We all have our favorite pair of shoes, pants, etc., for working in the garden. As it so happens most of mine have tended to hover in the chromatic range of brown.

For years that worked out well. No matter how dirty I was at the end of the day in the garden, my attire did not “look” dirty because it was dirt-colored to begin with. But over time that fashion choice has presented a problem or two.

Like for instance, some time ago I was hunkered down in the garden, no doubt engrossed in the task at hand when my daughter happened to come upon the scene. I straightened up to greet her as I realized her presence. With that she let out a little gasp and jumped back slightly — aghast!

Oh!” she exclaimed. “I thought you were a clump of dirt!” Imagine the horror of witnessing an inanimate object, like a super-large clod of dirt, come to life before your eyes, stand up and begin to talk! Perhaps there is no higher praise for any gardener than to mistake them for their favorite medium, but then again maybe not so much.

So, you can imagine my interest when I encountered a garden piece in “Outside” magazine titled: “Four Things You Should Wear for Gardening This Summer”

I was immediately drawn into the topic. At first glance I expected the piece would include some well-advised safety items like the Velcro-fastened back brace I wear whenever I am digging or turning compost. It’s things like that which make for fewer sore muscles.

Or maybe something to prevent scrapes and cuts, like the long-armed Foxgloves that protect not only my hands, but my forearms too from thorns when pruning roses or raspberries. I looked forward to learning about some new, improved products out there that I might have overlooked or was not aware of. A few garden fashion bargains would be nice too.

Author Blair Braverman, started out her piece with: “Old clothes are a great gardening go-to—you really can't go wrong—but if you're looking for something new, these are my current favorites for keeping cool and protected.”

Well “protected” sounded promising. We all want to avoid overheating too. If there was something out there that I should be wearing or using, that I wasn’t already wearing — I wanted to know. But it didn’t take long to realize her story went straight to fashion and refused to budge. Perhaps I have been doing it all wrong all these years, but I am not prepared to bid a fond farewell to my old patched Carharts.

First item on her list of must-haves was a pair of denim overalls. Yeah denim overalls are loose and comfy, but whoever thought they were right for women deserves a booby prize. Unless they’ve got snaps along the inseams like the ones toddlers wear; When “nature” calls in order to answer that summons, any female in overalls has to basically disrobe.


Never mind that the pair Blair had in mind retailed above $100. In my book overalls are simply not practical.

Next came a pair of rubber “ballet flats.” I kid you not. That’s what Blair thinks a proper gardener should wear. Maybe that celebrated occupant of the White House who prances out in her Louboutin stilettos or Manolo Blahnik pumps with her gold-plated shovel to redo the rose garden would find these more suitable.

As for me, no thanks. I’ll stick to my gum shoes.

But the real coup de gras in her story was a roomy shirt she recommended. The photo of it made it look like a nice, colorful shirt with long sleeves for sun and insect protection. It was described as thick, but not stiff. All that sounded great until you get to the part about the price — $198 — and that's for one shirt. To think that all these years I’ve been wearing my husband’s all-cotton cast-off Oxford-cloth shirts that give me the same protection and movability!

Last on the list of Blair’s must-wear garden fashions was a sensible apron with a pocket big enough to gather all sorts of vegetables and fruits or weeds or whatever. I have to admit that an apron is indeed a good choice for garden attire, though I usually just gather up the front hem of my big shirt when picking a few items.

My sun hat has also served as a harvest “basket” in a pinch, and I have a collection of real baskets that I use for big hauls. They offer plenty of space so things aren’t crowded, or liable to get bruised.

Aside from a lack of a recommendation for a sun hat and garden gloves, there was something even more important that Blair left out of her garden fashion piece. That is the fact that just as many men garden as do women, and her article was clearly aimed at only women. On the other hand my garden couture is suitable for either sex. Just sayin’…

But it turns out Blair was right about one thing — old clothes are great — you really can’t go wrong. I think she should have left her advice at that, or directed her tone-deaf piece for “Vogue” or “Bazaar.” I may not be “well-dressed” in Blair’s opinion when I head out to hoe or weed or plant, but these days I am wearing a range of colors — bright ones too — so no one will mistake me for a lump of dirt ever again. Who knew I could turn out to be a garden fashionista?

Lynette L. Walther is the GardenComm Gold medal winner for writing and a five-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Medal of Achievement and the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. Her gardens are in Camden.