Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Slack Tale

(I’m back but I’m exhausted. So while I rest up, here for your amusement is the last post I wrote before I left. I didn’t post it because I was a bit under the weather with a grand mal of arthritis in one hip).

It’s right down to the wire – the plane leaves tomorrow – and I am still dealing with wardrobe issues. Particularly since YD has made very special reservations for an outing that she keeps reminding me to deck out in full grandeur for.

First thought was about my ankle-length gown with the velvet jacket. But the jacket is rather heavy for mid-summer wear. And without the jacket I feel a little over-exposed. So I started kicking around the idea of taking something cooler, and more versatile.

And so then I remembered the pant-suit that I bought while housed in the executive suite on Radison Avenue several years ago. The one I bought for way too much money at one of those small specialty boutiques with rugs so soft and deep that I found myself flailing a bit while walking on them in an automated reflex action to stay afloat. One of those small, but ever so fashionable, shops tucked away in the center of downtown. With French doors and mirrors swinging both ways, Greek columns, and silk plants accenting a front-end vestibule with Louis the 5th brocade chairs. A greeter-hostess who sat with me at a small table and provided coffee (in china cups) and a pre-shopping consultation surrounding color charts and fabric swatches. A consultation about winter colors, summer colors, and camouflage styles to correct body flaws. It was one of those places where I had that sickening need to pretend I was something I wasn’t just to manage the stilted conversational exchanges without sneering and saying, “Why don’t we just get real here?”

When I began to try on clothes, ladies-in-waiting appeared in small swarms to tuck and tussle and contemplate with one hand pressed to their faces like “the Thinker” before expressing a mindless cliché. “For you, my dear, excellent! For you, my dear, positively stunning!”

With a safety pin in one bra strap to prevent sag and slippage, I feared my façade of self-confidence would be destroyed by one of them offering to adjust that as well. With gracious countenance, some cutting sarcasm like "My dear, let me assist you. It appears that pin is digging into your flesh.”

So I became panicky about keeping it hidden. A difficult thing to do with the many matte noses and raccoon eyes peeking into the dressing room unannounced, to ask if I would like to try an accent scarf or some exotic jewelry with each ensemble.

It was a bit of a trial, but somehow I got through it, and eventually I was out on the street with a box containing a pant suit and a slip of minute size paper that validated a sudden crash in my bank balance. Truly, the best kind of suit I ever had if value can be rightly calculated from price and the sophistication of the place it was purchased at.

I wore my lovely jade and black pantsuit a couple of times and indeed I was not disappointed. Always comments about how lovely it was. But then, after that, the time came to refresh, dry-clean, before a next wearing. And this is what I hate. The garment that requires ‘specialized’ attention, rather than the freedom to fling it on the basement floor until the next tub of like-minded colors are being agitated at full speed with hot water and some good dependable mix of soap and concentrated stain remover.

So I procrastinated. The darn thing cost me enough already without the price of dry-cleaning which doesn’t always bring about the desired result. So eventually I did what I generally do in such circumstances – I clenched my teeth, set the washer to cold water, gentle cycle, poured in a bit of gentle soap, shut my eyes, and quickly closed the lid on the washer.

Yeh, you know it. The jacket did okay, but the pants, that were a kind of crinkled stuff, went from size 14 to size 7. From a 32” leg to a 24” leg. How do you like those bananas? So while they were still wet I started pulling. I pulled up and down and crosswise until they returned to a size 10. Still not good enough. So out came the ironing board and I ironed all the crinkles out of those suckers. Guess what—with that effort, the slacks went from size 10 to size 28.

That’s when I returned the slacks to a hanger in the back of the closet and said, ‘Enough is enough.’ And procrastination again set in. So now yesterday, I pulled that suit out and found myself wandering through the wondrous nostalgia, of how that pantsuit came to be, and the unequaled beauty it once offered. I put the outfit on and stood in front of the mirror. The slacks were so big in the hips there was room for Hub and me and two friends in those pants. Still the magical appeal they once had came to mind and I decided to haul out my sewing machine and sew them down to size.

Maybe not. Maybe that will just be the complete ruination of them. Maybe the Dry Cleaners can resurrect them? Nah. Dismiss that thought, they’ll probably lose the pants. And I don’t have the stamina to go through what I would need to go through to get them replaced.

So let’s wash them again and try something different. So I did. I washed them again. Again they came out size 7. I stretched them again – back to size 10. Now here is where we have to find a convergence in the treatment. I thought how nice it would be if I had a pant frame in my size, but I don’t. Oh yes, I do. My own frame.

So, although the pants were sopping wet, I put them on. I went out on the deck where a brisk breeze was playing. I walked about in the yard, careful, ever so careful not to bend my legs. I knew if I did, the pants would immediately begin to bag at the knees.

With the semblance of a nutcracker doll, I walked about, erect and stiff-legged until the pants had almost dried. Came to the house, removed them and checked them out. Perfect. Clean, fresh, and a perfect size 14.

But would I recommend this treatment? Not really. My pant-suit is back to its original beauty but now I’m off on holidays with a discomforting bit of arthritis in one hip. I think that is what happens if you use a body frame to mold a wet pair of crinkled slacks. Still, I think it beats the distress that could come with sending them to the dry-cleaners.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back! When you've rested up, please tell me what the material of those pants are...

susan @ spinning

Roberta S said...

susan, I checked the tag and found the pants are 52% acetate, 48% rayon.

If that tells you anything please let me know, cause I don't know anything except what I told you about my laundering efforts.

Pauline said...

ok, I'm picking myself up off the floor and mopping my eyes. I sure hope you had a good time in those pants...

Matty said...

HaHaHaHa, I could just see you walking around the deck stiff-legged! That was hilarious! I would never have thought of that. Too bad hubby didn't get a pic of you.

Roberta S said...

Hi pauline and matty, this you're not going to believe. With the latest dimensional restrictions on luggage, my pants were forced to stay home.

But they are clean, fresh, draped in plastic, in my closet, ready for excitement.

Joy Des Jardins said...

Welcome home Roberta. I'm still laughing. Your pants stayed home? Now I'm really laughing.....

Roberta S said...

joy, Hi. No, my slacks didn't go but my goonie did. And it came down from the balcony and walked in marketplaces, gardens, streets, and parks.

It's in the closet now, next to the pants, ranting about all the places it has been...

Anonymous said...

(laughing) Roberta! What an amazing tale! I can see you walking around stiff legged, trying not to bag out the knees of the pants as they dried. You are remarkably inventive. I would NEVER have thought to put the pants in the washer.

I squirmed as I read about buying the pants suit. It sounds absolutely wonderful, but I don't know if I could make it through the session with all the "help." I'm glad you toughed it out. The suit sounded like the perfect choice.


Roberta S said...

Hi Buffy, just this morning I showed Middle Daughter my reconstituted pants. She was truly impressed to see they looked as svelte as when I bought them - crinkles nicely in place and sizing right on.

Most stuff around here eventually hits the washer and either I'm lucky or I tend to manage to get down-filled jackets and silks that lead a charmed life. Cold water, a drizzle of zero, gentle cycle, and all is well.