me in the blue shirt

Elegy for a Blue Cotton Button-down

This morning, I put on my old blue cotton Lands’ End button-down shirt and discovered that it has a large rip in one sleeve. It’s not repairable – the shirt is gone. Before I take it apart for its second life as rags and extra buttons, pause with me a while as I sift through the closet of my memory.

I bought the shirt from the Lands’ End catalog in 1998. I bought a size 14 because that was the only size large enough to fit around my 38-inch ribcage, and I didn’t want the buttons gapping. I lived in Atlanta back then and worked at dot-com consulting company iXL. I used to wear the blue shirt to the office tucked into high-waisted brown pants, accented with a brown scarf around my neck.

me in the blue shirt
Me in the Blue Shirt, New Orleans 1999

Then I lost weight, moved to Charlotte, NC, and got fashion – the way some people get religion. The big blue shirt was relegated to the back of the closet, but I didn’t get rid of it because it was a Good Quality Classic Piece.

A couple years later, married and living in Columbia, SC, I found a new use for the shirt. I sprayed it down with Deep Woods Off and wore it while gardening in the back yard to fend off mosquitoes. It remained my go-to mosquito shield for the next several years.

Two children later, living in Aiken, I’ve gained back all the weight I lost all those years ago and then some. While looking desperately one morning for a shirt large and long enough to cover my belly, I re-discovered the old blue shirt. It still fit and button-downs were coming back in style, so the shirt once again became part of my regular wardrobe.

And now, after fourteen years, it’s gone. Well, it’s probably about time for a new shirt.

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