Thursday, January 6, 2011

What do you wear when you garden?

I’ve been thinking about this topic for awhile, reminded of it when I see people gardening in clothes I consider street wear, not garden wear. So I ask…what do you wear when you garden? Do you have a favorite pair of pants and t-shirt? Or do you consider any outfit fair game for garden time? And just for the record I'm not talking about going out for a look around the garden, watering, or raking a few leaves. No I’m talking about serious gardening where a shovel, bags of soil, or contorting yourself around a spiky plant to weed is involved.

I had an old favorite pair of gardening pants I recently said good-bye too. For quite awhile they had been for working in the back garden only, there was a tear that made them inappropriate for wearing in the front garden. For some people this alone might have been reason enough to get rid of them, but I loved those pants. Plus they were pitch and clay soil stained; obviously broken-in they announced I was ready to get down to it, no fooling around.

My husband begged me to get rid of them. Go buy a new pair of pants why don’t you? He’d ask. Garden in a new pair of pants? Well that’s just crazy talk. When I buy a new pair of pants they’re for wearing out in public…they need to be worn for fashion before they can be worn for gardening. And it’s not a demotion to become the gardening pants; it’s a privilege. Since I didn’t have any pants currently ready for that promotion I just kept wearing the torn pair, unless I was working in the front garden in which case I wore an even older pair that were still in good condition. Good condition because I rarely wore them, they were never quite right having been “promoted” simply because I stopped liking them, and that’s not really a good reason.

Sometime last July I stopped at The Gap. They had just taken markdowns and as I was thumbing through the sale rack I spotted them, khaki’s with paint splatters. Seriously! Some designer for the Gap thought selling pants with paint spatters already “applied” was a good idea. Evidently not many customers agreed as they were on sale cheap, as in $7. For the heck of it I tried them on, and they were comfortable, oh so comfortable. Still, paint spatters aren’t really a fashion statement that I want to make. That’s when it hit me! Since these pants were so cheap, so comfortable, and yet not something I would wear “on the street” maybe I actually could buy a new pair of gardening pants! And I did. Ok to the top half…what makes a good gardening shirt? Late last spring I bought a terribly cute men’s button-up woven shirt on sale at Old Navy for $5, thinking it would be great gardening shirt for hot weather. Loose, short sleeved and a light-weight cotton fabric, perfect! But that’s when I discovered the benefit of the t-shirts I’d been wearing. When you’re in a serious contortionist’s position trying to reach a weed or bend around an agave without getting poked it’s nice to have a shirt that stretches with you.

So back to my old favorite gardening t-shirt…a Cistus Nursery shirt! I bought one on my first nursery visit and about a week later discovered how nicely our clay soils stains when wet, since then some grass stains, and who knows what else have been added to the palette (see this matches the paint spatters on my pants!), but I wear it with gardening pride (this is the back of the shirt, how can you not love that fun logo?). This brings me to a week ago when my husband was preparing a bag of old clothes to go to the Goodwill, in it I spotted his Cistus t-shirt. Was it stained? No. Was it too small for him? Holes? No, no. Why was he getting rid of it? The neck was a little worn and the ribbing was frayed. Score! I’ve got a new, stain-free t-shirt to add to the gardening rotation!

My husband’s response? “Why must you look like a bum when you garden?” So what about you? When you garden are you able to put down your spade and run to the store without having to change? Would you rather not be seen in your gardening clothes? Or do you look as if you stepped out of a Martha Stewart photo-shoot with your clean trousers and perfectly tucked in shirt?


  1. First, they now have paint spattered jeans in the mall...
    Second, I look so bad I had a neighbor stop and ask, "Just where do you buy your clothes?" I've told this story before. I make sure all of my errands are done for the day before I "dress up" for my gardens. In Spring, p.j.'s, slippers and a cup of coffee as I rush out the door to check those newly emerging seedlings....

  2. What do I wear in the garden? A sun hat ;). What do you wear? (leer)

    Actually my life is so messy that I have quite a pile of jeans and t-shirts. Between pottery, volunteering where I take care of animals, gardening, and mucking about in the woods looking for salamanders and bugs (I AM a biologist by trade and training) I have a great need for inexpensive, durable, washable clothes

    I'm always replacing the t-shirts. They start out as my "dress t-shirts" (ie I'd be seen in public). Then they get demoted to "pottery studio t-shirts" (not as nice but still no holes, going to be seen by other people). Then "gardening t-shirts" (only the neighbors and The Husband have to see these) and lastly "painting t-shirts" (only worn indoors when painting the house and then disposed of appropriately).

    And I wear either Teva sandals or my bare feet most of the time in the garden. Only when mowing do I break out my mucky, closed-toe shoes. Or when shoveling snow.

    Now I'm summer-sick (like homesickness but the pull is summertime).

  3. wait! I'm supposed to have a rotation of garden clothes? I wear the same pair of jeans everytime, paint splattered highwaters, and they live in the garage so I can change in and out of them at a moment's notice. They usually get pretty dirty, but after a few days they seem all right again, so they hardly ever make it into the laundry.

  4. lol! I used to buy men's Carhartt pants, but they never fit that great. So I started using last year's Levi jeans instead...much better! Regular cotton t-shirts that are on their way to the Goodwill, yes... In the summer, i roll the sleeves up, so it's more like a tank top.
    In the winter I wear Arctic Carhartt overalls and coat. ( They are SO warm! (I work on pavers/edging in the winter, in between freezes. :)

  5. I'm loving your new garden outfit.
    No, I'd better not run to the store in my garden clothes, it's likely they're full of holes and tears and not in good places either.
    I look like a bum when I garden.

  6. I'm scruffy when I garden...though my clothing selection is likely not to blame.

  7. Compared to me, you probably look like British Royalty! Depending on the temperature, it's either cargo pants or cargo shorts (I always forget something, so pockets are great for stuffing with things I think I might need. Any t-shirt I've worn recently and stretched out is good, usually white, so I can bleach any stains out later. I think my partner is appalled to see me out there sweating and swearing...but I'm so focused I don't give it a second thought :-)

  8. Jeans seem to be so low wasted these days-and I spend so much time bent over with my bottom in the air. I seem to be wearing" builders bum."..not a pretty site.

  9. My favorite garden wear is a pair of running shorts and a loose wide shouldered North Face tank top. The shorts wick sweat and don't tear and the tank is long enough to cover my torso whilst in those typical contortionist positions. I rotate between two of those tanks - they are ridiculously durable, super soft cotton, and stains wash right out.
    We have a lot of river rock around our house, and I'm a total klutz, so in order to prevent rolling an ankle its low hiking boots for me (that are permanently covered in mud). Top it off with a bandana or a baseball cap and I'm off.
    Not gonna lie - this ensemble is pretty much the only way I get my Southern California tan in the summer.

  10. I am sad to say that I garden in whatever I have on. You see, I can be sitting in the garden enjoying a nice cup of tea, and wham, I get the urge to garden. It actually starts slowly. First a weed here and there. Then I decide one of my precious babes looks like it is not happy where it currently lives. The next thing I know, I am up to my elbows in dirt, grime, and whatever else is in the way. I wish I could be as organized as you whit my gardening clothing style.

  11. I have 3 really ancient and holey t-shirts that have both wine and salad dressing stains in strategic locations (I change if I'm going to drink GOOD wine ) and two pairs of really hideous kinda stretchy corduroy pants , and my beloved muck shoes. I've taken to running errands in this ensemble, but throw a relatively clean chambray workshirt on to cover the worst (holey-est) areas. The neighbors are now used to my tattered appearance.

  12. Old clothes - t-shirt, jeans if cold and shorts if warmer. But I don't garden when cold (below 45 or 50F) or if hot (>95F). Why?

    But no gloves around cacti, or they will be ruined.

  13. One of the advantages of living near to the store covered in mud, wearing...whatever: nobody notices. Smith & Hawkin used to carry gardening pants with pockets for knee pads. I may have to make myself some of cousin swears by them.
    Those clothes many of you are about to take to Goodwill? I'm the one who buys them for gardening. Lotsa pockets a must.

  14. Most homeless folks, dress better than we do in the garden. Since we garden for others, sometimes we need to stop at the store or post office on the way home. We get lots of looks in our holey jeans, rain slickers and muddy boots!!

    Wyatt's Mom

  15. For me it's usually athletic shorts, some that are also paint splattered and a tank top or t-shirt it it's not too hot. I have been known to plop down in my p.j.'s and flip flops in the front yard, much to my husband's dismay.

  16. I can run to the store in my usual gardening clothes, I just have to be ready to get a few disparaging looks!

    I have a favorite pair of paint-spattered jeans (with just a hint of lycra, so they bend), and a couple of t-shirts--an old Seattle International Film Festival shirt is my typical go-to. When it's cold, add my battered fleece vest.

    Add a bandana to keep hair out of my face, flowered garden clogs (until mid-summer), and at least one glove, and I'm set.

  17. Funny...I remember the FIRST time paint-splattered pants were the rage and I LOVED them! I even made a pair with white pants and black paint and wore them until the fabric wore out!
    In the winter I garden in long underwear covered with quick dry pants, a couple of long sleeves and a worn-out fleece. In the summer running shorts and close fitting tee shirts (for the whole movement thing!).
    RED ALERT: I've recently come to realize that I (almost) own more work clothes than regular clothes...I guess Its time to go shopping, ugh!

  18. Funny, I've been thinking about this lately. Mostly because I found I don't have anythign set aside for this extra chilly winter we're experiencing. Also because I keep seeing gardening clogs in catalogs.... I might buy something heavy with long sleeves at the Goodwill to hold me over until warm weather.

    In good weather I usually wear one of two pairs of cotton sporty bermudas that were meant for my bike rides.... but they're much more comfy in the garden. On top I've got plenty of old T's that I cut the neck hemming off of for extra comfort. A new addition is a wind breaker that was also meant for my bike...but it was really windy and sprinkly when dad wanted to start pruning the roses last weekend and they took a few bits into it. Now it's garden wear.
    I have a nice sun hat I usually wear bought especially for gardening from Target. Typically my feet come out of the house protected by flip flops...and within about 20 minutes end up streaking instead. I just love being barefoot.
    That's my garden wear.

  19. I wear either what I have on or, if I'm planning ahead, my grubbiest old clothes. And yes, I've run to school to pick up my kids looking like a train wreck, sweaty, with hat hair, covered in dirt and mud. Not exactly a fashionista here.

  20. I loved reading all of your comments! We are a fashionable bunch aren't we? I wonder if any garden clubs have ever organized a mock fashion show to raise money? Could be fun.

  21. Your a girl after my own heart, but why not you are my daughter. I wear an old pair of jeans that I have patched the knee in and they are torn again. But they are old and comfortable. The shirt is too big and has about 15 different colors of paint on it. What is a little dirt added. My neighbors are all use to seeing me in my garden fashion. Can't wait. Mom

  22. I do have a few pair of pants that I have dubbed my gardening pants, other than that I will usually just work in the garden in whatever I have on, thus ruining quite a few things and creating more gardening clothes. I do try to remember to put my rain boots on so I don't ruin my shoes. In the summer I wear as few clothes as possible, I like to be close to the earth, haha! Shorts, bathing suit top, barefoot. But I do wear knee pads if I'm wearing shorts. My neighbors get quite the show in the summer!

  23. If you arrive at my garden gate early morning, you will find me gardening in my bright red polar fleece/ black Scottie dog bath robe and Ugg house slippers. I have myself convinced the neighbors cannot see me in this outfit...the red bathrobe providing a cloak of invisibility.

    Later in the day, you will find me in my over-sized straw hat, blue jeans, trainers, and layered t-shirt and sweatshirt.

    The one thing I always wear...sunscreen SPF 30.

  24. The paint splattered, torn in the knee, ripping out at the crouch pants are the gardening pants.

    Tops are tee shirts: ones that have been greyed by too many launderings,
    some that I've received for volunteering, or some bought to support a cause.

    Gloves that were bought a decade ago and are worn away at the finger tips but that I just can't throw away yet (I've had the back-up pair ready for at least five years)

    Shoes that were a cheap Target pair of slip-ons, paint stained and torn out at the right big toe, a perfect match to the jeans!


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