Not quite a year ago, I was at a deli in Arizona having a light dinner with my parents and a couple of their friends, Danny and Jana. Whenever I say their names together, I almost always stumble on the letters and call them “Janny and Dana.”
Go ahead. Say “Danny and Jana” out loud three times and fast. You’ll see what I mean.
Jana has the kind of big blue eyes and soft lilting voice that draw a person in. She reminds me of a more restrained version of my grandmother. What I mean is that, although my grandmother is incredibly engaging, she doesn’t have a filter and she’s hard of hearing. So, after she’s hugged you to death and made sure you’ve had more than enough to eat, she asks how much weight you’ve gained recently or if your husband has any more hair he could lose. And everyone within a block can hear it.
Jana is hard of hearing, too, but she’s not quite as, um, direct as my grandmother. She is, however, just as curious about why her children and her friend’s children do things she doesn’t understand. So at one point during our dinner she turned her blue-eyed gaze at me and started asking questions about my then recent move to downtown Seattle.
I admit that this move was a shock to most people we know. Apart from five years living in downtown Minneapolis early in our marriage, we had always lived in the suburbs. And once you do something for 15 years, people assume that’s the way it’s always going to be.
Now we live in a pretty brick and glass building downtown and I love it.
“Don’t you worry about your safety living in the city?” Jana asked.
“I’m more scared of being all alone in my house if someone decided to break in,” I told her. I sleep so much better in a secure building with people paid to keep an eye on the front door.
“How do you get your mail?” she wondered. “How do you get your groceries?”
The answer to both of these questions is similar. I get my mail and groceries delivered to the building. The mail gets sorted into a mailbox and the groceries get delivered right to my door after the delivery person passes muster with the people at the front desk.
“So when do you ever leave?”
The truth is, unless Hubby and I have somewhere to be, or unless I have an appointment with someone else, I don’t leave my building. That’s not to say I never leave, but I do my work at home and a lot of those little things I used to spend hours doing “out there” come to me. Which is just the way I like it.
I’m an introvert by nature and, although I love being around friends and family and I adore being out in nature, I need the stillness of home to recharge my internal batteries.
This way of living created a unique challenge, then, when I set out to wear a dress every day for the month of May. At home, I wear jeans or lounge pants. Dresses were always for “dressing up” and “going out.” When I set into my plan for May, I had to rethink my definition of “dress.” I wondered how I would go without pants for a month. How would I do the laundry and clean the bathrooms in a dress? I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing all of that in something nice enough to go out in.
The Original Housedress
As always, I looked to the past for answers to my questions and I immediately came upon the solution – a housedress. Back in the days when my grandmothers were young, they had dresses they wore just around the house. These were pared down versions of the ones they wore out. The dresses my grandmothers wore tended to be more comfortable and less shapely than the ones they wore for shopping or going to church.
My Modern-Day Housedress
The idea of purchasing a couple of vintage housedresses on Etsy appealed to me in a big way. But since this was meant to be an experiment, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something I might never wear after May. So, I bought three t-shirt dresses at Thredup and on eBay, all for less than $10 a piece! And, bonus – I already had one t-shirt dress hanging in my closet. That’s nearly a whole week’s worth of modern-day housedresses!
I was unable to discover the history of the t-shirt dress and its purpose of coming onto the scene of fashion, if it can actually be argued to be part of the fashion scene. The t-shirt dress is modest in both style and value. It walks the line between nightshirt and oversized t-shirt. It was perfect.
Just another day at the office:
On the couch surrounded by papers and sipping coffee.
It surprised me how much effort it took to force myself to walk the three or four steps away from the cabinet where I keep my jeans to the wardrobe where I keep my hang-ables. On cooler days in early May it was especially difficult to do this. Early on, I got a lot of wear out of the leggings you see in these photos.
Sneakers are by Geox and on sale here at Nordstrom.
Letting go of denim was like letting go of a beloved security blanket. In addition to keeping me warm, the leggings warmed me to the idea of doing without jeans.
Super cool magnifying loupe necklace by “O” of Fine Metalwork Studio on Etsy.
Weaned of Jeans?
As one of my professors at Seattle U used to say, whenever you try something new, do it little by little and with compassion. So, little by little I was able to let go of my denim addiction. Before long, opening the wardrobe where I keep my dresses became more natural than opening the cabinet where I keep my jeans. Eventually I even managed without the leggings.
This particular t-shirt dress came to the middle of my shins when I got it. It looked like a sleep shirt. So, after working up my courage, I cut the bottom off and used my humble sewing machine to hem it up.
To be honest, I didn’t do a great job hemming it. I’d have to ask my friend Sue at A Colourful Canvas, but I think the bobbin on my machine was set too loose. The stitching was all loopy.
Oh well. It was the first try and it was good enough for around the house. When I learn more about sewing I may go back and redo it. (I start classes in August! Woo hoo!)
It was easier to wear these dresses without leggings at home. I have yet to actually wear any of these dresses outside the condo without leggings. Even hemmed up, most of them just look too much like nightshirts. So, on the couple of occasions when I already needed to run a quick errand, I wore leggings and a jacket with it, as seen below.
Little by little and with compassion I came to discover the comfort and true value of the housedress–with and without leggings. These t-shirt dresses were a good first step into the idea of wearing dresses for comfort at home. As predicted, though, I don’t wear these t-shirt dresses as much as I did at the beginning of May. Along the way, I discovered another style I like even better–and sometimes I even wear it out of the condo.
More about all that next week!
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