I know by the time you read this it may be warm enough to believe it is spring, but I persist. It was a very cold day when I decided I had better find a nice warm turtleneck sweater to put on when I ventured out. I had planned to wear it under my heaviest coat, with additional warmth provided by my hand-knit hat, scarf and mittens.
Well, unfortunately, I tuned into the latest weather news and decided it was best to stay inside. With that decision made, I went to a closet and got out a large box of old photos containing much of my memories of raising three great kids. Of course, it must be noted they are now all grown up and have nice children of their own. Not to matter, I was interested in reliving a bit of my salad days when my kids called me “Mommy” and asked my advice on all kinds of important things.
I found a photo of one of my darlings sitting on my lap and we both were smiling. I started smiling again as I looked, but then looked closer and to my shock, I was wearing the same sweater I had put on in the morning! How could that be? I asked myself. Shouldn’t I have given it away long ago or worn it out or something?
I fingered the fabric on a sleeve and it was fine. It was in as good shape as any newer sweaters I had been wearing. I admit I hang on to many things, and clothes are items I don’t part with easily. I like to blame a wonderful aunt of mine who never gave anything away. Her motto was that everything “comes back.” I can tell you she was proven right on numerous occasions.
Of course, some things can’t come back. For example, when fashion dictated that my long, pleated skirts needed to be a foot shorter, I complied. I think I was in college and came home frantic to shorten skirts. My dear mother helped me as much as she could, and when I returned to school I was free to freeze my knees as I walked fashionably about campus.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how fickle skirt lengths can be, but my aunt’s advice rang in my ears when my skirts were deemed too short. She advised that any skirt that just brushed the top of your knee would always be an acceptable length. It was good advice, but I think she was gone when skirts took a dramatic dive to ankle length. I acquired a few and never shortened them because I was certain they would come back.
I wonder if anyone remembers wool shorts that were worn with knee socks or, in colder weather, with stockings. I have a closet full of those shorts and have been waiting for a long time for them to be resurrected. One day not long ago, I pulled them out and tried on a pair. To my dismay, they were tight in the waist. I vowed to lose five pounds.
Then I found a plastic bag filled with stockings of many different colors. They were the ones I had worn with my wool shorts. It happened that I was going out with friends and decided to wear a dress with stockings. I can count on one hand the times I go out wearing a dress. I suppose I shouldn’t admit how lacking my social life is that it doesn’t require a dress.
Consider, if you will, that I am a writer. If I chose, I could sit all day at my computer in my nightgown. Of course I don’t, but jeans and a sweater suit me fine.
In addition, I have found that in my circles, on most occasions pants and tops are very acceptable to wear when going out for dinner or to a play or pretty much anywhere. I sometimes have wished I would go someplace where I would feel comfortable wearing a dress. Boy, I am really painting myself kind of dorky, but I don’t feel that way. It is a lifestyle that has become comfortable.
In my closet I have several dresses that would not be suitable for anywhere but a wedding. Indeed, that is where they were worn many years ago. They don’t go out of style as fast as you might think. Several are suits with rhinestone trim or beading and would need another wedding for me to feel right about wearing them. Most were worn only once.
One thing, though, that I hate to abandon is jackets. I have no idea how many years ago jackets had shoulder pads that today only look right on football players, and yet several of mine have those pads. In one case, I really liked the jacket, so I took the shoulder pads out. That didn’t solve anything because then I had great drooping shoulders with lots of excess fabric.
Now that I have bared my sartorial soul to you, I have only some brief advice. You are free to ignore it, as I have often ignored good advice aimed at me. Be stronger than me. Give or throw away clothes if they are older than, say, 20 years. Once I was young enough to think I would never know what it felt like to own something 20 years old. It happens. You know the saying that “time marches on”? I will take it one step farther. “Time doesn’t march. It runs at top speed.”
Lynne MacKnight lives in Princeton Junction, N.J., and Beach Haven.