Do Our Clothes Hold Memories?

You know how a scent on the air can instantly whip you back to a specific moment in your life? How hearing a certain song can take you whirling across time to a place you haven’t been in years? How somehow, the perfect ingredients of a day can send you in a time machine to a strong memory? I know this is going to sound crazy, but fashion does that for me. I remember in vivid color the outfits I have worn on pivotal days in my life. When I wear an outfit like it, or even when I see another person wearing something reminiscent of that outfit, I remember.

I remember the navy cardigan I was wearing the night of my first kiss… the way the gravel of the parking lot crunched under my leather boat shoes and the way my ankles felt the chill of the fall evening through my tight rolled jeans.

I remember the green suit I wore for my first day of high school. It was a rayon pair of shorts and a matching jacket that I borrowed from my aunt, who worked at Casual Corner. She paired it for me with a black tank, flats, and gold Anne Klein lion earrings. I was only fourteen, but I felt like a fierce adult, ready to take on the world.

I remember the black corduroy jumper I wore on my eighteenth birthday. I worked really hard at Kmart to buy something special for what I figured would be a momentous day. I wore it with a black and white striped mock turtleneck, black tights, and thick soled mary janes. It was one of my favorite things I had ever worn.

I remember the royal blue suit with the tiny brass buttons I wore for my college audition. It was January, and freezing on campus, but I strode across the grounds in that pleated skirt and pantyhose with purpose. I knew the outcome of that audition would determine the course of my future.

I remember the autumn tweed dress I wore the night my husband proposed. I loved the rich colors of it and how it paired with my dark brown hair. I knew we were going out for a special dinner, but how I regretted the length as we stood outside on that late November night in upstate New York, waiting for him to work up his courage. The fireplace at the restaurant was a greatly welcomed way to warm up my frozen legs!

I remember the blue jumper I was wearing to school on September 11, 2001. I was so grateful it was long enough that my students couldn’t see my knees shaking as I made the realization that I could not freak out. I was the adult in the room now, and those students were depending on me.

I remember the red glitter Converse I was wearing the day my mom called to tell me that my grandmother had died. I stared at those shoes for a long time, crying so hard that the glitter blurred into a sparkling haze at my feet. At that moment, I wished that I could click my heels and get home to my mom faster.

I remember the silver dress I was wearing the night one of my senior students held my hand, while the rest of the senior class sang For Good as a total surprise to me. That class of students was such a treasure to me and that was one of the most beautiful moments of my teaching career. I remember the way the sparkles on my dress danced across each of their precious, tear stained faces.

Each of those memories play so vividly in my mind, it’s like a movie with a costume director carefully planning each scene. So many more exist, playing before me in technicolor. I know some people don’t think that style matters that much, but to me, it helps tell my story.

A couple of summers ago, we did a big jewelry swap in my family. It was a chance to clean out our accessory drawer and pick up something new. As soon as I saw the earrings my aunt set out, I knew there was one pair I HAD to take. The Anne Klein lion earrings. As soon as I picked them up off the table, I remembered.

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