Archives for posts with tag: clothing

leotta
Retail — From the Inside
by Joan Leotta

Shopping was my hobby.
So when at 16, I wanted summer
employment,
retail seemed perfect.
Downtown department stores
were not hiring, so
my Aunt Helen convinced
the owner of her favorite
East Liberty dress shop.
to give me Saturday hours.
I imagined myself
an instant fashion expert,
coolly, enhancing women’s looks
with wise suggestions.
My first Saturday I was
hidden in the stockroom
hanging a new shipment
by size, by color. Hot.
“May I help you?”
I practiced, as I shook out blouses,
skirts, dresses.
Second Saturday saw me selling.
The first woman, slim, young,
asked “blue shirtwaist dress in
size ten, please.”
I plucked it from the rack,
showed her to the dressing room.
In minutes, my first sale!
Ringing it up on the old
register the change came out wrong — twice..
My next fashion seeker
was middle-aged,
a bit chubby. She marched to
the dressing room and told me to
bring her skirts and blouses
in size twelve — my choices!
Proudly, I selected tailored items
she promptly rejected.
“Yooo hoo,” she called, “I want smaller sizes,
and don’t you have anything newer, cuter?
She tossed her discards over the door for
me to turn right-side out and rehang.
At last she opened the dressing room door
to model an A-line skirt and ladybug blouse —
high school clothes!
“Well, how do I look?”
I gulped. Sausage came to mind.
Florid face clashing with floral shirt.
“Wouldn’t you rather . . . ” I began
The owner stepped up.
“It’s a lovely outfit.”
The woman bought the ensemble.
Before Saturday rolled around again,
the owner called my Aunt. “We are not busy
enough to have your niece come in anymore.”
I didn’t really mind.
Shopping was not as much fun
from ” inside.” And,
ever since that job,
I never ask a sales person
to tell me how I look.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This me a couple of years after the events in the poem. My sense of fashion was not nearly as developed as I then thought it was!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: What to consider a “first” job? That was hard to decide. Would I consider as “first” a job my job as a clerk in a dress shop in the summer? Or my work shelving records in the college radio station? Or my summer sojourn in the planning department at the University of Pittsburgh between my first and second years of graduate school, a fun internship that gave me experience and a killer recipe for egg roll? I decided to go with chronological order and share with you why I decided not to remain in the retail world.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Leotta has been playing with words on page and stage since childhood in Pittsburgh. She is a writer and story performer. Her poetry and essays appear or are forthcoming in Gnarled Oakthe A-3 Review, Hobart Literary ReviewSilver Birch, Peacock,Postcard Poems and Prose among others. Her first poetry chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, was recently released by Finishing Line Press. She also has written a series of novels, Legacy of Honor, and a set of four picture books, Rosa’s Shell is the latest. A group of her short stories, Simply a Smile is available in paper and on Kindle. You can find more about her work on her blog at joanleotta.wordpress.com, follow her on twitter @beachwriter12 or on Facebook at Joan Leotta, Author and Story Performer.

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Miss Humphrey
by Leslie Sittner

She was tall, broad, quietly forceful. Mostly intimidating. And, as a 17-year-old, I thought, ancient, uncool, and wore dreadful sensible shoes. Definitely not fashionable. I was a freshman at Cornell in the early1960s in the College of Human Ecology. She was the stern taskmaster of the Textiles and Clothing Department.

But I loved the classes she taught. I learned plenty and performed well.

Junior year she invited me to her home for tea. By myself. Nervous? Absolutely. To my surprise she didn’t seem so very old; she was charming. And funny.

After graduating, moving to New Your City, and beginning my first professional fashion designer job, she invited me to return and lecture on my “design experience” in the Big Apple. She was impressed that I, as a children’s sleepwear designer, had several full page ads in the New York Times featuring my creations. I felt like a successful graduate and creative person!

Apparently the lecture was worthwhile because soon she notified me that she’d be coming to the City to visit me at my job. The company was located in the famous Little Singer (sewing machine!) Building on lower Broadway. It’s a magnificent edifice that enjoys landmark status. Even the elevator was remarkable.

When Miss Humphrey arrived at our fifth floor, she was slightly rattled, slightly disheveled, slightly tongue-tied. It was a Friday, payday, and we hadn’t yet been informed that there’d been an armed robbery in the building. She casually mentioned that the elevator exhibited telltale blood spatter. She matter-of-factly related the lobby-police-elevator experience. Then requested to meet my boss and see my design room. Just like that. And here I thought I was the blasé cool city girl.

Suddenly this tough gracious woman wasn’t ancient or uncool; I cared not a whit that she wasn’t fashionable.

IMAGE: Little Singer Building, 561 Broadway, New York City.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As hip1960’s students, we weren’t necessarily kind when discussing Miss Humphrey the Spinster. It was only hindsight that made us appreciate all she’d had to offer us. Most of us went on to successful careers in some field or another.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner has been turning to the written word as a form of self-expression and reflection. Her stories are available in print in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press, and will be featured in Adirondack Life magazine. On-line prose can be seen at 101Words, 50 Word Challenge, 50 Word Stories as well as many selections of prose and poetry at Silver Birch Press. She has finished a memoir about travels with her ex-husband and hopes a publisher will find it as humorous as she and her writer-friends do.

Carolyn Martin 1962
Taking stock
(Perth Amboy, NJ, 1962)
by Carolyn Martin

A feel for finery? I mastered it at seventeen
in Stein’s Boutique unwrapping taffeta, silk shantung
and lacy overlays, racking them along the aisles
where salesgirls worked their pitch
and matrons needed hours of pampering.

Mrs. Sixteen-Plus? Curvaceous in the satin twill.
Mrs. Husband-Cheats? Blossoms in the floral print.
Mrs. Mousy-Hair? Floats in beige chiffon
to cocktails at the Rotary, dances at the Elks.

Conspiracy of words or well-placed compliments?
I wasn’t sure. When Mr. Stein, master
of the fashion scene, perused from top
to toe and grinned, Exquisite taste!
Perfect style! blushing faces beamed.

But what’s true? I asked myself — scavenging
through dressing rooms for lipstick stains,
armpit smells, seams that stretched.

I’d gather up the garments left behind —
assuring them some day they’d host a swank event —
while salesgirls rang up hard-wrought sales
and Mrs. So-and-So strutted out
the dress shop door indulged, convinced.

SOURCE: Previously published in Star 82 Review.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The stock girl gets ready to graduate from St. Mary’s High School, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, in 1963. She hasn’t written one line of poetry yet.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a shy teenager, I worked for two years as a stock girl in a women’s dress shop — Friday nights and Saturdays at $1.00 an hour. The saleswomen were much older and well-versed in the art of fashion and flattery.  Sometimes I felt they talked women into buying dresses that weren’t quite that smart or appropriate — or, at least, that was how my untrained eye interpreted it. In any event, they were very kind and even allowed me to handle a customer or two.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: From English teacher to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has journeyed from New Jersey to Oregon to discover Douglas firs, months of rain, and perfect summers. Her poems and book reviews have appeared in publications throughout North America and the UK, and her third poetry collection, Thin Places, is slated for release by Aldrich Press in Fall 2017.

loehmann's vintage
Loehmann’s, My Mother’s Favorite Store, Becomes My First Employer
by Phyllis Klein

I was the one who took the fallen dresses, the designer pants
and shirts hanging or lying in clumps on the benches inside

the large dressing room, took them back out to the racks so
another woman could try them. I was the one who cleaned

up the racks, rearranged the sizes where they should go.
It was a comfort to be amongst all those beautiful silks,

rayons, plaids, stripes. Trying to make some sense out of
childhood, to wear the questions I hoped clothes could answer.

PHOTO: Shoppers in 1988 look through the long racks of designer sportswear and casual dresses in Loehmann’s main room during the chain’s annual fall fashion preview (Houston Chronicle).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This prompt brought back memories of something I hadn’t thought much about in such a long time. I have a life-long love of clothes and dressing up that goes back to the times I spent in that store, long before I worked there. I can remember so clearly the large dressing room, and the camaraderie of women trying things on, brought together to find luxury bargains. I thought Loehmann’s had gone out of business but discovered it is still there, online. Not the same, but glad it’s still around.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Phyllis Klein believes in poetry. Her work has appeared in the Pharos of Alpha Omega Medical Society Journal,  Qarrtsiluni online literary magazine, Silver Birch Press, New Verse News, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Chiron Review, The American Journal of Nursing, and  Dovetails, an International Journal of the Arts. She is very interested in the conversation between poets and readers of poetry. She sees artistic dialogue as an intimate relationship-building process that fosters healing on many levels. She lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area as a psychotherapist and poetry therapist. Learn more at phyllisklein.com.

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My Cowboy Hat
by Gary Campanella

I had this hat.
It was my favorite hat,
a leather cowboy hat,
handmade in Mexico.
I bought it from a migrant worker
I worked with one summer
in a Wisconsin canning factory.
This was many years ago.

It was roughly but sturdily sown
with thick leather lace
and a braided hat band
was held together with a tin clasp
and, when I bought it,
it had a wide flat brim.

I oiled it religiously, once a week,
and I wore it around the room I rented
to give it fit and shape.
By the end of the summer
it was soft and curled at the sides
and waterproof,
and it fit me, and no one else.

2.

It was my outlaw hat.
I couldn’t wear it in public
without looking silly or unbalanced,
but I wore it in the hills,
and I wore it on the frequent
road trips I took those years,
and, more commonly, I wore it
camping on the bluff
that overlooked that Wisconsin town.

I went to that bluff
when I needed space,
or a fire,
or a sunset,
and once, as I watched the cornfields
and church spires fade into silhouette,
a doe stepped lightly up behind me
and nosed the hat
down over my eyes.

(I wonder now if it was the same doe
I hit with my car,
And had to kill, a year or two later).

3.

Another time in Montana
I camped with a friend’s girlfriend
on the shores of Lake Elizabeth
a week after a Christian hiker
had been killed there,
eaten by a grizzly bear.
Though the bear had been killed
(and maybe eaten) a day later,
the local newspaper interviewed us
for our supposed fearlessness.

She and I made love that night
(our only fearless act)
and in the morning, while climbing
high in the rocks of Going-to-the-Sun Mountain,
she found an eagle feather
and stuck it in my hat band.
She and I never told anyone
we made love, and we never
made love again.
Today she’s a born-again Christian
somewhere in the Arizona desert,
far away from grizzly bears.

4.

I also kept two seagull feathers
in the hat band.
These I found in a ten-day storm
on the shore of Lake Superior.
I was trapped
in a broken-down, mouse infested
Quonset hut. I uprighted a rusted
potbelly stove and improvised
a chimney for a fire. I chopped
wood til the hatchet broke,
then cut wood til the saw broke,
then snatched driftwood from the waves
and dried it alongside the stove
before burning it. After five days
I was low on food and lived
on flour biscuits, whiskey
and some blueberries
I braved the storm to pick.

On the ninth day the weather cleared
enough to walk along the lakeshore.
There I found the feathers – and I thought
how those gulls had made their way,
over the hills and over the years,
all the way
from the Atlantic –
like me –
to this westernmost Great Lake.

5.

Sometime later
I was on the West Coast,
walking it. The hat
was my only luxury.
It earned its keep
in the Mojave Desert sun.

There were three of us,
and we were three weeks across the desert
when we stumbled into a frontier town,
at the foot of the Sierra Nevada.

We were hot and dry and wearing out.
We were low on food, out of money,
with three more days to walk.
The Sierra loomed over us
like a jail sentence.
I found a box of supplies
left by others
in the corner of the post office.
The idea was You take something,
you leave something,
so I took a bag of rice,
a bag of dried apples,
and some instant coffee.
It was enough for three days.
It was all we would need.

In return I left my hat.

Reaching the door
I looked back and saw
dusty rays of sun glancing
off its worn, oiled skin.
It was shining.
I turned and walked
into the harsh white light.

I search for it now and again.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I write most days, and most days I work on making my memoir or my novel better, more ready for publication. This creative process, like most creative endeavors, like much of the traveling I have done over the years, takes many twists and turns. While working last year on a section about hiking in the Mojave Desert I came across an old journal passage where I said goodbye to the cowboy hat described in the poem. I put down my pen, backed away from my keyboard, and reflected on my history with the hat, both before and after I intentionally lost it. And so I wrote it down, not in prose, which is the business of my memoir, but in rhythm and verse, which is the business of my memory. I hope you enjoy it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gary Campanella is a Senior Manager and Vice President in Office Services for The Capital Group Companies.  He is a career operations manager and leader, rising most days before 6:00 and working until after 5:00. After that he squeezes in parenting time with his two children, quality time with his wife, and then an hour or two squeezing out a few words. Some of his avocational achievements have included hiking the 2700-mile Pacific Crest Trail, volunteering as a backpacking instructor and wilderness first responder for the Appalachian Mountain Club, and extensive travel throughout the United States (he has slept at least one night in 49 of the 50 states), Europe, and the Middle East. Most recently he has completed two book-length manuscripts, a novel about a murder, and a memoir about traveling. He resides in Los Angeles, California. Samples of his writing can be found at GaryCampanella.com.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken five years ago from the summit of Mt. Whitney, tallest mountain in the lower 48, after losing cowboy hat.

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Hat Heaven
by Karen Eastlund

The hat shop caught my attention
But I couldn’t stop at the time
We were in mid-tour
In a foreign country
We didn’t speak the language
Nor would we know where to meet at end of day
We had to stay the course
But I was determined to find that shop again
Later, when I voiced my plan
My husband clasped my arm
With both hands, protesting
“No, you’ll get lost…
You don’t know where you’re going…
I don’t want to lose you….”
Sweet, I thought,
But heedless of my quest for
The perfect hat shop

To be fair, I had been disoriented
A few times on our trip
Had turned right instead of left
So I listened to him
But also convinced him
Until finally
I led us straight to the desired shop

And there they were
Beautiful hats
Shapely and neat
Wool for warmth
In many colors
Accessible for trying on
Plenty of mirrors
Ready assistants
Bringing more and more hats
Gently suggesting an appropriate fit
The hat shop of my dreams!

I walked out in a new woolen cloche,
Navy blue with a bow at one ear,
And a confident smile
That only a well-chosen hat can bring

The next day
When several appeared in new hats
We smiled demurely at one another
Sharing an unspoken sentiment
Great hat!

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me in my hat, taken in January 2017.

NOTES FROM THE AUTHOR: This took place in Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO town in Czech Republic that we visited while cruising the Danube. The shop mentioned is without a doubt the best hat shop I have ever found.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Eastlund lives in New Jersey. She is retired after teaching preschool and providing children’s programs at her local library. Karen enjoys her grandchildren, travel, music, reading, gardening, and the practice of writing. She posts regularly on various children’s poetry blogs.

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Overcoat
by Vincent Francone

Thinner than eyelid skin: my heels through the snow.
An old man approaches. His hair is patchy and he wears
an overcoat beaten by the weather
with one button suspended and the fabric well-worn
just like my old overcoat, the one
an ex-girlfriend made me donate
after it’d been on my back for seven winters
until she said she wouldn’t be seen in public
with me looking so shabby—
“It’s me or the coat, your decision.”

I chose poorly.
The coat went to the Salvation Army
on Grand Avenue under the overpass
the one that smells of coffee and chocolate.
I want to ask this stranger where he got the coat
but think better of it, let him pass
with my favorite garment
the one with the stain on the back
shaped almost like Illinois
were Indiana to get bold and press its border west.

PHOTO: Homeless man from Batman Begins (2005), a film shot in Chicago, where the author lives.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a true story. I had an overcoat that I loved—I thought it looked rather cool. I was told to get rid of it, which I did, which I immediately regretted. The homeless man in the poem was wearing the same coat—I’m sure of it. I thought briefly of offering him money for the garment, but that seemed ridiculous. I also thought of asking if I might search the pockets, as I am sure I left a note or something of interest in the coat, but again, that seemed like a bad idea. In the end, I let it go (again). I lost the coat twice, but sometimes you have let these things go.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vincent Francone
 is a writer from Chicago whose memoir, Like a Dog, was published in the fall of 2015.  He won first place in the 2009 Illinois Emerging Writers Competition (Gwendolyn Brooks Award) and is at work on a collection of poems and stories. Visit vincentfrancone.com to read his work or say hi.

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The First Time I Read My Poems in a Hat
by Carol A. Stephen

at an open mic, I’m too terrified
to be myself, to stand in front, to speak
my own words to all those faces, other poets,
the ones who read their poems with aplomb.

I think of The Hat. It’s a beautiful hat:
swirled brown Swakara fur, pure white ostrich feather.
A frivolous hat, a dramatic hat,
an important kind of hat.

When I place it on my head, I become The Poet,
take on a new persona sporting a splendid plume.
I might be a musketeer, a courtier, grande dame,
I might be anyone but me.

No one sees the paper shake, nor hears
the tremor in my voice. What they see
isn’t really me. They see The Poet,
and it’s all about the poem, all about that hat.

PHOTO: The author at home in her hat.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I bought the hat on a whim at a fur shop, because it was such a whimsical hat, and it went well with my favourite coat. But that one day, I needed something to give me an extra boost. I spotted the hat on a shelf in the hallway, and took it along on a whim to the  Sasquatch Poetry Series in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, where I read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Carol A. Stephen is a Canadian poet. Her poetry has appeared in Bywords Quarterly Journal and two Tree Press/phaphours press collaborative chapbooks. You can also find Carol’s poems on-line at thelightekphrastic.com and in videos at treereadingseries.ca. Twice shortlisted,  in 2012 Carol won third place in Canadian Authors Association National Capital Writing Contest. She’s the author of three chapbooks, Above the Hum of Yellow JacketsArchitectural Variations, and Ink Dogs in my Shoes (2014), as well as a collaborative chapbook with JC Sulzenko, Breathing Mutable Air (2015), and a  chapbook of ekphrastic poems, Slant of Light (2016). Visit her at quillfyre.wordpress.com.

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Knit Cap
by Thomas Park

Big Sleep
Dry light

Through dirty window panes

One long Winter, no
Central heat

My apartment, South Side Saint Louis,
Small already

Reduced in essence to one bed, where
Under the covers I lay

18 hours night
And day

Covered in Winter coat,
Knit cap
To keep the heat in

So cold, Somehow the faucet
Dripped still

The slow percolation of warmth
As it approached
But never turned
To ice

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Out and about in the South Side with the very knit cap, which I’ve had for about 12 years.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was created by trying to remember as exactly as possible the experience of lying in bed for the bigger part of one winter, when I was poor and depressed. I recall wearing a black knit cap most of the time (even in bed) as my apartment had very little heat.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thomas Park has lived in Saint Louis, Missouri, for most of his life, and in the South Side for several years. Before he met his wife, he lived alone and in poverty. Those years have been the grist for much poetry and other art. Thomas is much happier and better off now, but he remembers how things were.

Self-portrait by the author. 

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More than Metaphor
by Susana H. Case

My father, his tears dropping
onto the dresses in her closet
as we selected my mother’s
burial clothes,
the man I had never seen cry.
Stooped, wracked man,
blinded by macular.
This one? I asked, holding each close
to his face. This?
He was the wound and I was the balm.

The break in his heart, a ballooning
ventricle shaped like an octopus trap.
I can’t remember
what we decided for her, most likely
something in black and white,
her favorite color combination.
He died exactly six months after.

I kept her feathered hat.
It works only as costume
with this life
in which I’ve scratched my orphaned way.
Made of birds shot by plume hunters
in spring, when colors
were most vivid.
They left behind bereft partners
and chicks, as parents do,
became a cespitose pile of feathers,
in those hat-years,
exist only as memory
worth more than its weight in gold.

PHOTO: Author with Feathered Hat

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’ve only worn the hat in the poem a few times in the last 23 years. It’s hard to find the right occasion and there’s a certain political incorrectness to using feathers in this way, given what we know now. But when I have worn it, I’m very aware of it, very aware of my mother, who definitely had an affinity for hats.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susana H. Case’s newest and fourth poetry book is 4 Rms w Vu (Mayapple Press, 2014). Author of  four chapbooks, including The Scottish Café which was re-released in a Polish-English version, Kawiarnia Szkocka, by Opole University Press in Poland, and re-released in its original version by Slapering Hol Press. She is a Professor and Program Coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology.