By Lavinia in Portland
Ivey Abitz first came across my radar in 2013, though I cannot remember how. I was instantly enchanted. I ordered one frock, and the ensuing winter storms on the east coast delayed the arrival of this frock well past the holiday season. Cynthia corresponded with me and was most concerned and reassuring. She treated me as if I had ordered an entire wardrobe when it was only one frock, on sale. Her courtesy impressed me. I loved my new frock. It was elegant, simplicity itself, and I found many ways to wear it.
In spring, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, and though it was stage one, it was a particularly aggressive kind of tumor. It was profoundly shocking as I was propelled into the efficient machine of cancer treatment, beginning chemotherapy within two weeks, knowing surgery was the final outcome. I elected to have a double mastectomy because if the lymph came out clean, I would not have to undergo radiation. I didn’t want to mess around with this kind of aggressive cancer. I wanted it GONE. I elected to not have a reconstruction done. I would be flat chested. Yet I still wanted to feel feminine.
When summer arrived – hairless (me, not summer) – I found the IA summer sale email and began to dream. This body was undergoing many changes and sensations. I dreamt of a new body. I dreamt of a look that would be sensual, feminine, dignified, playful, gamine. I thought about what excited me and knew that the feel of clothes, the touch of fabrics, was as important as the flow and line. I placed an order, then another, and another, and Cynthia and I began a dialogue. It felt so good to know someone was on the other side dreaming and creating and making these clothes – someone with an aesthetic similar to mine, with a passion for beauty, elegance, and quality.
When Cynthia invited me write a piece for the Ivey Abitz blog, I was thrilled. I’ve been a lover of clothing and costumes all my life, and I know I am not alone. Sometimes I feel conflicted about this passion. Yet, as we make major life changes, we humans, in all cultures I can think of, invariably wear some special and particular clothing to mark the occasion. Christenings. Baptisms. First communions. First day of school. Graduation. Marriage. Taking vows. We mark these occasions with special garments. In the Jewish tradition, there’s even a blessing you say when you don a new garment. Clothes are ornaments of the human body. They can be playful, expressive, freeing, restrictive, sensual, powerful, symbolic. They can evoke an entire life, allowing one to capture feelings difficult to express. Clothing solicits our imagination and invites us to invent ourselves again and again.
I wanted to reinvent a more spacious self, braver in being willing to wear what pleased me, rather than what was considered “hip.” I wanted my clothing to move and be moving. Slipping my Ivey Abitz Lake Plaid frock over my head and shoulders felt like I was sliding into a pool of cool water. The cloth moved as I moved, making a swishy sound. When I wear it, I am transported to a green glade. In it, I walk with sunlight on my shoulders, even in our Portland rain. I found the Cobblestone Pond gauzy cotton incredibly soothing on my recently surgically altered chest. I feel swathed and comforted. I love how the Tilbrook and Hambledon dusters flutter around my legs. It makes wearing jeans feel impoverishing by comparison. I combine these garments with elements from my current wardrobe, like boots and sweaters.
It is so delightful to slip on such lovely clothing knowing the designs and fabrics are quite unique. I feel spacious when I wear these garments. And I frequently experience a kind of synesthesia, where sounds, sensations, scents, and colors frolic in my consciousness. Here’s a little of what I experience when I wear Ivey Abitz designs: Celtic music, sun streaming through leaves just so, susurration of wind and leaves, fragrant breezes. People respond to these looks. There is a heightened sensation that accompanies the wearing of Ivey Abitz. I highly recommend it.