5 Pieces Of Clothing Every Urban-Farm Woman Needs

Stop ruining your "public” clothes doing chicken chores. Stock up on these basics so you can keep farming in comfort.

by Cherie Marcel
PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstock

If you’ve participated in more than 5 minutes of yard work you’re probably aware that urban farming requires its own wardrobe. Digging up soil; shoveling compost; cleaning out chicken coops; harvesting potatoes, zucchinis, artichokes, pomegranates, whatever! It’s dirty work. It’s also hot, cold, stinky, up high and down low kind of work.

Sure, you can wear your favorite pair of Lucky jeans and a t-shirt to do your farm chores, but before long, that outfit will become the outfit: the one you dig out of the bottom of the laundry basket every time you step into the garden because you don’t want to destroy any more of your “public” wardrobe. Or maybe you just give into the clothing transfarmation and wear your dust- (and poop-) embedded rags to the movies, bowling, a date or the in-law’s house. Regardless, you have, intentionally or not, established your urban farm wardrobe.

When I really started farming, I found myself in my farm wear more often than any other kind of wear. I also experienced many apparel casualties to “quick” farm chores, resulting in a poorly appointed farm wardrobe and only a flickering memory of my once “public” wardrobe. Eventually I determined that some wardrobe adjustments were in order.

1. Designated Farm Shoes

Get a pair of garden boots or clogs that fit well and wash easily.

Shoes were my first casualty. Like most of us, I started out wearing my favorite flip-flops or tennis shoes. Eventually, I learned that flips-flops aren’t the best when tilling soil or wheel barreling truckloads of steaming compost.

Or when thinning out berry vines.

Or on muddy days.

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I grew tired of needing my good tennis shoes for some non-farm activity only to remember that they were in the poop-encrusted, thistle-freckled shoe pile on the back steps. After doing some Googling, I discovered several brands of shoes made just for heavy gardening and poop slinging, most of which slip on and off easily, resist thistles and can be hosed clean in seconds.

My personal farm shoe collection now includes a pair each of Sloggers slip-on shoes and pull-on boots. Sloggers are readily available online and at most farm and garden retailers where I live in Northern California. Other great brands include Bogs, MuckBoots and Crocs.

Word to the wise: All farm-specific shoes tend to get mucky. I recommend a boot tray by the door to keep the indoor dirt dispersion to a minimum.

2. A Hat

A wide-brimmed hat will keep the sun off your face when you garden.
United Way of Columbia-Willamette/Flickr

The next crucial item added to my farm attire was a hat. Unless you’re doing your farming in underground burrows you will inevitably be exposed to many hours of UV rays, which we know to be an excellent source of vitamin D, as well as premature aging and skin cancer.

I have several hats, but my hat of choice is a well-ventilated, wide-brimmed, teal, canvas sun hat. I like it because it gives good coverage, has a brim that can be bent about for better visibility and is cute. (When one wears a perpetual uniform of dirt, cute matters.) Most farm and garden retailers sell an array of UV protection hats in many shapes and colors. And, of course, there’s a vast selection of hats available on Amazon.com and beyond.

3. An Apron

Aprons will keep your clothes clean when you do chicken chores.
Cherie Marcel

Another asset in my farm wardrobe is the apron. Aprons became a regular part of my apparel when I began chicken keeping for a big reason: poop. Since including them in my farmer armor, however, I’ve found aprons to be valuable far beyond their role as a fecal barrier. A few key components to a good apron include:

  • Pockets: for tool toting, egg collecting, phone wearing, seed stashing, et cetera
  • Full-body coverage: Café aprons are cute, but smudges rarely limit themselves to one’s lap.
  • Washability: because … poop
  • Comfort: thin string ties around the neck can take on a razor-like quality by day’s end

I’d also add that grab-ability is vital to the successful use of aprons. I keep a collection of clean aprons hanging by the door for an easy grab when headed out to the garden.

4. Garden Gloves

Get a good supply of garden gloves and stash them everywhere you think you'll need them: in the shed, by the front door and in the garage.
Susy Morris/Flickr

I hardly need to mention the usefulness of garden gloves. Our hands bear the harsh exposure of every farm chore we take part in. I keep pairs of gloves in baskets by the front door, in the garden shed and in my small greenhouses; and if I can’t find any in those spots I check the pockets of my aprons.

5. Overalls

Durable overalls are super comfy and let you garden without worrying about farmer's crack.
Cherie Marcel

It has to be said that at least one good pair of overalls belongs in every serious urban farmer’s closet. I don’t wear my overalls every day—except maybe during planting season—but they’re my most-treasured piece of farm clothing. And ladies, I’m not talking about the sexy, skinny jean, Citizens of Humanity fashion statements being sold at Anthropologie and the like (not that I don’t love Anthropologie, because who doesn’t?).

I have one sturdy pair of green overalls that I bought from Duluth Trading Company. They are equipped with enough pockets and tabs to make me a walking toolbox, have cuff snaps to keep my cuffs rolled up in the summer and adjustable straps for my shoulders, and are comfortable.

I repeat: They are comfortable!

I can bend over without developing a dangerous wedgie, breaking the smartphone in my back pocket or revealing what my favorite farmhand (husband) lovingly refers to as my farmer’s crack. And I can shovel mass volumes of manure without getting any bits down my pants. Pretty or not, overalls are a must for the heavier duties of urban farm life. Some noteworthy overall makers include Dickies, Carhartt, Rosie’s Workwear and Garden Girl USA.

Tricks To Dress Up Your Farm Wear

Let’s talk fashion for a minute. As farming has traditionally been a male-dominated domain, and is, admittedly, a rugged activity, the farm wear that is widely available tends to cater to masculine appeal. This bodes well for the men who choose to farm but clearly not so well for the lady famers who sort of like looking nice in clothes. So, for my fellow fashion-forward farming females out there, let me share a few of the tricks I’ve learned for keeping my feminine flair while still dressing functionally and comfortably on the farm.

Compile A Collection Of Pretty Aprons

These obviously shouldn’t be made out of tulle and silk—soft linens and colorful cottons are lovely and aren’t hard to find. One of my favorite aprons is actually a pinafore apron warn by my mother while I was growing up. It’s patterned in petite blue flowers and has feminine vintage charm. I also love the pink floral apron with salvaged lace, made for me by a good friend. Etsy.com is a wonderful source for unique aprons and pinafores, both vintage and handmade. Or just meander into any local home goods supplier, and there’s bound to be a collection of aprons to choose from. It seems that, no matter what you’re wearing underneath, the apron adds panache.

Dresses Are Your Friend

My grandmother maintained a large garden, an orchard and about 30 chickens, all while wearing a dress and apron. I used to think she was just a product of her time, and she probably was, but after some experimentation I have found that I actually love doing most of my farm chores in free-flowing dresses and skirts. Free-flowing is key. Loose-fitting, cotton dresses are so comfortable to wear and allow you to move about in the garden without pinching at the knees, cutting into your waist or exposing the dreaded farmer’s crack. And, they’re pretty.

Wear Yoga Pants And Leggings

I’m all about the combination of comfort, function and beauty. I love wearing my yoga pants and leggings in the garden because of their flexibility and resilience when squatting or bending. Pair a comfortable tunic, dress or skirt with some good stretchy pants and you have a fabulous urban farm ensemble.

Ultimately, every urban farmer develops his or her own wardrobe groove. What are some of your must-haves?

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