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?