A few months ago, I was moving out of the apartment I'd lived in for ten years -- a two bedroom apartment that was all mine and had massive closets. MASSIVE. The whole reason I had moved into that apartment was for those closets; the neighborhood was dodgy, the building itself was an ugly, blocky late 50's behemoth that lacked any sort of charm that can be easily found in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ohhhh... but the closets -- all six of them. Amazing.
As I packed my eight hundred tons of clothes (I worked in a vintage shop for 8 years, and, after all, I had the closet space to hold it), I sobbed. I was moving into a house with tiny, narrow closets, with a boyfriend who, after all, had clothes, too. We would have to SHARE CLOSET SPACE. I envisioned the Bradys moving in together, where Mike and Carol battled over the shoe marker, but finally compromised straight down the middle with hugs and laughter. This did not happen in our case -- I got the "bigger" closet in the bedroom, and he took the one in the study. Having the bigger closet didn't solve the problem -- it barely fit my skirts, blouses and Pendleton jackets, and my rolling racks full of vintage dresses and coats wound up in the garage and other bedroom.
I probably could have gotten rid of a lot more clothes than I did when we moved, but the ones I sold at my garage sale made me want to cry. It wasn't the fact that I was clearing out and starting fresh (and that I would NEVER fit into a 26 inch waist again), but that everything had a special meaning for me. A bright yellow cotton circle skirt with painted abstract boats went to a rockabilly girl, and as I took her money I said, "Oh, I love that skirt! I got that my freshman year in college on Melrose at Jet Rag, and that's what I was wearing when I broke up with my first gay fiance!" She looked at me like, "ohhhhh-kaaaaaay..." Another girl got the story of a raggedy leopard coat with pink hairdye on the collar, and yet another girl had to hear about how I bought the polka dotted 60's bathing suit in a thrift store in Las Vegas with an optimism that my thighs never matched. And so on. All day long.
"My clothes are more of a journal than my lj is," I wrote on my (long neglected) livejournal a few days later. "You'd better use that as a book/essay/story," my friend commented back. I had been thinking about it, but it took me a long time to get here. In the meantime I read a book I found in a perfect used bookstore in New Orleans called "Love, Loss and What I Wore" with the same kind of premise. So the book's been done, and I'm sure the blog has been done to death, too, but I want to begin.
I've gotten rid of many clothes in the past, and some of them I still feel their absence acutely. The ones I have left -- the gold lame, the rayon prints, the whimsical and the plain -- they don't all get worn anymore (like I said, the 26 inch waist is a thing of the past), but they still have stories to tell. They aren't the cream of the crop -- I have no Balenciaga, Mainbocher, or even Chanel (except a faux T-Shirt that I wore when I was Eddie from "AbFab" for Halloween), and not even anything terribly fabulous. Most of my clothes have seam splits, stains, and pilling -- I couldn't even get 5 bucks for them on Ebay. I used to agonize over the flaws, but I realize now that those flaws came from wearing them, and that's where the stories are. The rip at the waist of my favorite cotton dress, awkwardly patched, came from the time my friend Matt and I found Herve Villechaize's handprints (ala Mann's Chinese Theater) South of Market late one night -- I was laughing so hard I ripped the skirt from the bodice. (Damn cotton thread.) Or the rayon print dress, that was once crisp and now limp, lost its pleats from the scorching hot day we tried to find where the Black Dahlia was buried, and hand washing didn't do the trick. Instead of lamenting the dress' former crispness, I laugh at how weird that day was.
And that's just as good.