I interviewed my mom for this project, as her subject positions differ the most from mine. She is a woman in her late 40s who immigrated to the U.S from China. She is a working woman in a corporate environment, is a single mother of two kids, and middle class. I learned a few things I did not previously know, such as the lifespan of her clothes, which many are about 10 years, if not more, old. She also does not think much about what she wears, whether it is fashionable or not, other than try to remember what she wore in the previous two days to not repeat. Her work environment dictates what she wears on a daily business, which is business casual. And although it does not mean skirts only, my mom prefers wearing skirts to pants. This is different from me, where I prefer to wear pants since it is easier to get around and work in. My place, Parsons in NYC, also differs from the quiet town of Longmeadow, which impacts what each of us wear. As it is more busy in NYC, there is more a need to dress comfortably, and similarly going to Parsons, I feel like it is more important to dress fashionably as well. For my mom, most of her wardrobe are timeless staple pieces, often in neutral colors so it is easy to match. Everything is also neatly kept, either tucked in a garment bag from dust, to being categorized in color or season. My mom is a neat and orderly, making sure everything is hung up to avoid wrinkles.
A theme of how she initially buys her clothing and how often she wears it correlates. My mom feels more self-conscious about her weight as she grows older, and depending on the cut of the clothing, she sometimes feels uncomfortable. As Joanne Entwistle notes, “Our consciousness of dress is heightened when something is out of place – when either our clothes do not fit us… or they do not fit the situation… when clothes do not fit us, the experience is very private and sensual – an experience of the body”1. Similarly she only throws out clothing if it no longer fits or has been worn through, which is different to how most young people throw out their own clothing (following trends). Lastly this showed me to how a wardrobe for an aging woman can differ from a younger woman. The lifespan, amount, colors, and choosing all depend on age, occupation, and place. My mom did mention one of her favorite pieces of garment is a red dress she bought, but she feels there is not an occasion to wear it, due to the color and her fear of it not being age appropriate. Her answers to some of the questions reinforce Entwistle’s findings on the relationship of clothing and the body and how important it is to feel comfortable and confident in what you are wearing. The cut or fabric of a dress can change to tailor the wearer’s needs, and because of that, the buyer will be more willing to keep the article rather than throwing it out.
1 Joanne Entwistle. Body Dressing. (Oxford: Berg, 2005), 133-134.
This is her closet, split down the middle into two sections. The one on the left has her summer clothes, and the right, still covered in garment bags, are her winter clothes.
The red one is one that she really likes, but has only worn once, because she cannot find an occasion to wear it to.