Sorting through clothing is a funny thing. I know people who do not become sentimentally attached to their sweaters or jeans, who cull their collections regularly and who don’t overstuff their drawers, but I am not one of them. There’s some clothing I can get rid of pretty easily: things that are stained, that obviously don’t fit, basic tees or undershirts that have reached the end of their usefulness, but there’s a whole separate class of clothing that lives in my closet that presents a bigger challenge.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who has this issue, something I was reminded of when I ran across this article, poignantly titled “What Do We Do With the Clothing of Grief?” As the author recounts the sweater she bought so hopefully during a lost pregnancy, I couldn’t help but think of my own “clothing of grief”.
In my case, it’s the brightly colored peplum boiled wool jacket I wore to the doctor’s office the day there was no more heartbeat. The black fleece pants that I wore throughout my pregnancy with E and wore to the hospital the day my water broke at 21 weeks. The olive-green dress with embroidered cranes I wore the day after my brother died. I don’t know why it’s that dress, the day after, that I associate so strongly with that tragedy, but for some reason, the two are inextricably woven together in my memory.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to make a decision about those clothes. I did sell one piece, the sweater I was wearing the day I was diagnosed with PCOS that lay crumpled in a drawer for years, never worn again. The others, however, seem either too practical (the fleece pants) or too much difficult to reacquire pieces that I really like (the jacket and the dress). What’s really strange is that I had memories in the jacket in particular that are fairly happy memories before that day.
Perhaps it’s too much to ask that the clothing of grief be repurposed into something truly neutral, but I do sometimes pull out the pieces and wonder if I can find the courage to start wearing them again, make enough memories in them to imbue them with both joy and sorrow. Instead of the clothing of grief, make them something more akin to the clothing of memory.
The jacket, on a much happier day (visiting the Hoover Dam in Nevada)