Clothes – To the Heart

My walk-in closet holds a trust fund in clothing I cannot toss into the rag bag or give away. I mix old clothes with new ones, and they get along fine.  As I reflect on why I have kept some pieces, I realize that clothing stores memory. If I were to give away particular items, which I will tell you about, I would lose tactile reminders of experiences, adventures, and even relationships. I would lose reminders of aromas, weather, and other sensual tags linked to life’s adventures. Thankfully, I don’t have the nighty I wore at age sixteen when Steve and I . . . well, nevermind. I would light a match to that piece of cotton because Steve turned out to be a jerk messing with a high school kid. Yet, the memory of that relationship, more than the nightgown, has hung in my mental closet these many years.

         I have a long-sleeve, silk blouse with green stripes. I haven’t worn it in years, but somehow I cannot give it away. That blouse reminds me of the night after work when Gail and I took an express train to Fordham Road in the Bronx.  Loehmann’s was a wonderland of bargains for the working girl, and we were giddy to have spent so little for so much. I loved wearing the blouse with cuff links I bought in Florence. Would I forget about Florence or Loehmann’s if I donated the blouse and the cuff links? I want to keep that experience alive, and I’m not taking the chance of a memory lapse.     OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The teeshirt from the M/V Santa Cruz with its blue-footed boobies and the word Galapagos, will rot from old age. I will never cut the fabric into dust rags. I feel the same about the tee shirts I bought in Nazca. After dizzying swoops in a prop plane with scratched plastic windows, I realized I saw the fabled lines more clearly at the Ica museum’s mockup. After we landed, I staggered into the gift shop, almost but not quite air sick.  I rewarded myself by buying a red and a turquoise tee shirt. Just seeing them in the closet brings a smile as I recall that crazy flight and those crazy lines in the desert. I also think about the Japanese tourist with the telephoto lens who sat behind the pilot. I did not see him buy a tee shirt.                              


In the way-back space of my closet hangs the why-did-I-spend-$400 on that skirt and matching top at Maya Palace. I bought a green outfit with shiny trim, fabric flowers, and red ribbons at the skirt hem for my now-divorced son’s wedding atop Squaw Valley. When I see that outfit suffocating under a plastic bag, I burn over Kate’s impatience to marry Greg. I ask myself if I could have pressured them to wait another year. I did not interrupt the flow of their love, and we all suffered from the pain of their divorce. I realize that outfit, as lovely as it is, is a candidate for Craigslist or something worse. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A few years ago, I slipped another plastic bag over Talbot’s little black dress and put that in the way-back, too. Long sleeves, short skirt – that was my power dress for important dates, a job interview, and funerals. Under the same dust cover, hangs the funky beaded, crazy-patterned short jacket I bought at Jasmine on 4th Avenue. The piece has become vintage – so old and yet so beautiful. I fall in love with fabric and design, and with the memory of how I chose the purchase. For my ordinary clothes, those items that lack an investment in passion or memory, off to the Goodwill store they will eventually go.

* * *

6 thoughts on “Clothes – To the Heart

  1. susanenholm32 February 9, 2015 / 2:47 pm

    Thanks, Nancy. Sorry I took so long to reply. Busy, whizzy and then the trip. Those were the days when NYC was affordable. We had S. Klein on the Square, Alexander’s, and good old Bloomingdales for a splurge.


  2. Nancy campion January 20, 2015 / 2:52 am

    I grew up in the Bronx and shopped at Loehmans every pay day, It was a great experience to see well heeled women come up on the Lexington train the the Bronx, east side matron types, and bump arms with us working class girls,,,,Bargains, cash only, no returns and the communal dressing rooms, chaos reigned, I still remember my favorite outfilts, a navy blue maxi coat, silk blouse with a fancy tie, and leather vest, and a tweed skirts. Memories, the formal dress area, was sacred and remember the sales ladies eyeing us like hawks, There was no store like Loehman’s!!!!!!


  3. Carol June 30, 2013 / 11:04 pm

    My San Francisco coat and my little black dress send hello-s to your collection. Now, I know why they linger here and in my memory. Thanks


  4. Shanon June 11, 2013 / 2:40 pm

    Sweet memories Susan. Well done. For me, its my first scuba diving t-shirt which is now full of holes from waving my new (very sharp) dive knife too close to my body, a little blood here and there remains. It is so thin I can almost see through it. The store owner I bought it from is now dead, but I was happy the universe aligned months before so I could see him a last time. That shirt needs to be buried with me!


  5. Kathryn McFarlane June 5, 2013 / 2:57 pm

    Loved this story and now regret giving away some of my memorable or memory clothing. Thank goodness I have photos, but not the same as taking the piece out of the closet and seeing it for real! K.


  6. anita fonte June 5, 2013 / 2:47 pm

    I like this very much. I could imagine the stories wafting skyward from your closet, like moths with wings made of words.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.