The Queen of My Self

…..Continued from Wednesday’s Post of Part 1….

When I was really young I made all the clothes for my paper dolls, eschewing the ready made ones that you were supposed to cut out. I also made clothes for my other dolls from my mother’s rag box and collection of buttons and ribbons. When I first moved to New York at 20, I worked as an assistant in a Hassidic day care center, went to college at night, and designed and sewed velvet palazzo pants with embroidered hippie trim on the cuffs for a boutique in the Village until they ripped off my designs and had their own Puerto Rican seamstresses stitch them up on the cheap.

In my thirties I turned my love of clothes into art. I created what I called the Salvation Sensation Cheek Boutique, a vintage shop in my loft. I collected clothes in thrift shops on my many travels and altered them in some way – added or took away collars or sleeves or changed some decorative detail. Shopping was by appointment. We would drink sherry and play dress up. The experience served as a sort of therapy, too. Not retail therapy, but working and playing with issues of Self-esteem and Self-expression. People came to create costumes to wear to divorce court, for example, or for a 50s theme sock hop, or whatever. I even hosted mending parties where folks brought the pile of stuff they had been meaning to fix. I supplied lots of threads, scissors, and notions, as well as tea, sherry, and music. We sat ensconced in comfortable cushions in a soothing domestic environment. We mended our clothes and tended our spirits.

In that same decade I did a healing ritual project at Manhattan Psychiatric Center. I collected clothes that the donors felt were lucky or soothing or healing. On Memorial day I sat with patients and doctors tearing all these energy-filled clothes into bandage strips in honor of all the women who tore all the bandages for all the wars all throughout time. Then I spent three weeks tying a strips of this healing cloth on the trees and bushes on the hospital grounds – one for every patient and staff member, 5,160 in all. My friend Sarah Jenkins took pictures of each item of clothing and of the entire ritual process. These pictures along with the journal I kept became my book, Dressing Our wounds in Warm Clothes.

In my Queen of My Self workshops, the most common concern I hear expressed is that women who are aging are feeling or afraid to feel invisible. And this is not just imagined. We have been told that we need to tone down our style as we age. Be less bold in our appearance. Less creative. Less expressive. Less. Much less. We are threatening, you see. The strong and competent woman who is in charge is scary to the status quo. We are expected to cut our hair, wear more beige, go to bed early, act our age, and disappear altogether.

How sad is that? And how stupid. We Queens are at our most powerful now. And whether the powers-that-be recognize it or not, the world, the planet, needs us to assert ourselves right now in every way and on every level. We cannot, must not ,just fade away without an unseemly fuss. While it is crucial to feel good about ourselves and empowered, it is also most most important that we model it for all to see.

Let us take our razzle dazzle out of the closet and into the streets. Let us wear our grey hair, our wrinkles, and our wisdom with pride and aplomb. Let us wear what we want, age appropriate be damned. Let us strut our stuff with the assurance of our maturity. Let us project our powerful persona so that it is impossible for us not to be seen and recognized as the Queens we are.


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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to


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