Clothing-Specific Memories


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)

Thanks to Mel for hosting and originating Microblog Mondays!  If you want more posts, head over to Stirrup Queens to read.



7 thoughts on “Clothing-Specific Memories

  1. I just came across some of these grief clothes the other day. It struck me as so odd when the first thought I had when I saw them was the last, sad occasion when I wore them. Apparently not as odd as I thought.
    I also have wistful, happy memory clothing in bins in my closet. I much more prefer to come across those looking for that errant shoe.

  2. Beautiful, just beautiful. I love that jacket, and I love the transforming of clothing of grief into clothing of memory. I have “fertility clothes” that I wear every once in a while to try to wash the stain of grief out of them. One is a white blouse with turquoise lotus blossoms printed on it. It’s pretty, but it was the last clothing piece I bought that I thought might have some kind of symbolic swaying in our efforts to get pregnant. Just love this post and the idea of transformation.

  3. I saw that article and it reminded me of the dress I wore to my grandfather’s funeral. I would never wear it again — I don’t even think I could fit in it anymore. But I can’t seem to throw it out.

  4. Oh no, the clothes I had that would have helped me through the first 4-5 months of pregnancy went out. I had no desire to keep them at the time, as they just taunted me for the folly of being hopeful. Others though, that are poignant, are kept away. The favourite skirt I wore to my father’s funeral. I’m not sure I’ve worn it since, but I haven’t thrown it out either. We feel how we feel.

  5. I have been thinking about this same idea a lot recently.

    I can’t part with a pair of impractical leather boots I will never wear again because they were the last Christmas gift I received from my grandfather. I miss him and giving them away feels like giving away that happy memory.

    However, I forced myself to sell the maternity dress I never wore (because my preemie came the day before our baby shower). Not because I didn’t have a shower but because it was a reminder of what would never happen again – there will never be another pregnancy and I couldn’t continue to grieve that every time I searched my closet.

    I regularly give clothes away because I hate clutter. But some things will forever take up space and I’m ok with that.

  6. Really great post. I certainly keep clothes that I no longer fit in simply because it holds a strong memory for me. Usually the time I was so slim I could wear it with confidence. But also there’s the skirt I wear for funerals and nothing else. A while ago I realized it’s okay just to hang on to a few pieces at the back of the closet.

  7. I definitely feel this. The strangest one for me was the nursing tank I wore in the hospital when Noah was stillborn. I wore it after. It actually made me feel close to him. But once my rainbow baby Sam was born couldn’t do it. I couldn’t hold nurse him in the shirt where I held his brother.

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