Dressing for the job

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Gardening hat

Because I work from home, I rarely have cause to dress up for doing a conventional day's work in an office. I do, however, give pause for thought as to what I am going to wear when I venture outdoors to do a spot of gardening. Having spent the past week deeply immersed in editing a work connected with skin cancer prevention, I have found myself reflecting on how a gardener should dress for the job, given that we spend so much of our time outdoors, exposed to UV radiation that causes skin damage.

Because of my fair skin, I favour being covered from head to toe. I know it is possible to buy elegant gardening smocks and slacks, but my gardening clothes are what can only be described as the last word in shabby - and not shabby chic! Bespoke baggy cotton trousers with modish elasticised waist for comfort (purchased at op shops for a few dollars); a fashionably loose, old, ragged, long-sleeved shirt cast off by my husband; a large, floppy hat of the type favoured by Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men; sunglasses; leather gloves; and filthy runners comprise the ensemble. In winter, a sloppy joe is added, featuring a variety of tasteful splatters of paint from previous house-decorating projects. In very wet muddy weather, I might swap the runners for stylish knee-length rubber gumboots from Bunnings and add a plastic yellow poncho.

In fact, I do rather resemble an ambulant scarecrow. One of my old neighbours, whose property adjoined the back of our garden, only ever saw me in such ghastly outfits - so much so that when we once met at a fancy magazine launch, she didn't recognise me in a cocktail outfit, heels and minus the hat!

But dressed in my gardening garb, I feel extremely comfortable and quite protected from the sun (or the rain), and able to work outside much longer than I would relying on sunscreen alone to protect my skin. It is also liberating to feel able to really get stuck into gardening tasks without worrying about getting completely muddy or that one's clothes might get torn by thorns or prickles. I can crawl through overgrown borders with abandon; even sit on the ground if necessary.

I ruined more clothes and shoes in my younger days than I care to remember by tackling a gardening job on the spur of the moment whilst still dressed in decent outfits from being out somewhere. Somehow, mud just doesn't never comes out of that expensive silk blouse or pretty flounced skirt. And I can't recommend a foray into a garden bed wearing stilettos!

Even dressed as I am in my outfit, I do try to avoid gardening in the middle of the day, especially in summer, and like to garden early or later on in the afternoon to dodge excess exposure to the sun. I also try to garden where the shade is at any given time. I can honestly say I have spent more happy hours wearing my hideous gardening clothes in pursuit of my hobby than I have in the finest of fancy outfits perched on precarious heels and daintily nibbing a canapé ...