Closet Editor

Summer Staples: short-sleeve t-shirt

Summer Staples: short-sleeve t-shirt

shorts

shorts

sandals

sandals

long-sleeve t-shirt

long-sleeve t-shirt

by Su T Fitterman

I hate dressing up.

Let me be clear. This means pretty much everything that’s not jeans or shorts, t-shirt or sweater. 

I wasn’t always this way.

I come from a family passionate about clothes. My mom has personal shoppers in two countries. My sister found time to work in her favourite boutique while fully employed as a journalist. To buy my brother a gift, I call his go-to shop, where they look up his purchases to ensure what I’m getting will coordinate with what he already owns. 

My dad was such a natty dresser that his closet was raided immediately upon his death five years ago by both the men and women in our family (I took 20 Hermes ties, which I intend, one day, to make into a pillow). At the unveiling of his gravestone six months later, 12 of us showed up in his clothes. Don’t be aghast. It’s a great memory.

Until I started high school, I couldn’t get enough of clothes, either. I was a willing participant when we drove to Seattle to shop. I learned my way round that city’s downtown before my own. We would leave the car in a parkade, then hit up Frederick & Nelson, Nordstrom Best and for a treat, See’s Candies. Back at the car, we would cut out the labels of our clothes and scuzz up the soles of our shoes on the asphalt in preparation for our return trip across the border (this was before the era of free trade).

Things changed when I was 13. While lots of girls were clamoring (as was our right) to take woodworking and metal shop, I had always wanted to sew and now had the opportunity to do so for credit. Soon I was hunched over the family Singer machine, running up 5/8” seam after 5/8” seam. I still remember a sky-blue pinwheel corduroy skirt I made and wore till it practically evaporated with age.

I never bowed down to trends. At first I couldn’t (breasts and the 1970s did not go well together), and then when I could, I didn’t want to. I could sew. By the time I was 17, I could knit, too.

I had control of my clothing destiny.

My style has evolved over the decades, but not really. While there are blips of change, I always return to home base—to weathered and homemade comfort. This is most real version of me.

In my 20s, I veered sharply from this aesthetic. I had a job that took me to an actual office each day. I had long, straight hair. I wore short skirts and high heels. That all stopped after I won a lot of awards at an ad show, and most of the men (the creative departments in advertising at the time were almost all mostly men) remembered “the girl in the black velvet mini-dress,” rather than my achievements.

I sold much of my wardrobe to my friend Hilary and returned to the old ways.

I remember pitching a tagline to a very important person at a very important company. I was told to dress casually (the pitch was on a Friday). I showed up in clean but worn cut-offs and ancient sandals. The company men were speechless. I guess I should have asked them to define casual. I did sell the line, though.

I have a habit of buying an article of clothing and then not wearing it till it feels right to. This could be a year or even longer. My kids, part of a generation used to instant gratification, do not understand this. For me, there is such joy in putting on a new leather jacket that is 10 years old.

I’m an editor by profession, always tightening up client copy. If I don't understand a sentence or phrase, I tend to delete it. I’m an editor by nature, too, continually paring down my style, both in quantity and colour. The palette is restrained: black, grey, navy, touches of white. Evidently I don't understand the purpose of colour on me.

I have three pairs of pants I bought 15 years ago. The kind that has zippers at the knee and turn into shorts. They’re so damn comfortable, with deep pockets and easy waists. I wear them pretty much all the time. The material is the Energizer Bunny of fabric. I’ve broken the fly and knee zippers. The Velcro no longer sticks. But the pants themselves emerge unscathed from weekly washings. My mom comes over for Shabbat dinners, takes one look at me, and sighs.

I like not having to think about what to wear in the morning. So it’s long or short t-shirt. Shorts or jeans. Clogs or running shoes. Wool or cotton sweater. Black, grey or navy. I was sitting with my business partners earlier today, discussing what to wear to an upcoming meeting with a client. A skirt, said one. A blazer, said another.

I promised I wouldn’t wear the shorts with the broken fly zipper.

I’m not much for jewellery, either. I used to wear a wedding ring, but then my fingers swelled while I was pregnant and I took it off. I never got around to putting it back on. Despite this, the marriage has lasted.

I do wear my father’s wedding ring. A simple platinum band. I take it off at night to sleep. Every morning, when I put it on, I feel a comfort settle over me.

One rule for editing is to delete the sentence you like best—it’s likely the most self-indulgent one. (I already did. It had to do with white go-go boots.)

My father’s ring goes with everything. I have no plans for deleting it any time soon.