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September 26, 2022

Oort Cloud Oddities: Clothing

By Alexandra Queen

Most of my income as a writer comes from catalog copy for upscale clothing. This is, for anyone who knows me, proof that the Universe has a sick sense of humor.

I wouldn't say I have no fashion sense whatsoever, but my relationship to clothes would be more familiar to males of our species than females. If it's clean, cheap and black, I'm all for it. If I have to go to more than one store to find it, I'll do without it. Once I find something I do like, I wear it until it's a handful of wispy yarns.

I have two sets of identical blue jeans from junior high. They've stayed with me for over fifteen years, going from good jeans to work jeans to cut-offs. Last year the butt completely fell out of one pair. The other is in the wash right now, telling my socks stories about how in its day, clothes had to walk uphill in the snow to get to the dryer.

I still haven't thrown out the first pair. Sure, they're indecent now, but the way gravity is working on my body it will only be a few more years until that hole migrates up to the small of my back and I can wear them again.

It wouldn't be so bad, except my husband is the same way. Neither of us pays much attention to clothes, unless they irritate us. For him, that's fairly often. He has a strange fetish about where the cuffs of his shirts rest on his arms. They have to be above or below a certain point or he flings himself on the ground and chews off the sleeves. I was fascinated to see our daughter evidencing the same behavior as early as 18 months, when I would notice her spinning around madly, tugging at her pajama sleeves and making furious pre-cuss-word sounds. The upshot is that when my husband finds a shirt that fits comfortably, he wears it until... well, let's just say the laundry heap sounds like a Sunbelt retirement community.

My pants: "I remember back in the old days, the washin' machines had rollers they squeezed ya through."

John's shirt: "Hah, you puppy! I remember when they used to beat us with rocks."

My pants: "Rocks? Oh, them newfangled things. Used to be they didn't wash us clothes at all, so the stink would scare off the Tyrannosaurus Rexes."

John's shirt: "Heh, I remember when T. Rexes first came out. In fact, I remember when pants were invented. Used to be all I got worn with was fig leaves."

The socks (whispering to each other): "Yo, Gym Diddy, listen up. When the laundry gets switched over, jump behind the dryer so you won't have to go in the closet with these old school hatahs." "Bust a kizzle in that planizzle, B. Obby. I can't take it no mo'. I'm gettin the d-o-g to eat me, know what I'm sayin'?"

We're pretty bad, but I've been personally honored to meet worse. One of my favorite coworkers in years past used to work in the loading station of a home improvement store, where he would carry customers' purchases to their vehicles as they drove up. Matt had one particular uniform that was calculated specifically to increase his efficiency by limiting the amount of time customers would waste talking to him. He called it "the Nipple Shirt", and it had a series of tiny holes over the chest that would, depending on how he shifted, cause the tip of one, non-functional gland to protrude through the tee-shirt fabric. It was just nasty looking.

Matt had perfected the art of dealing with customers with a deadpan face and a friendly smile, seemingly oblivious to their squirming as they tried to avoid looking at his shirt. He was the kind of friendly, likable guy that - when he wore any other uniform - usually inspired people to share every detail of their project with him. But the Nipple Shirt was sort of like Superman's uniform. When he wore it, no one said a single word more to him than was absolutely necessary. He was able to dodge speeding small talk and leap tall tales in a single bound. Added bonus: the bosses wouldn't come out to make extra work for him either. They'd just issue a terse, "Get rid of that shirt!" and vanish back to their air-conditioned lairs.

These are the things that run through my head when listen to a designer tell me they want to market a particular item as "functional as well as fun", or "having an instant 'old-favorite' feel". Function and fun was roaring with laughter in the break room as Matt would tell a new hire, "Hey, I'm up here, buddy! Look at me, not my bust line." Instant old favorite is a waistband with a zipper and pockets dangling from it.

But that's why I'm a writer, and not a clothing designer. I don't come up with the ideas, I just tell the customer what the company was thinking when they made the product. And no one has to know what I'm wearing while I write the copy, but I'll give you a hint anyway: chances are, it's the same thing I was wearing last season.

This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.

Article © Alexandra Queen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-08-14
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