Sunday, May 19, 2013

Clothing Project I

I have a lot of clothes that don't fit me but that I can't get rid of.  The only thing I have right now that's too small is that pair of pants.  Most of my stuff is too big.  Some of it substantially, some only slightly.  I've picked up a few new things, and now fit a few things I'd had in the back of my closet.  But I'm also mourning some clothing.  My clothes are full of stories, snapshot memories of places I wore them and people I knew when I did.  And they're also all intertwined with the history of my body, how I felt about myself and how I wanted to present myself.  Here are some stories.

I got rid of a green corduroy blazer from Old Navy purchased in maybe 2005 (2x).  I loved its slightly puffy shoulder seams, and the way it nipped my waist.  I bought it in the first flush of stability, both physical and emotional, after inpatient—also in the brief shining moment during which Old Navy carried Women's Plus in stores.  I think I wore it to my job interviews just after college.

Around the same time, I also bought an artfully-distressed denim blazer from Lane Bryant (18/20—I've always been smaller on top than on the bottom, which is why this was too big for me now, even though 18/20 is my dress size).  Man, I loved that thing.  It had a seaming band at the waist and wide lapels and patches of fading, and I could pair it with a knee-length skirt and feel like I was hitting just the right balance of put-together and don't-care (my clothing goal always).  I considered wearing it for a Valentine's date when my (then) boyfriend was coming out to Portland for a Valentine's/post-emergency surgery visit, but my internet-fatshion friend Alice (who tried, bless her, to teach me to accessorize) put the kibosh on that with gentle righteousness in favor of something girlier and less structured.

I found both of these in a suitcase in my parents' garage upstate a couple months ago, and I sent them right off to the thrift store because I was in the process of moving and any object I didn't want in my new apartment had to go.  I tried them on, and they were baggy and dated.  They'd seen better days.  But I do kind of miss them.  They were a part of my college self—I like that girl I was, and I like the things that connect me to her.

I just got rid of a grey-and-navy striped sweetheart-neck Banana Republic t-shirt (XL).  It had little moth holes.  I bought it at the bottom of my last weight cycle, flush on I-can-shop-at-Banana-Republic-like-a-real-store-no-way while they were having a sale.  It had cap sleeves that did terrible things to my upper arms, but I used it as a layering piece.  Good riddance, stupid t-shirt.

I cannot bear to get rid of a black-and-white floral surplice-front sundress, from Blue Plate via alight (2x).  I liked this dress so much I bought it twice.  No lie.  I tore it when the floaty printed top layer got caught on a LIRR armrest on the way back from my second cousin's wedding shower in 2009 (an event I did not even want to BE at, and for which I was totally unwilling to sacrifice a favorite dress).  So I tracked this dress down on eBay and bought a replacement, which also tore (the floaty overlayer strikes again), just last summer.  This dress was a longtime size-indicator for me: when the banded empire waist was tight when I sat down, I was at the top of my comfortable range.  A year ago, it was really too tight to wear, which made me feel gross when I flicked past it in my closet and knew I couldn't wear it (should have boxed it up and put it away).  Now it's a hair too big to be flattering, but it would work just fine with a sweater over the top, except that it's torn.

Some longer-lost things:
the red Anthropologie dress that I bought for my college graduation (XL, I think? Very, very stretchy).  It had stopped being a dressing-up dress, because it too had seen better days, and I was afraid of it not fitting at the top of my range, so I haven't worn it in forever, but where did it go?  Somehow, I think it is in the basement of my old house in Jersey.  Maybe I will go look for it.
—the Torrid sundress (24) and cardigan (2x?) that I wore to go dancing with the man who became my first serious boyfriend, right when I was back from Berlin, right before treatment.  A dear friend from college, a person who weighs maybe 100 pounds soaking wet, had bundled me into her car and driven me to a Torrid at some suburban-PDX mall, intent on showing me that I could wear real clothes like a real person (I am still so grateful, and still remind her of that gratitude).  It was pre-pink Torrid, and the salesgirls were a delight.  My friend strong-armed me into trying on stuff I would never have considered, including this pinstriped dress with a burnout flower laser-cut into the left side of the hemline, and insisted that I emerge from the dressing room to receive feedback.  The salesgirls gathered around.  I'm sure, in retrospect, that they got the dynamic instantly.  I felt embarrassed and delighted and shy and flabbergasted, being the center of a little clutch of women who all seemed to think that I could shop just like a regular girl.  I spent like $300, which was even more then (I was living on like $1000/month, all-inclusive, which was mostly totally fine because it was Portland ten years ago) than it would be now.  This shopping trip was a totally watershed moment for me.  It is not an exaggeration to say it changed my life.  And it meant, too, that I had something to wear when this man I liked and thought I'd never have a chance with turned out to be coming to my best friend's birthday dancing.  (It turned out I did have a chance.)

And the original: a green faux-fur pea coat that was the first item of clothing that made me feel like I could have style.  I wore this all through the eighth grade.  Eighth grade was after a round of Weight Watchers with my mom, so I must have had more clothing options (I remember a burnt-sienna chenille Calvin Klein turtleneck entering my life about then, too).  I don't remember the brand or the size, but I think it came from the then-brand new Burlington Coat Factory on 6th Avenue.  I was taking a youth class at the Gotham Writers' Workshop, and I used to walk down Central Park West in the autumn evening crispness afterward, feeling rad in my awesome coat (and probably my platform Skechers, too, because it was 1997).  This coat got lost (!!!) not too long into its tenure.  I left it, somehow, on a coat rack at a gala I was working for an internship I had.  As a result, it is a creature of legend, and if I came across a green fake-fur pea coat tomorrow, I would buy it instantly, and wear the shit out of it.  Trust.

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