There’s something about getting dirty that I can’t help but love. Or perhaps it’s less about getting dirty but more about not worrying about staying perfectly clean. Coming home with messed-up hair and couple of splotches on my clothes means that I’m really getting out there, having adventures and living life to the fullest. Romping around nature is part of the fun, and one of the secret ingredients that makes outdoor play days so special.
I have always had these tomboyish tendencies, much to the dismay of my immaculately dressed Italian family. I grew up in the ‘60s, which was not far away from the perfectionistic ‘50s, and I remember always struggling to fit within the fashion standards of the era. Throughout my childhood, my beautiful mum was always perfectly coiffed and impeccably dressed. She would never be caught out looking frumpy in her nightie or without makeup. I can still remember her careful primping each day and the need she felt to look her best, no matter the occasion.
As for us kids, keeping up appearances was definitely important. We always had to look spic and span when going out, whether to the doctors or the city or out visiting friends. We had our Sunday best to wear to on these occasions—beautiful pieces of clothing painstakingly hand-crafted by my mum or grandma. It was our one and only special outfit and we always had to take extra care not to spoil it. They were taken care of immaculately, always darned and washed and looked after. I grew up knowing I'd be in huge trouble if I got dirty or ripped or ruined anything.
I can still remember how uncomfortable I was those Sunday mornings, getting ready for church and visiting friends. It felt like a nightmare wearing those itchy clothes and having to stand still so as not to get them messed up. Even for school we had a uniform that had to be pristine and ironed and pressed and in perfect condition… socks pulled up, shoes polished every morning, hair pulled back in tight tidy plaits or pigtails, ties and hats and gloves… Absolute torture for a budding little tomboy like me.
No matter how much I enjoyed the beauty and colour and prettiness that come with being well dressed, I detested the pressure to be ladylike, and to keep prim and clean all the time. It grated on me being told to keep my shoes on or not to mess up my hair. I just wanted to to do cartwheels and climb trees and not brush my hair for days. Sitting still and looking perfect did not make my heart sing like fun and adventure and frolicking did.
But fortunately, I got a glimmer of another way to live. We had a beautiful tradition of family picnics, when carloads of cousins and aunties and uncles would all head off to some wild place for the day. On those days I got to wear my Snoopy sweatshirt and Levi’s jeans, without a care in the world for how pretty and perfect they looked. It wouldn't matter as much if I got dirty or scuffed my shoes or jeans… I was free. The feeling was incredible. Racing around in the bush, playing in creeks with stick and stones, climbing trees, huddling around a campfire after dark… I couldn’t imagine anything better. And in those rare moments, for the first time in my life, I got to escape the echo of the perfection and truly feel like myself.
These experiences are exactly what led me to create Sea Gypsy. As I grew older I realized that pretty clothes are wonderful, but not if they stop you living. Of course I wanted to wear clothes that looked gorgeous, but it was important to me that it was not a problem getting a little stain something on them or wearing them for an afternoon in the garden. I wanted to be able to tear them while climbing a tree without shedding a tear and even sometimes sleep in them.
And now that I have more beautiful Sea Gypsy pieces than I could ever have dreamed, my favourite clothes still remain those that have been the most well loved and well worn. The patches and mending that keep them together is what makes me love them more. All those signs of wear are no different than the so-called “imperfections” that make us ladies who we truly are as well. To me, they’re like those smile wrinkles or sunspots or sparkly gray hairs that we all experience as a result of years of having fun. Those little details are what makes us special and real and alive. They are signs that we have lived and loved… and they are precious reminders to me of the beauty of adventuring.
Which is why I’ve specifically designed each Sea Gypsy items to be washed and worn over and over and over again. In some ways they truly get better with age. The colours fade and they get torn and tattered, but I see that as opportunity to help them transform into something new and even more lovely. Dye them once more, tie a knot where that tiny rip is, add a flower scrunchy or a sweet lacey patch to where you dropped oily pasta on them. The possibilities are endless.
So breathe easy with your Sea Gypsy clothes… They’re made for that. Enjoy them, wear them to death, sleep in them, get them filthy. Bleach them, hang them in the sun, roll on the sand and take them on every adventure your heart desires. Throw them together even if they might not match and add a ribbon a little flower when they need it.
And as much as we can still feel like those little girls wanting to please our mums and behave and stay clean, I believe there is a way to look pretty and feel amazing. I deserve that and you do, too. Times have changed and we’re able to truly be ourselves like never before. And my true self isn’t happy unless she is free.