Happy Holidays!

Holiday Wishes 2012 | This I Wear

This I Wear is taking a two-week break but will be back in time for the new year. I am so excited to share a month (well, actually more!) full of ideas for starting fresh, cleaning out your closet, and helping you get ready for a 2013 where what you wear can match who you are and what you believe.

In 2012, my New Year’s intention was for more surprises. This I Wear was indeed a small idea that has surprised me with how much it has come to mean to me and how much I love hearing your stories and sharing them here each week. Thank you all for a fantastic first six months! To everyone who has participated, I could not have made it so far without you. And looking forward, I know the new year holds even more in store than I could have imagined for this labor of love as it takes on a life of its own.

My Closet: New Jeans + Old Ways

New Jeans + Old Mistakes | This I Wear

I had already been living out of a suitcase for weeks. I returned from India to a suitcase of nice clothes, having put the rest of my wardrobe into storage before the two month-long trip. But because I had no idea what I would be doing upon return, the suitcase contents (54 pieces including workout clothes, pajamas, and other items not to be worn out but not including shoes, accessories, or under things) were proving insufficient.

I have lived out a suitcase many times in my life. Most recently, when I was moving from New York to New Orleans, I lived solely out of a suitcase for two months while still working full-time in an image-conscious city. I know how to be resourceful, and I know how to live minimally. But what I am still struggling with is how to live with discomfort.

That discomfort and sense of uncertainty led to a moment of desperation in a (fancy) strip mall in Mandeville, LA, where I purchased this pair of stretch denim jeans from a chain store that I haven’t shopped at in years. I had only one reliable pair of pants in my suitcase: a pair of fantastic 100% cotton jeans whose days have been numbered for a while. Not wanting to risk not having a pair of pants one day, I knew I had to find a backup pair fast. Denim is something I just can’t shop online for, especially when legging jeans are constantly out to trick us into buying them, so my options were limited. My mom graciously bought these jeans for me, almost certainly out of sympathy for the sob story of how uncomfortable it is to be in a state of life limbo that requires living out a suitcase.

I have worn these jeans once so far, and while I plan to wear them again in future, I’m not really sure how I feel about them. Just as clothing can take on wonderful memories of experiences, places and people, they can bring us back to moments of weakness, sadness, regret and all those other negative memories too: the dress you wore to a funeral, the bracelet you were wearing during the epic fight with your best friend, or the sweater that was a gift from an ex. In this instance, these jeans remind me of the time where I didn’t go with my gut and hold out to buy something that would I would love and that would make me feel at my best. They remind me of getting emotional in a Banana Republic dressing room as my mom tried to console me by telling me I looked great. And they remind me of why I write and believe in this blog in the first place.

The things we own and wear can have such a powerful influence over us. They become part of us and the moments in our lives if we let them. Often they even become external manifestations of how we’re feeling on the inside. And just as every person has flaws, our closets have flaws too. In this season of gratitude and giving and as we get ready to start a new year, my hope is that all of us, myself included, will be grateful for our own (and our closet’s or our suitcase’s) imperfections, knowing that without them, we wouldn’t have the chance to grow.

Do you have an item you wear (or don’t wear) that reminds you of a mistake or a bad experience? Have you kept the item? And if so, why? Share your stories by commenting below or tweeting @ThisIWear.

Related No.3

Related No 3 | This I Wear

1. Read Farhad Manjoo thinks he’s found “the best sweatshirt known to man” and it’s made in America. [Slate via HBR]
2. Read the all-knowing Simon Doonan talks Etsy and making.
3. Watch the Obakki Foundation & 5 South Sudanese models team up to share stories of South Sudan and create high fashion that gives back to their motherland through clean water and sanitation projects.
4. See Chanel’s latest collection looks right out of the history books. Then take a peek behind the scenes how Chanel’s seamstresses make their famous tweed jackets.
5. Love Melissa Joy Manning‘s responsibly sourced jewelry line that features recycled metals, all handmade in her California studio. (My favorite is the fossil collection!)

Your Closet: Favorite Gifts, Pt.2

Winter Trees | This I Wear

It is finally cold in New Orleans this week, which has made it much easier to feel the holiday spirit. But reading more of your stories of some of the best gifts you’ve ever received might be a big factor too.

Deva:
I have two favorite gifts: First, I received a pair of earrings from Qatar as a gift from my dad when he came home after a 6-month stint in Iraq in 2006-2007. While not a supporter of the war, he made the courageous decision to volunteer to work overseas, as his way to support the troops in combat. Obviously, I was worried for his safety, but extremely proud of the sacrifice he was willing to make for this country. To me, the earrings remind me of my dad’s sense of loyalty to the Americans serving abroad and his courageous spirit.

Secondly, during my 2 years in grad school, I worked at a coffee shop in DC where I got to know many of the customers who frequented the shop. One of the regular customers was an avid knitter and offered to make all the baristas a custom scarf as a token of appreciation. I boldly asked for a yellow scarf (my favorite color at the time) and was in love with the way it turned out.

Shannon:
I had only been dating my boyfriend Brian for a few months, and we had been dating long distance the entire time. That Christmas, I was a first year law student in my very first semester. I should stress that Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. My family does it up big: we set up lots of decorations, drive around to look at lights, and go to Christmas-themed plays. You can understand why I was extra disappointed that the whole season was being destroyed by the stress of studying for finals.

Brian decided to fly to Chicago to meet my family for the first time the weekend before Christmas. He carried my Christmas present in his luggage, a misshapen lump wrapped in Christmas paper, and I could not for the life of me guess what it was. I gave him his gift (which involved a Barney Stinson inspirational poster) and then eagerly opened mine. It was a plush Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas decoration. Basically, it was Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius, and Hermie the dentist elf. When you push a button, they say lines from the cartoon and sing “Misfits.” It sounds really odd, but it was the perfect thing for the girl who loved Christmas and felt like it had been stolen from her that year. Not only that, but the way he obtained the present made it that much more impressive. It had been opened by someone else at his office’s White Elephant gift swap. He used all of his steals for me, because as soon as he saw it, he knew I would love it. I know he bought me other things that year, but I can’t remember any of them now. This Rudolph showed just how well he knew me, after only a few months. The boyfriend that went out of his way for me in everything he did, who stole a Rudolph for me, will be my husband in a few short months.

Nick:
I spent my junior year of college in Paris, where I have a lot of family, including–at the time–my grandparents. We had a standing Wednesday night dinner appointment, and I really appreciated getting to spend that time with them, particularly since my grandfather’s health started to decline not too long thereafter. When I was coming home to New York at the end of the school year, they gave me a book, from the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, a French series of books by important & classic authors. The one they gave me was the complete dramatic works of Sartre. While I appreciated that they knew me well enough to pick a writer I enjoy, what struck me about it was the gesture of giving me the first piece of something that could become an amazing collection. My grandfather had a floor-to-ceiling bookcase filled with books from this collection that I hugely admired, being a total nerd about such things, and I knew that they were extremely important to him as well. While I haven’t gotten any other books from the Pléiade yet, I was really very touched to get that first building block from my grandparents.

Ken (my dad!):
I don’t have an all-time favorite, but here are a few of my favorites: 1) Christmas 1971 – from my parents – a black, incredibly-powered 1969 Chevelle SS396, the stuff every muscle-car maniac dreams of owning; 2) Christmas 1976 – from my wife Yvette – a beautiful little grey furball named Tigger (I thought I was getting scuba gear…); 3) February 2004 – from my mother – my Dad’s Rolex watch and his wedding ring when he passed away. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and miss him. 4) November 2008 – a wedding present from my second wife, Fran – a beautiful White/Silver Harley Davidson Ultra Classic motorcycle. Most beautiful motorcycle I’ve ever owned, and my favorite by far. 5) And as always, saving the best for last – the birth of each of my 4 kids was the stuff that was “life-changing”. Just doesn’t get any better than that!

Thanks to everyone who sent in stories. If you’re still searching for the perfect gift to give a friend or family member, try asking this question to each other. And for those of you who shared stories, I hope these posts were a great conversation starter to say “thank you” to the person whose gift you decided to write about. For more inspiration, read about one of my favorite gifts as well as more stories from readers.

Your Closet: Favorite Gifts, Pt. 1

Family Christmas | This I Wear

Over the last week, I’ve asked all of you to send in your stories about some of your favorite gifts you’ve ever received, regardless of occasion and regardless of whether you can wear them or not. Holiday gift giving can be stressful, but remembering stories of how someone’s gift touched you can be a welcome boost to put a little extra thought into holiday shopping to make sure the gifts you buy this season will be loved, appreciated, and kept.

Today I’m sharing the first in the collection of stories I’ve received. But there are more that will be shared over the next week, and I am still accepting stories through Wednesday December 13 at midnight CT. If you haven’t sent in your story yet, read today’s entries for inspiration or look back at one of my favorite gifts, and then email your story in!

Elise:
The best gift I ever received was an Alexandrite and gold cocktail ring from my mom. It was passed down to her from her grandmother. My mom got it re-sized for me two Christmases ago after I had been admiring it my entire life. It always stood out to me in her jewelry drawer, and I was so honored to receive it. I have had it for two years now and always think of my great grandmother when I wear it.

Jon:
Well, Ona made a Muppet version of me. This wasn’t for a holiday, but it was part of a long-running series of pranks. She colluded with my coworkers to pose this Muppet-me doing all the things I do everyday and then take pictures of the proceedings. I loved it. It takes a lot of effort to pull hijinx like that and keep them secret for so long, so I felt like a celebrity.

Megan:
My favorite gift ever was from my mom in 2010. We’ve never been especially close and she’s not a really sentimental person, so it brought me to tears when I opened my gift that year and inside was a quilt she’d made for me by hand. On it, she monogrammed “To Megan Love Mom 12-25-10.”

Yvette (My mom!):
When I was growing up, I loved to read. Summers were spent waiting for the arrival of the Bookmobile on our block. I was the precocious child, and the librarians allowed me to read the “Y” books when everyone else my age was still on “J” level. My mom must have encouraged me, though I don’t remember anything she ever said to me. In fact, I don’t recall I ever saw my mother sitting down reading a book. There were seven of us children and I can’t imagine she had much time for that leisure activity. But she knew how much I loved books, and one Christmas she joined a book club and I was the lucky recipient of that “Get X free and you only have to buy 1 book in the coming year” incentive. And what were the books? Two volumes of Rudyard Kipling, two volumes of Shakespeare, and two volumes of Gore Vidal. I still have those books.

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