I was on disability for the last 20 years of my working life, most of which had been spent as a college professor where I worried about student as well as colleague expectations and how they might affect evaluations. I became officially disabled in 1998, but worked part time since 1994 in the hopes that I could recover from my illnesses enough to try again, but that never happened.

With my lowered income I had to be very economical in my clothing purchases, tho I did try to observe the “wear something different every day” rule when I did show up for work. I would have different outfits for each day of the week, and then start all over with the same ones the following week.

Once I retired from the work scene, I found myself in a basic uniform: dark pants [often jersey knit or even dressed up sweat pants [especially useful in the cold climates of Rochester, NY and Madison, WI] with a variety of colored or dark jersey knit tops and a few blouses. I also occasionally wear loose fitting long jersey knit or cotton dresses when it is hot or when I’m out of clean pants [or even underwear ;)], but I tend to avoid them and wear dressier pants instead because I hate wearing pantyhose. I also have a few pair of shorts, also jersey knit, two denim, for hot weather.

I gave up bras in favor of camisoles, adding comfort while still respecting modesty. Lately I buy all my clothing at St. Vinnie’s. There’s a store a few blocks from my doctors’ offices [where I go as much as 2x a week to biweekly for various conditions], so it’s easy for me to check in to see if there’s anything new and appropriate for me.

I am grateful for the fact that I don’t have to impress anyone anymore. I’ve still worked a bit, doing freelance editing, but that has all been online.

I’ve always emphasized comfort with my clothing choices. My waistbands are always stretch, as is any denim I wear, because otherwise nothing fits. I’ve “grown” quite a bit, largely due to medications I’ve had to take. I have never worn a heel higher than 2", especially after I acquired foot problems [a Morton’s neuroma that was only partially improved by surgery, for instance]. I now won’t buy any shoe that isn’t flat and doesn’t have a memory foam insole!

Some of my pants I’ve had for more than 10–15 years, and they are getting a wee bit worn from wear and washing. I’m having trouble replacing them because the jersey knit pants of which I am so fond appear to have gone out of style, apparently, even in the thrift shops. I may have to resort to pulling out my sewing machine [I used to make nearly all my clothes.] The cotton jersey knits [no polyester or other fake fabrics, thank you; cotton breathes in a way the manmade fabrics don’t, and that’s another aspect of comfort].

I have a few pieces for dress up if needed. One very nice cocktail dress. A couple of dresses and skirt outfits. But I haven’t worn them in years. They are classic style, however, so I can probably still wear them if need be.

My clothing budget is now somewhere around $300 per YEAR.

As usual, necessity is the mother of invention.

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Georgia NeSmith

Georgia NeSmith


Retired professor, feminist, writer, photographer, activist, grandmother of 5, overall Wise Woman. Phd UIA School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 1994.