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Published: Sunday, 1/9/2005

Dressed to relax

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Cathi and Russ Bohland relax in their sweats on a Saturday afternoon. Mrs. Bohland is wearing the 'Grandpa' shirt she had given to her father. Cathi and Russ Bohland relax in their sweats on a Saturday afternoon. Mrs. Bohland is wearing the 'Grandpa' shirt she had given to her father.
SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge

Comfort clothes are the mashed potatoes and gravy of one's wardrobe.

They may not look great on us, but they sure make us feel good.

Although comfort clothes know no season, they're especially welcome now, when the holidays are history and the dark nights of winter seem even blacker and colder. Enough of the high heels, neckties, buttons, and zippers. On with the flannel and fleece, elastic waistbands and pullover tops.

Ahhhh . . . .

Kelly Odneal of Oregon remembers someone asking her, 'What's with the sweatshirt?' "

"I said, 'This is my favorite sweatshirt,' and they said, 'I can tell.' "

The giveaway could have been the frayed ribbing at the wrists or the holes in the armpits. "I don't know what is holding it together," she admits.

But looks aren't everything - or anything really - when it comes to comfort. Wearing her favorite sweatshirt makes her feel "all warm and fuzzy inside," Ms. Odneal explains. "I think I'll keep it around until it falls apart in the wash."

Carol Dunn relaxes at home in pants she bought in the mid-70s from a vendor in Venice, Calif. She's now down to her last two pairs, she said. Carol Dunn relaxes at home in pants she bought in the mid-70s from a vendor in Venice, Calif. She's now down to her last two pairs, she said.
LONG / BLADE Enlarge

Likewise, Carol Dunn of the Old West End prizes her military surplus "vesicant gas protective" pants - reversible, flannel on one side, cotton on the other, with drawstring waist and cuffs, and plenty roomy. The pants were intended to be worn as an outer garment, to protect a soldier's skin against chemical agents.

Ms. Dunn bought her first two pair from a beach vendor in Venice, Calif., for $10 each during the mid '70s. "I would have bought more, but he wouldn't take a check or credit card," she adds.

One of those two original pairs is gone; the other survives in the form of shorts because the knees wore out.

Over the years Ms. Dunn has found the pants in Army/Navy stores in Chicago; Orlando, Fla.; Duluth, Minn., and Manhattan. Sadly, "I'm down to my last two pair," she reports.

She fills in her comfort wardrobe with cotton scrub pants.

"I don't have a skirt or a dress anymore and I don't want to ever get into another one again," she declares, admitting that she used to be a fashion hound and subscriber to Women's Wear Daily. "Now I hardly ever look at a fashion magazine," Ms. Dunn says. "It just doesn't mean very much to me anymore."

In Pioneer, Ohio, Carole Spencer's first pair of hospital scrubs - now about 20 years old - has achieved heirloom status. She's still wearing them every chance she gets, but when they finally get too threadbare and tattered to wear anymore, she's going to pack them away and leave them for her daughters, she says.

"I'm going to hang onto those babies," Mrs. Spencer says. "I can't bear to part with them. I love them."

A licensed practical nurse, she remembers when dressing for work meant putting on a crisply starched and ironed uniform, shiny white shoes, and nylons, her hair pinned up under her cap. Only the doctors and operating room nurses wore scrubs.

Then the rest of the hospital staff were liberated of their traditional uniforms. Mrs. Spencer, who was working in the emergency room at Community Hospitals of Williams County in Bryan, got the blue scrubs she treasures to this day.

She works now in the Sleep Center at Community Hospitals of Williams County in Montpelier. "Even though I wear scrubs everyday to work, as soon as I get home I change out of my working scrubs, shower, and get into my old scrubs, and I do that on the weekends, too, if we're not going anyplace."

She noticed recently that they're starting to look their age. "I held them up to the light recently and thought, 'I'd better not wear these outside' " Mrs. Spencer says.

Her daughters, ages 47, 44, and 43, aren't as impressed with the old scrubs as their mother is. "They're always telling me to buy some good clothes," Mrs. Spencer admits.

Val Vorderburg wears a sweat suit that belonged to her late husband, Raymond. Val Vorderburg wears a sweat suit that belonged to her late husband, Raymond.
LONG / BLADE Enlarge

Val Vorderburg has lots of nice clothes, but at the end of the day she reaches for one of two favorite sweat suits, one black, one gray. They belonged to her husband, Raymond, who died four years ago. "He wore them a lot, too," she says.

"They're just so comfortable. They are fleece, nice and soft. My daughter gets sick of seeing them," says Mrs. Vorderburg of South Toledo. She says she wears them most evenings.

Her attachment isn't just physical; it's sentimental as well, a way of being close to the man she was married to for 57 years.

"I dream of him all the time. I really miss him," she says.

Cathi Bohland of Temperance understands. She has a wardrobe of comfort clothes - flannel pants, elastic-waist knit shorts, baggy T-shirts - but closest to her heart is the "Grandpa" sweatshirt she gave her dad, Leonard Brossia, when she had her first baby 30 years ago.

"He died two years ago, so I inherited it," she explains. "I put it on with a pair of sweatpants and think fondly of my wonderful dad, who I miss every single day."

Her husband, Russ, has a favorite lounging outfit, too, one that features well-worn gray sweatpants.

"They've been around forever," Mrs. Bohland says. "I have to sneak them to wash them."

Contact Ann Weber at: aweber@theblade.com or 419-724-6126.



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