Below, the winning respondent to January’s Writers Club prompt: If your closet could talk, what would it say?
I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if, one day, as I stood indecisive in my socks with one hand on the mirrored door, my wardrobe heaved itself to life. It’s always reminded me of an ecosystem, with its cycles, dominant parts, and weak links. It wouldn’t be the biggest leap for it to gain consciousness, too.
My closet is nothing if not alive, constantly evolving, heeding the rules of survival of the fittest. The strongest items are those that give birth to variations of themselves in different colors or silhouettes, passing on their DNA. My first pair of Doc Martens were such a success that eight offspring now stand at attention on the floor of my wardrobe, a regimented family of commonly thick soles in varying shapes: parental boots, a sensible elder sibling loafer, the youngster a tearaway sandal that tugs at the limits of my comfort.
There are of course natural predators. One of my most prized possessions is a lion’s roar of a dress. Scalloped by Dries Van Noten, its tubular sleeves and dark florals mean that it has risen to several important occasions. And yet, as I know all too well myself, parties take their toll. If it were to whisper to me in the back of a midnight black cab, it would tell me about the small hole in the hem that I’ve been willfully ignoring and plead for a break. I’m tired, it would say, and I would nod and say I’m tired too.
I’ve become a somewhat intelligent breeder. Sometimes I grow brave, predicting a success on a shop floor and grab twin items with the confidence of a fortune teller. Prophetically I stood in Uniqlo two winters ago peeling turtlenecks off their stands in both black and grey. Woven in lambswool, they were soft enough to feel decadent and cheap enough to be bought in a pair. During bitter winters spent with my family in Scotland, I wear them most days; harmonious under dresses or as a companion to a velvet skirt.
And still, my wardrobe will sometimes birth a changeling, an outsider ushered in under a shift in confidence or period of strange weather. A sudden epiphany that I rarely wear jeans once introduced an alien pair of blue cropped flares onto a shelf where they have stiffened and never been worn. Then there was the heatwave of last year, when I welcomed a cream lace dress that I hoped to wear with a straw basket bag. It still hangs there, peerless, like a ghost.
It’s possible that some components of my wardrobe will outlive me—and what stories will they tell then? Will my waxed Barbour jacket ever hug someone else against a chill, calmly assuring them that they’ll be home soon? Will my high school prom dress, unworn for nearly 10 years but still beautiful, help someone else find their voice as they teeter on the cusp of adulthood? It’s a strange thought, but also a reassuring one. I guess it’s the way of life.
Graphic by Lorenza Centi.