Bertha Cooper

Think About It: Wardrobe maleficence

It was my birthday. The husband and I took the train to Vancouver, B.C., some years ago to celebrate. Besides having great meals and visiting some sites, I planned shopping in department stores I had not visited in what seemed like years.

My husband waited patiently while I wandered through racks of clothing. I began to pick out items I liked and checked prices before … sticker shock! Either serious inflation or an affluent Vancouver clientele resulted in enormous prices for what seemed like nice but not exceptional clothing items. I was seeing prices well over $500, more than I would comfortably spend even on my birthday.

I quickly searched for and found the sales racks. Even there a T-shirt with a fringe on the bottom was $150 on sale! Then I spotted a green hooded jacket trimmed in a design that reminded me of my Nordic tribal roots. Less than $100!

The jacket had the fashionable look of being worn to rags except I thought tastefully so in that the ragged tears revealed more Nordic trim. The bottom edge was unfinished.

Excited about my find, I rushed it over to my husband who looked at it at me as if one of us didn’t belong. The only words that passed the lips of my normally doting husband were, “You want to buy this — it’s ripped?!”

Realizing this was not a debate to try to win, I said yes, it was my birthday.

I told the story to the young store clerk who was very understanding. She told me when she wore a pair a jeans with holes in it, her grandmother said, “I thought you had a good job. Can’t you afford new clothes?”

Now a few years later I am still wearing my fashionable torn hoodie even though I had a friend ask me if one of our cats clawed my jacket.


The attractive and fashionable first lady Melania Trump was photographed wearing a long green hooded jacket with the message “I really don’t care, do u?” on the back. Her fashion choice caused quite a stir in all circles of Melania watch.

The fact that she wore it on her way to our southern border to observe the conditions under which refuge seekers were living made it all the weirder given the struggles of both the refuge seekers and the homeland security staff that was trying to manage a difficult problem.

Considerable hope was being invested in the first lady by the families, individuals and humanitarian groups trying to stop the separation of children from one or both parents.

Theories abounded about the meaning of the message, mostly around who was meant to receive the message — refuge seekers, border guards, Democrats, Republicans, fashion magazines?

My theory was that she was resolving a spat between her and her husband, sort of a “This is really not a big deal, so let’s move on.”

I heard or read that she was really poking the media which doesn’t make any sense either. Whatever the first lady was trying to do, it fell flat and she may take first place in wardrobe maleficence given her extensive background in the fashion industry.

Wardrobe maleficence goes local

Surprisingly enough, we have a local contender for first place in wardrobe maleficence. The mayor of Sequim was recently the subject of a similar fashion photo, except the message on the back of his T-shirt was starkly clear. Though, like the first lady’s message, it wasn’t clear whom was intended to receive the message.

The message read “this is the USA, we eat meat, we drink beer, we own guns, we speak English, we love freedom. If you do not like that, GET THE F****** OUT. The message was festooned with revolvers, flags and a skeleton head with stars and stripes.

The photo was taken by a shopper at Costco who happened to see the mayor shopping and posted it on Facebook. The photo had at least a mini-viral moment and is reported to have received supportive and critical comments about the T-shirt moment.

The mayor was unhappy with the coverage which he blamed on “paparazzi” or those that would “spy on you during your personal time.” He might rethink that view given he wore the shirt in Costco frequented by most people who live on the Peninsula. He must admit he was easily spotted. Besides, while mayor, there is no personal time at Costco.

Not to miss that Costco is a family store. I don’t think I’ve seen an R-rated T-shirt in any of our large stores. His T-shirt stood out just as the first lady’s jacket did.

In retrospect, the mayor wishes he hadn’t worn it and says he did not intentionally wear it. He explains that he wore it to an earlier AA meeting as a way to find common ground and share an experience of dealing with addiction; that the skull on his shirt is affiliated with Harley Davidson Motorcycles.

I believe the mayor regrets the public display of profanely inviting others to leave the country. I also think he may be “deeply sorry” for offending some.

However, underneath this, I believe he thinks his right to say and wear whatever he wants overrides his responsibility as the mayor of his community. I believe he thinks he is being picked on despite his missteps that raised the concerns of many in the community. The mayor is failing to understand that he is the one setting the stage for an unhealthy focus on his intentions.

Most would not be bothered if, while mayor, he wears it to AA meetings, Harley Davidson rallies, working in the yard and other private settings. When he’s not mayor, it won’t matter where he wears the T-shirt.

The mayor’s T-shirt is wardrobe maleficence at its worst for a mayor which makes it much more than a crude expression of freedom of speech on his personal time at Costco. The mayor can’t possibly believe that most Sequim residents want their city represented by a mayor who wears a message “get the f****** out.”

Bertha Cooper, a featured columnist in the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation. Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim more than 20 years. Reach her at

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