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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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fashion crimes

I remember how intimidated I was when I first met Jeff's side of the family, especially the Ridpath women. Tall and slim, each of them could have stepped out of the pages of a fashionable women's magazine. Carrying themselves with natural grace and poise, their clothes (whether casual jeans or floor-length evening gown) exuded good taste and elegance...I always felt like a bit of a country bumpkin when I was in the same room.

Jeff's mom took us to Niagara-on-the-Lake this week for dinner and a play ("Picnic", which was excellent). It was somewhat chilly, so I had brought my leather jacket. When we left the restaurant, my mom-in-law retrieved my jacket from the coat check for me. She handed it to me with a laugh, saying, "I knew this coat had to be yours...only you would wear leather in June."

She said this with affection, of course, but I admit feeling a brief twinge of embarrassment, as if I had just belched loudly in a high-class restaurant. And then I wondered why it was so wrong to wear leather in June. I've never been able to master all the complicated rules of the fashion world (and to be honest, just haven't had the motivation to try); I'm sure I've committed more fashion crimes than most people. I wear black in spring, white in winter, socks with sandals, and carry a backpack with a skirt. My standard dress in university was track pants and a sweatshirt, with running shoes. I have little patience with hair-fussing, so generally let my hair air-dry after a shower, combing it with my fingers if I don't have a brush handy (which is frequently). I'd much rather spend the extra time checking e-mail one more time, finishing a few more pages in the book I'm reading, noodling on my harp.

I'm such a geek girl.

The clothes I do like the most tend to be the most comfortable and fraying around the edges (because I wear them all the time), or too over-the-top to wear except on rare occasions (my fave "formal" piece of clothing is a tight-waisted flared black velvet jacket with gold embroidery and tiny sparkly bits embedded into the cloth...I bought it for $12 at a vintage clothing shop on Queen Street).

When we were growing up, my Mom made most of our clothes. I still have clear memories of her bent over the sewing machine, cutting and hemming, holding pieces up against us to see if the size was right. She'd comb through sewing shops, looking for fabric sales. Our clothes may not always have been the height of fashion, but I suspect my parents were more concerned with getting clothes on our backs rather than making sure we were in style. I do still cringe when I see childhood photos of my lopsided grin staring out from a younger self clad in mismatched plaid and crooked horn-rimmed glasses, but the grin is genuine, supported by a happy childhood and much love.

Although I didn't appreciate it properly back then (what child does??), I am grateful now, thinking of all affection and time my mother put into each piece of clothing she made for Ruth, Jim and me. I still have a few pieces left, but can't bring myself to ever throw them out, no matter how worn or out-of-style they may be. Maybe someday I'll learn how to quilt squares of the pieces of fabric together into a comfort blanket. Even grown-ups need comfort from time to time. :-)

Going out to brunch with some friends this morning. Hm. Looks a bit chilly out; better get out that leather jacket...

Feel free to suggest a daily poll question.

Today's Poll:

Do you consider yourself fairly well-dressed compared to most people?

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