Sunday, August 07, 2005

In Praise of a Skirt

Like most American women my age, I grew up in pants and shorts. In the early '70s my mother sometimes dressed me in short dresses (fortunately none quite so short as the early Cindy Brady-type dresses, like these), but by the time I got to first grade she had me living in pants. From then until adolescence, the only time I wore skirts or dresses was when I went to church; Baptists frowned upon females wearing pants. And although in adolescence, when I began to be able to choose some of my own clothes, I began to occasionally wear skirts by choice, the association had already been made: dresses and skirts were for "dressing up" and they were uncomfortable. (I also associated church with "ugly dresses", but that's another story.)

That association changed this summer. Earlier this summer I made myself a jeans-to-skirt skirt. I've never liked denim skirts, but I do like thriftiness, and I had a pair of too loose jeans with some puppy-toenail snags on them that I didn't think the thrift store would want. So I set to, to make a skirt, using the usual two triangle insertion method. The method is shown on innumerable websites, but I like the tutorial best; you can ignore the information about including a slit, because why would you be making a skirt so tight you can't walk without a slit? (Another method, using four triangles, is shown at SavvySeams.) I had only one pair of jeans, so unlike the skirt on, my skirt ended up coming only just below the knee (it's kneelength when I sit), which is a really short skirt for me. (I tend to wear mid-calf or ankle-length skirts because I look best in mid-calf length hemlines and because I've always thought short skirts were a little too frivolous for someone of my oh-so-serious beatnik-ish, hippie-ish aesthethics.) I also left a fringe on the bottom, rather than hemming it, because the fabric spoke to me and asked to be left that way; I've never liked fringe before, hippie-ish aesthetics notwithstanding. So now I have a fringed denim skirt.

And guess what? It's super-comfortable. I've worn it more this summer than any other item of clothing I own. I wear it around the house to work in or waste time in, but it's not too sloppy or immodest to wear out grocery shopping or thrifting. It's cooler than shorts--all that upward draft. (A long crinkle cotton skirt or dress can be even cooler, but they're not exactly work clothes.) So who knew skirts could be comfortable and could be work clothes, as well as "dress up" clothes? Every generation of women before mine, as well as a great many women my age or younger. I guess I'm just slow. Add this to last year's revelation about aprons. (I discovered, after another thrifty recycle, that if you wear an apron, you don't have to look like a street urchin in the kitchen.) Funny how I'm just now learning things my grandmothers knew all their lives.

I've since made two more pants-to-skirt recons: a black denim skirt (neatly hemmed) out of a pair of damaged men's jeans and a long, hippie-ish skirt out of my favorite (but frayed at the inner thigh) pants and some sunflower fabric. My first one is my favorite though.

Note: A skirt-from-jeans is not only a good way to recycle pants you don't like anymore or that have a small tear or other damage, it's also a good project for a woman who's losing weight and doesn't want to invest a lot in new clothes while she's losing; the jeans that have become uncomfortably loose quickly become a skirt with a comfortable amount of ease.

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