'm three weeks' into convalescing I hate those pants like poison and can hardly wait till they get their marching orders. Which will happen just as soon as I get marching myself.

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