The Secret Lives of Our Clothes

With tears streaming down my face, a bundle under my arm and a box of matches in my pocket, I headed towards our backyard incinerator hoping mum wouldn’t see me. I didn’t want to be asked what I was doing.

Clothes are more than pieces of fabric hanging in our wardrobes! They all with stories! Stand before your open wardrobe and you could tell each item’s story – love, hate, embarrassment, shame or indifference.

Last Sunday, 27 November 2011, in the ‘Body & Soul’ magazine of the Sunday Mail was an article on ‘How Clothes Can Boost Your Mood’. This article talked about the things we women demand from out clothes. It also resonated with me as I have written in my ‘Wardrobe Full, Nothing to Wear’ program about how hard it is to get rid of some clothes that bring up strong emotions in us.

Here’s my short guide to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the secret lives of our clothes.

The Good

These are often favourites in our wardrobe because every time we put them on we feel good about ourselves. They may be clothes or accessories and we wear them often. It might be the colour, the style, the fit, that it reflects our true personality or even all of these. Sometimes when these clothes start to fade or get a little worn, we still keep them. We are reluctant to throw out the memories of compliments and scared that we will never find anything like it again.

The good can even include a major revamp of clothes. I can remember when I left teaching and took the scissors to all my long skirts. I wanted the feeling of freedom for a new stage in my life. So I cut them shorter or threw them out. It felt good to change these clothes.

In a perfect world we would only have feel-good clothes in our wardrobe.

The Bad

Life is not perfect. It is messy and fluid. Bad clothes hang beside our favourites.

These are the clothes you bought on a day when you just had to have something new. ‘This will do’ you said and it doesn’t. Months have passed and it is still unworn. You live in hope that you will soon find the perfect thing to wear it with. You hope that bad will turn to good one day!

Then there are the items that you thought looked good on you. It was a fragile feeling and it only took a few words to pull you down. ‘You look ridiculous! What is that! Where are you going in that? Why are you wearing your good clothes?’ are some of the words I have experienced. If your confidence is low that day, the clothes are relegated to either being hidden away or only worn when you feel it is really safe to wear them.

The Ugly

That bundle under my arm at the start of this article was a dress. I was much younger and I’d just had a big argument with my current boyfriend. Harsh words were said. I was taking the drastic action of burning the dress I was wearing at the time. Yes, you could burn things in the backyard then. I loved the dress but it was the sacrifice.

Our clothing and accessories are not inanimate objects. They are indicators of our current emotions and stories of our life and growth.

If it is time to move the good, the bad or the ugly on, there is a simple and gentle process in my ‘Wardrobe Full, Nothing to Wear’ Action program which is available from my website.

(This article was sent to readers of ‘The Fashion Translator’ eZine on 2 December 2011. Click here to sign up for the eZine .)

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