Thursday, February 17, 2011

I was country, when country wasn't cool

On a recent shopping trip, with my super-hip, fashion merchandising sister, Molly, I bought my first pair of leggings.  Well, I owned some when I was twelve, but this was my first pair of leggings for my adult body.  My sister provided plenty of encouragement to jump on board this fashionable leggings bandwagon.

And after several dress rehearsals around the house and plenty of reassurance from my husband (Are you sure I can leave the house in these?), I hit the town in my fashionable get-up.  A few friends - whether truly being nice or just playing nice - even offered compliments.  I've since worn them three times.  I'm feeling pretty hip.

Because fashion isn't usually my thing.  My favorite outfits revolve around jeans, solid-colored tops, and boots or tennis shoes.  Maybe some cute jewelry here and there; but really, I am Sarah Plain and Tall. 

And not just when it comes to clothes.  My mantra for living has always been anything but hip and fashionable.  My preferences for simple clothes, rustic decor and a homemade, do-it-yourself-, middle of Kansas, conservative way of life never earned the adjectives of hip, modern, en vogue, forward, or contemporary.

Until yesterday.

The March 2011 issue of Country Living Magazine landed in my mailbox.  I flip to the editor's message on page 8 to find this: "Rural Is the New Urbane."  Followed up with phrases like:

...an unexpected epicenter of cool: America's heartland.


...the most sophisticated restaurant in my Manhattan (New York) neighborhood is a comfort-food joint called Red Rooster.

Page 81 boldly features a quote from Loretta Lynn - the queen of all things country, "I have grown a vegetable garden my whole life - heck that was the only way we'd all eat.  I remember folks thought that was so country!  Now it's in style."  (Ditto.)

This issue of the magazine devotes much of it's content to ways country decor, food, and lifestyles have penetrated urban places.

I thought I was feeling hip with a pair of leggings in my wardrobe, but now, I have been elevated to a new level of fashionable I never thought possible.

The center of the magazine features "25 people, projects and products redefining rustic."  Here, I'm offering my own spin - a new-look at all things we, rustic, down-home, middle-of-the-country, do-it-yourself'er mommies have been doing since we hit the Kansas prairie running:

1. Repurposing.  The barn wood and old barn hooks holding towels in my bathroom, the farm house window and old screen door decorating my living room, and the vintage tub collecting shoes at the back door are now fashionable looks.

2.  Gardening.  Remember when your mother made you pull weeds in the vegetable garden?  Now that's called organic gardening and it's very cool.

3.  Canning and preserving fruits and vegetables.  Remember the hot summers days your spent helping your mother can those green beans and tomatoes?  That's also very cool.

4. Made from scratch anything.  I learned to make yeast breads and pie crusts from my mother, grandmother and 4-H cooking leader.  I teach my own children each time we bake.  Today, you can take a class in Brooklyn, New York to learn how to make your own pie crusts.

5. Foods like yeast rolls, pot roast, and homemade ice cream are called comfort foods and they are fashionable at urban restaurants.  Out here, we call it supper.

6. Knitting, crocheting, quilting, crafting, sewing, and all those summertime projects we toiled over to enter in the county fair - they're cool, too.

7. Rustic clothing like denim and plaid, and leather boots that we wear for function; for warmth and safety in the elements.  Again, fashionable.

8.  Haycations: a weekend get-away to a farm where urban and suburban families take part in the farm chores, tend to gardens and livestock, and help prepare their own meals.  Just another day in paradise, folks.

It's hard not to be cynical when something like this magazine drops in your mailbox.  And it's especially hard not to be cynical when all of a sudden, the life you and I have known forever is now hip and subject to the criticisms of the majority, the urban and suburban consumers.  Think of the louder, more visible voices out there jumping on our rural, rustic bandwagon and now telling us that the way we've been producing food and fiber isn't good enough anymore.

The sudden, emerging fashion appeal of agriculture and rural life is good and bad.

If you're serious about getting back to your rural roots - then come on back to Kansas.  We could use a few more warm, able, hard-working bodies in our communities and rural schools.

But if you're just riding this wave of fashion until the next big thing comes along - then lend some respect to those who earned the right to be rustic because of the life they choose to live.

I will relish my few moments of "high-fashion-legging-wearing-mommy," but I certainly won't start telling you how to dress.  I'll leave that to my sister, Molly.  She's fully earned her fashion credibility.

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