Rex, one of the dogs who aren’t our dogs, made me mad the other day. He jumped on me in doggy enthusiasm and caught the bodice of my dress in his claw, ripping open the dress. I don’t like “bodice-rippers” in my reading, and I like them even less in real life. Also, that was one of my “best” clothing items, now ruined.
Dogs are only one of the many hazards for clothing here. Island life is hard on the things we wear. I don’t know about others, but when I’m on island I carry lots of things. Things that have corners and rough edges that rub and catch: baskets of laundry, ladders, cases of beer, rocks. I use glue, bleach, paints and other products that mar and stain. I dry things on a clothesline that whips in the wind. And so my clothes are in a constant cycle. Today’s “nice” dress, suitable for grocery shopping or Ribs Night, is tomorrow’s “everyday” dress for housework, and next month’s cleaning rags. Not much lasts very long.
I keep a supply of clothing at Aloe House, yet I always need to replenish what’s here. But it’s not as if it’s a constant stream of fashion. No, I buy my basics—swimsuits from L.L. Bean, dresses from El Cheapo East Coast beach shops with names like Waves, Sands, and Surf, and flip-flops from the Crocs outlet—and use them to wrap and cushion the important things like brake pads, printer cartridges and coffee beans.
Since clothing is both necessary and perishable, it’s important to establish one’s personal uniform. Guys find this super-easy: T-shirts and shorts, plus maybe a new nicer shirts with buttons and a pair of long pants for what passes as an island formal occasion. Women’s uniforms vary more. Mine tends toward dresses and skirts with swimwear as underwear, but others go with shorts and sports tops or T-shirts. Jeans for both sexes are seen around the islands, but they are hot (and I don’t mean sexy)! Skinny jeans? Well, that’s just stupid.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t any fashionable people on North Caicos. There’s just a separation between Real Life and The Fashionable Life. Looking pretty or handsome is practically its own event. Go to church, a funeral or graduation to see what I mean.
No, daily wear is different. So for those of you who are new to this, I share a few of the lessons I’ve learned:
- Go for the sturdy over the fashionable. Fancy embroidery, lace and delicate straps won’t last.
- Understand that most fabrics just don’t last, so avoid paying top dollar.
- (Corollary of #2) Don’t buy clothes in Provo, where you’ll pay tourist prices for bargain-store quality.
- Think ahead. Know that today’s clothes are tomorrow’s rags. One-hundred percent rayon doesn’t clean windows very well.
- If it works, don’t worry about wearing it to death. When I put on my one beach dress that has survived 15+ years, Addison raises an eyebrow. “You still wearing that?” Yeah. I am.
- Don’t even think about clothing-optional. Come on, people. This is North Caicos. There may not be many people, but no one wants to see that!