OUR AUGUST ISSUE included a story about the Great American Apparel Diet. A Seattle woman, chastened by recession and appalled at her own spending habits, underwent a crisis of conscience about conspicuous clothing consumption and foreign-made goods made in overseas sweatshops, and she vowed to stop buying clothes for a year. In response a young woman wrote in, plaintively inquiring where she was supposed to shop if she had modest resources and big-box stores relied heavily on inexpensive imported goods. That letter in turn drew an offer from a reader who had a closetful of “gorgeous work clothes” she was willing to pass on to the aspiring career woman.
I should be so lucky. Not to be the recipient of a splendid new wardrobe, but to have the fortitude to part with the contents of my closet. Last weekend I did a purge of clothes too worn to wear, or tried to anyway. But no way could I let go of the three-tiered calico gypsy skirt I sewed myself to wear to rock festivals. Or the very first edition of an oversize Norma Kamali sweatshirt I snagged at a Saks Fifth Avenue trunk show. Or the enormous faux fur coat I bought at the Emmanuelle Khanh outlet in Paris—the lining is in shreds and the “fur” is completely matted, but as if it were an old stuffed bear, I love it still. (Don’t even get me started on my coat fetish. Philosophy: You always look good in a fabulous coat, no matter what you’re wearing underneath.) Practically speaking, I don’t have endless closet space, so eventually something has to go. But for me, clothes are a path to memory. A window on identity and personal history. If I give them away, I erase parts of my younger self and decades of my life.
That said, clothes also mean renewal. Whether they are latest trends in the stores, handed down from a generous clotheshorse, or discovered in the back of the closet and recycled from earlier decades, clothes let us reinvent ourselves. As you’ll find in our annual fall fashion feature on page 70, this year the colors are richer, the textures more textured. The hats and boots and jackets yummily anticipate the cooler weather that will soon arrive. And one more time, they set the stage for new experiences, and the memories that will arise from them.
The Great American Apparel Diet came to an end with a Labor Day weekend shopping spree. The reader with the lovely workplace attire made a donation to career women in need through Dress for Success Seattle.
And I’m set on finding the perfect little leather jacket.