Sunday, August 9, 2009

Meet My Clothes: Leather Saddlebag

I found her on the floor of Dollar A Pound, the only thing I’ve ever found in that sea of stained sweatpants that was worth a damn. She was misshapen, dry, discolored. She’d been neglected. I saw potential – the even stitching, quality hardware, perfect cognac color, an inner pocket of fawn-colored leather. She was everything a vintage hunter dreams of.

It reminded me of a bag described in a short story from a 1979 issue of Young Miss, the kind of bag that inspires bullies to pour sulfuric acid on it when the science teacher isn’t looking.

I found her the summer before my sophomore year of college. I was just beginning to get a grip on my sense of style, just coming out of the self-esteem destroying earthquake that was freshman year. That summer I had my hair cut into a bob, hated it, and loved the pixie cut that I got two weeks later. All outward signs showed confidence, but it was an act. I was in shock.

I brought her home and used a cloth barely dampened with diluted baby shampoo to wipe off the dirt, then applied a layer of Mink Oil. I used books as weights to press out folds in the leather. When the leather was dry, I added a coat of shoe polish. A day after that, another coat of Mink Oil. You can’t rush leather rehab. It needs time to reflect, to absorb.

A few nights before I went back to school, I was up late and saw the initial reports of Princess Diana’s death. I was glued to the TV, painting my nails and steeling myself for the coming year. My moving boxes were stacked in the living room. I’d made plans for your standard back-to-school comeback, promising myself I’d do whatever I had to do to find my place. I could not, would not, waste another year of my life staring at walls. I had flared jeans and a vintage leather saddlebag purse. I had some idea of who I wanted to be and plans for impersonating her.

It is another August, eleven years later. The leather saddlebag hasn’t been used in a few years. She suffered an internal rip a few years ago, and migrated to the floor of the closet. I found her there and decided it’s time to clean her up again. That inner panel will have to come out, but the leather is still good. She just needs a few layers of Mink Oil.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Misty Watercolored Memories

I develop strong friendships with books. As a child there were books I'd flip through on a daily basis. I'd long since memorized the text and pictures, but revisiting them was a familiar ritual. I can recite entire passages from The Little House Cookbook and Beauty is No Big Deal (published in 1971, and truly a product of its time).

I've considered e-mailing my local library to see if they'd be willing to sell me a book right off their shelves. The book that most often makes me consider the offer is Looking Pretty and Feeling Fine, a style guide from 1981. I suspect the library keeps it on the shelf because it's been checked out seven times in the past ten years. I've been the one to check it out each of those times. I fear that some day I will visit my local branch, and it will be gone, and I'll never be able to find it on eBay. I fear this because...

It's already happened!! (tragic music)

Last week I went downstairs to the children's room to see if I could find a book I remembered from childhood. It was about sewing, and it was blue, and it was about two inches thick, and it showed you how to make a bikini out of old sheets. I've done everything I can to try to remember the title, and I've found other old familiar friends on the online catalog, but I can't find this book. It is gone. And I loved it.