Sunday, November 22, 2009

On clothing keepsakes

JAN: I have a night shirt that I bought at least 24 years ago. Originally, it was red and in the style of a football jersey. But after all those years of washings, it's faded to a deep coral. Last time I took it out of the laundry, I realized, the cotton had completely deteriorated. The back is so full of holes, it's not even useful as a rag.

Here's the problem. The football jersey has the number 12 on the front. A year after buying it, my daughter, was born on December 12th.

I keep taking the night shirt from the drawer and putting on the bench next to the waste basket. The first step in throwing it out. But hard as I try, the night shirt finds its way back into the drawer.

I can't get rid of it. I'm emotionally attached. I think we all have at least one of these in our closets. Come on, fess up, is there a big ugly sweater your fond memories are hanging on to?

ROBERTA: I'm not only going to fess up, I'm going to model it. This is my utterly favorite shirt for hanging around home in. It has no sentimental value, it's just so comfy. You can't really see the gray cargo sweatpants in the photo, so you'll have to take my word that the elastic is gone in both the waist and the ankles. I know one day I'll come home and find they've mysteriously disappeared from my drawers...except that John guards his old favorites just as closely so maybe we're even. Though there was a pair of puce green sweatpants that did ultimately vanish. I had to agree that was for the best!

RHYS: My mom was a big Snoopy fan. I bought her a nightshirt with Snoopy on the front. When she died I used precious cargo space to have that nighshirt shipped back to California. I've worn it regularly ever since. I noticed recently that it's on its last legs. But I really don't think I could throw it out. I know some people take pieces of beloved old clothes and make quilts of them, but I'm not a quilt maker, nor would a quilt look right in my home. The other ridiculous thing that I hang onto is my ice skates from my teen years. I was so thrilled to get my own white boots and they've been dragged around the world with me ever since. They are too small for me now, but each time I put them to be donated, they somehow find their way back into the cupboard.

JAN: I have a pair of tap shoes in the basement I feel the same way about!

HALLIE: Jan, a suggestion--cut out the "12" and stick it in your daughter's baby book. Then THROW OUT THE SHIRT. The thing I can't throw away is a short, dark brown mouton coat, like super-thick velvet, with a mandarin collar. I just look at it and feel warm. I'd still be wearing it but I've grown and it hasn't. I keep hoping that one of my daughters (I bought it half-price at Ann Taylor's after Xmas sale when my 33-year old was in a stroller) will one day want it.

ROSEMARY: I love the ice skates - it reminded me of Jean Paget's ice skates in A Town Like Alice. (After being a POW in Malaysia for years she vows to go ice skating again back in England after the war. The rink has been bombed out of existence but she holds on to her skates. Good book.)I have too many of these things to mention. Starting with my wedding dress. Why am I keeping that thing? The falling apart t-shirt I bought in Rio when my friend failed to meet me at the airport and I was stranded for four days. The black sequined miniskirt which may be, ahem, a little young for me these days. The Chanel shoes which have somewhow gotten too small (eegads, can you gain weight in your feet?) The Talking Heads/Speaking in Tongues sleeveless tee which is so threadbare you could probably sift flour through it. The black Coach briefcase which was one of my first big-girl purchases (think Working Girl.)

And of course, there's this, the polka dot silk tuxedo jacket which I wore to parties in the 80's, with the sleeves rolled up, of course. I had shoulder-grazing earrings which went perfectly with them (still have 'em.) I may have even worn the sequined mini.

HANK: Jan, did Jonathan put you up to this? I bet he did. Here's why. See the photo of the ballet shoes? Instead of bedroom slippers, I wear pink Capezio ballet shoes. Yes, this is an all too obvious throwback to my failed dreams of being Maria Tallchief. But the ballet slippers are pretty, and packable,l and non-slip, and somehow make me feel graceful, even when the rest of my ensemble is tank top and sweatpants.

Anyway, you can see that the slippers in the photo are newish. Not broken in. The little elastic bows are still stiff. That is because the previous pair--which literally, I wore for about--two years, maybe more, mysteriously disappeared.

When that pair got a little rip in the sole, I "fixed" it with duct tape. Then it needed a little more duct tape. And finally, one whole shoe was pretty much wrapped with duct tape. Jonathan said, "Why dont you get a new pair of ballet slippers?"

"Why?" I wondered. "These are perfectly good." Soon, the other slipper had to be "fixed" with duct tape. And finally I was walking around with more duct tape than ballet slipper. But I loved them.

I wish I could show you a photo of them. But they disappeared. Ver-ry mysterious.
(Ro, you have to keep your wedding dress. I have all three of mine. :-))
JAN: So please, tell us, any clothing keepsakes you can't just throw out?


  1. Sigh. The t-shirts from races I ran in. When I ran. I've been a power walker for more than half a decade - no more running. My t-shirt drawer has a couple dozen shirts in it. I wear the most recent 4, which are not from races. Can't relinquish any of them, even though I can hardly close the drawer!

    And let's not even mention my father's old nightshirt (he died 24 years ago), which I never wear. Or the Bedouin dress my sister brought me. 30 years ago. Never wear. And so on...


  2. There is, buried in a trunk in my attic, a...girdle. Red with white polka dots. It dates to my high school years. I keep it to prove to my daughter that I was once her size.

    I stopped counting my t-shirts at sixty. Love them all.

  3. Oh! And the darling bikini from pre-childbirth days. Better NOT wear.

  4. And yes I have tee-shirts too, somewhere. One is from clinical psych graduate school days when we fielded a softball team to blow off steam. The team was the called "The Inkblots" and we had the shirts screened with a Rorschach-like blob below the name.

    And from my serious feminist days, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."

    The trouble is, you'll need whatever you finally throw out the very next day!

  5. I have a friend who took all the t-shirts from her kids sports teams and their vacations and made a terrific quilt out of them. So there's an idea.....


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  7. I was thinking this is a good time to give things to people who need them--Jan, your t-shirt of course is safe, but I realized I have a coat closet full of coats, and I really only wear maybe two of them.

    Where do you all think is the best give-to-charity place?

  8. Rosie's Place:

    Or, since you probably have Really Nice coats, think about Dress for Success (clothes donations for women who have landed white-collar jobs but can't afford to buy appropriate clothes): DFS Boston

    BOSTON, MA 02215
    (617) 779-2177

  9. Oh, thanks Edith. Perfect!

    Do you all subscribe to the "if you haven't worn it in two years, give it away" credo?

    Or--is there a time limit?

  10. I can't go along with the "if you haven't worn it to two years" theory, because I often look through closets and exclaim delightedly, "I'd forgotten I had that." (this usually after I have just bought something almost identical)
    And things come back into fashion, like plaid every ten years or so.

  11. Curious George slippers from Target. Seriously. They are great to schlep around in (and take up no space in my suitcase so they can travel with me).

  12. I just cleaned out my closet the 'if you haven't worn it in 2 years rule' and immediately needed a black dress that I gave away. New corollary: black dresses are forever.

  13. I'm never following the two year rule again. Basically, if you ever liked it alot, keep it.

    Especially now when fashion seems to be cycling back a lot faster. I gave away two pairs of skinny jeans only to have them come back in style last year.

  14. Once we put our house on the market, we got ruthless with all closets, clothing included. Plus, we started watching What Not To Wear as a lunch break (don't ask why hubby decided he likes to watch the show, but he comes out of his office, makes a sandwich and sits in front of the tv). I can't think of anything I wouldn't be willing to part with once we actually make the move. Climate will be different, and I'm ready for a fresh start.

    Although I do have my wedding dress, which was worn by both my daughters.

  15. Hank. you made me spit. You are one of the funniest women on God's green earth. (i have all 3 of my wedding dresses too).

    I cannot bring myself to part with concert Tshirts. Some of those shirts are from the 70s and 80s, and are chock full of great memories - not that I'm able to remember all of them . . . It was the 70s & the 80's; 'nuff said.

  16. Terry,
    Proving that wedding dresses are well worth keeping!!

    And Kaye, I can't remember a lot of the 70s or 80s either - except that I know I had a really good time.

  17. I make pillows with my old t-shirts. I’d never have thought of turning old T-shirts into a rug!