Life Lessons from a Linen Jacket
By Stacey Lindsay
About 10 or so years ago, I imposed a rule upon myself: For every new piece of clothing I bought, I would part with an item from my closet. It was not an original idea. I had gleaned it from the pages of a magazine. It was, however, revolutionary for me.
At the time, I had a tiny closet that was bursting with ‘nothing to wear.’ It was filled with blouses and tees and skirts that pulled and stretched on my skin and never made me feel good. Each one had provided a jolt of excitement when I first brought it home. Soon after, that energy faded, leaving in its wake a detritus of impulsive sartorial decisions that sat lackluster on my shelves.
My closet had reminded me of that wonderful Annie Dillard quote: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” It made me realize that I was spending my days bound in clothing that didn’t make me feel good. Rather than protecting and amplifying me, my clothing had been cloaking me in insecurity. These pieces were relics of decisions fueled by impulse and the expectation of others. This filled me with despair.
So I formulated a mantra of sorts: One in, one out. I took my time. I considered all that I desired to buy—or all that I thought I desired to buy. I began to seek quality over fast and quick. I yearned to know the story behind an item rather than the number on its tag. Gently, like the air, I started to feel a lightness. The clothing that didn’t speak to me drifted out of my closet. I donated pieces or gave them to friends for whom they excited.
As items left, new ones came in. Pieces that felt more me. Thick all-cotton denim. Simple locally crafted t-shirts. In the time that I took to consider each new piece and simultaneously ruminate on which ones I would release, my style began to reveal itself. I learned what felt good on my body in terms of cut, material, and function.
Six months or so later, a jacket entered my life. I was walking by a tiny shop, Eden & Eden, in San Francisco when it caught my eye. Sheeny waxed linen. A high architectural collar. Three-quarter sleeves. When I put it on, I felt like I was visiting my grandmother. It felt like home. Warm. Perfect. Me. I looked at the tag: It was more than I had spent on a jacket. I asked the shop owner about the maker. She told me it was Lan Jaenicke, “a new designer local to San Francisco.” I calculated all that I would part with from my closet to make room for this new piece. I took a deep breath and I bought it.
At the time, I didn’t know the impact my new jacket would have on my life. I simply knew that I loved it—its energy and feel. And I knew that I had to wear it to lower the ‘cost per wear,’ as they say. But what I didn’t know, and what I soon realized, is that this jacket gave me freedom. The freedom to walk outside into the world feeling like me. Each time I put it on, I felt powerful and beautiful. I wore it to dinner. On walks. With friends. On trips to the farmers’ market. I brought it to Boston and Buenos Aires and Joplin and Berlin. Everywhere I went, there was my jacket.
My first Lan Jaenicke jacket—still pristine a decade later.
What my Lan Jaenicke jacket helped me realize was all that I had been missing from my closet. I used to fill my time with items that didn’t mean anything to me. These pieces left me depleted. They also pulled from my wallet. On the contrary, when I chose something that I fully loved, I had the freedom to think of other things, and the ability to save more money. There were fewer decisions to make, and more living to do.
My coat also help me see my worthiness. We all deserve to cover ourselves in pure fabrics that honor us. When we see this, we feel good—and when we feel good, we show up for ourselves and those we love.
Now I see the clothing I choose as serving a higher purpose: items give me comfort and joy and hold me steady. They amplify and protect me. This is how my first Lan Jaenicke wax linen jacket still functions, thousands of wears later. Every piece of clothing I now bring into my life is a symbol of who I am. By learning to slow down and contemplate how I want to feel before buying something, it has allowed me to fully see myself.
Because, in light of Annie Dillard’s sentiment, what we choose to wear plays a part in how we live our lives.