Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Closet shopping takes you places

I wanted a new dress to wear to a benefit, and I saw a really pretty one in a window.

But in an effort to watch my money go other places than out the window, I decided to closet shop instead. Those of us who are lucky enough to afford a lot of clothes often share the same lament, "I have so many clothes but nothing to wear." We wear a hand-full of things and then just stand there staring blankly at the rest, feeling like we have no idea what to do with it.

I once read in an advice column that if you haven't worn it in two years, out it goes. But that's a scary thought: What if all of a sudden you remember why you loved something years ago and really want to wear it now? Sometimes, of course, you give things away without a thought or you think good riddance (that happened with the calf-length blue scoop-neck dress with the belt that I wore to court on the day of my divorce), but sometimes it's just when you give something away that you want it back.

The other day, a sleeveless rust-colored silk knee-length dress caught my eye. I used to wear it all the time but haven't worn it in years. Why would I? I haven't had many places to go. A black silk jacket was on the hanger over it. I pulled them both out.

The jacket had small shoulder pads that are slightly out-of-date, but I put it on with the dress...and they were both so light I felt like a was dressed in a cloud. I felt pretty. (Unless I looked at myself too closely in the mirror.) And like few things from years ago, the dress felt just like it did when I looked at it with my mother and we both agreed immediately it was "me."

When you look through the stuff in your closet, you are also looking at memories.

I remember strolling down Third Avenue in New York with my mother and my boyfriend, probably 10 years ago. The store where we saw the dress was on the southwest side of the street. He stayed outside drinking a coffee, and since we didn't linger inside, he was in as good a mood as we were when we continued our walk.

On the day that I pulled that dress out of my closet, I looked around a little longer than usual. My eyes settled on a pile of T-shirts that I had put on the floor, unable to figure out what to do with them. They're hard to ignore, but sometimes that's just what I do.

I pulled out an ugly black T-shirt with orange lettering that I had bought in February, 2005 when visiting The Gates,  one of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's huge projects in which they erected 7,503 vinyl orange gates along 23 miles of pathways through Central Park. Staffers gave out little orange squares made out of gate material, and I still have mine on my dresser.

You could see the fabric flapping in the wind from our apartment window, and my mother had peered out and said, "I think I'm looking at my laundry."

Still, we went out and walked through, enjoying the spirit of the community event.

The T-shirt stayed.

I picked up a faded green V-neck T-shirt that I had worn all the time in the hospital. It was a comfortable alternative to the horrible hospital gowns, and I wore it either with soft yoga pants or blue hospital pants.

"There's really nothing wrong with it," I thought. "I could wear it now."

No way. The association was too strong.

Well, maybe I should save it in case I land in the hospital again.

Not necessary, I thought. You'll find something else to wear.

Into the giveaway bag it went.


pam said...

Dearest Runni --

i love it -- even before you got to your Mother -- i knew it had to be a Lynne find -- and so elegant -- ethereal and beautiful Mother and daughters --

i also just remembered how your Mother -- and separately this native new yorker -- went around your beautiful house opening and admiring those closets --

i just found your Father's CCCP jacket in a storage bin -- in a small nyc apt -- and it's not going anywhere!

keep up the closet-foraging for treasure troves --
and you are radiantly beautiful -- even under a microscope!

Nelle said...

Loved this entry. A week ago I went through my closet. I have lost enough weight to fit into things I couldn't for 20 years. I saved some expensive suits. Now they have shoulder pads and are outdated! Full of memories though. I guess after waiting 20 years to wear them again, it's time to send them off somewhere else. One suit was purchased at Nordstrom's and never even worn.