December 18, 2023

13 articles of clothing I gave away today

If I got rid of my two copies of Powers of Horrors—even though I know I'll never read either again—it would be as if I were rejecting my younger self, saying to my younger self I never really valued you.
—Dodie Bellamy in "Hoarding as Écriture"

While hoarding is generally viewed shamefully, this reflection from Bellamy honors for me what feels so impossible about letting go. There are versions of myself contained in my things, parts of myself that have never been fully witnessed or expressed, preserved only in an object-memory. I absolutely love this essay—it's not just about feeling attached to things, but also about personal disclosure in writing, and collecting v. hoarding (and their parallels in writing).

But while swimming in the memories of my things is all fine and dandy, the reality is that I live in New York City, and I do need to optimize my space. When I faced the idea of finally culling my closet, I realized that holding onto certain pieces was more about the stories/memories/previous selves occupied in them. I decided to record some memories here, in order to release myself of the objects' meaning/power. Re-reading my recollections below, I'm seeing there is considerable resentment and bad memories, but there are also enlivening time capsules; may these pieces be released of their stories and go on to live dynamic second lives 👚👖.

Black skinny jeans a size too small, never worn


Aspirational; I bought these near the end of college, when I was still buying clothes that fit how I wanted my body to look (i.e. smaller and smaller).

Cheap white crop top from Urban Outfitters 


In 2018, I was invited to a “white party” and grabbed the first white top I could find at the now-closed mega-Urban Outfitters that once lived on the corner of 14th Street and 7th Ave. The last time I wore this was to EG’s balcony in that Frank Gehry building I always admired from afar; the only skyscraper that I think actually successfully emulates a waterfall when others have tried and failed. 
That guy was there: a huge suffocating smile and presence, an even bigger ego, no personality to discern beyond pride in being an asshole. The type of man that they all know about, but who is never actually ejected because of what social agreeability means in ascendant/aspirant/upper-class spaces. When I wear this shirt now, the ties form an intolerably flaccid, low-hanging bow. 

A bossy pair of black jeans 


I never quite got these pants to work—they were also aspirational. The little metal tabs at the bottom are for hemming the pants, so the fabric can be tucked in, secured, and the pants thus worn at different lengths. I liked that: it felt inclusive of my stubby leg-length. They also are high-waisted in a brassy way. But in the end, the pants just looked heavy and felt heavy; like they were wearing me. I recently saw a high fashion rule that garments should “look heavy and feel light.”

Ksubi shorts from back when the brand was called Tsubi


Hand-me-downs from KT. I’m not really in the booty-cheek shorts phase of my life anymore, but I lived in these the summer of 2014, which remains the summer I was the most free, excited, and curious I've ever been in New York City. I loved this little rat. 

Another hand-me-down 


This time from SG. 

 A beloved weird geometric shirt 


After school several times in high school, Simon and I would stop through Barneys on the way home. I knew I couldn’t afford anything, but it felt like pure fantasy to walk through and look at things, cosplay being an adult with money and taste. I did one time find a rack in the very back of a floor, with a tiny “Sale” placard and found this shirt—magically in my budget. It fit pretty weird, but it was *BARNEYS* so I just made it work. I lived in this all of college, and one time went to a DUNY party (MIT grads, friends of my brothers) where DF made a snarky comment about me looking hip. At one point I think there was a soy sauce stain that I worked hard to remove, but that was the beginning of the end. These days, the fit is just a bit too weird, and ~13 years seems like a long-enough life for a treasured first-Barneys (RIP) purchase. 

A cursed silk Penguin top 


This was also a high school purchase—I think from somewhere in the Camarillo outlets. I thought it was very chic and French-looking. Senior year, our school had a Career Day where the game was to sign up for what would be the most fun-sounding career day: I went with pastry chef. In the spirit of looking European and sophisticated, I wore this shirt. I was stuck in a group with the local mean-girl, who flirted handily with the French pastry chef. The chef, flirting right back at her, asked me mockingly about the kimono I was wearing. They laughed together. 
Another time I wore this shirt to a café in LA called Amandine, and a busboy stared at my chest, which had the faintest whisp of the tiniest bit of teenage cleavage, and he dropped a plate he was bussing. I can still recall the disgust and humiliation I felt at my own body.
Honestly I haven’t managed to wear this shirt since either of these incidents, but have held onto it for 10+ years. Maybe the world has changed, maybe on another body? 

A happy little romper 


Finally, a happy piece. I bought this in Florida on a trip with Derrick. I wore it as a beach cover-up on a trip with Peter to Sandy Hook Beach and on another day when Peter and I sat somewhere in that long Chinatown park on a sweltering, sweltering day and happily laughed and talked and laughed and talked. I am wearing it in a picture with Jasper the gentle giant (RIP) who is sitting in my lap, dwarfing me. I imagine Bobby (also, RIP) was standing just out-of-frame, smiling in his quiet, mostly-eyes kind of way. It has had a happy time with me, and it’s time to bless someone else’s summers. 

A funny Taiwanese denim shirt 


In Taiwan and other Asian countries, clothes purchasing happens at open-air markets or at tiny shoebox-sized shops where you are not allowed to try on the clothes before purchase (and no returns allowed!). In the case of this shirt, the fabric seemed nice and the price was much better than right, so I went for it. The shoulders and elbows were all wrong though—I could either wear the sleeves above the elbows with scrunched shoulders, or stretch the sleeve below the elbow which pulled the shirt desperately across my shoulders. I’ve never gotten it to work. Bye !! 

Maje blouse 


I’m not sure what the pattern on this shirt is supposed to be, but I know when it’s worn on me, an Asian woman, it suddenly looks like chinoiseries. I’m not sure why I bought it in the first place (probably was on super sale, and I thought why not; I try not to do this anymore). In any case, this blouse is clearly meant for moving through *Class A Commercial Office Space*, which I hope to never do again.

Fun Rorschach dress 


This dress was so much fun, and I remember one night in particular—Coöp formal sometime in 2013, or 2014?? An unbelievably embarrassing night. I’m not really wearing short body-con dresses anymore, so this one’s work is done. 

A shirt I hated but was frequently complimented on


Finally getting rid of this cloyingly girly, yet uninteresting shirt means freeing myself from the prison of shaping myself in my early 20s to how others wanted me to be. 

My go-to sunglasses before I knew about Asian Fit


These sat on my face horribly throughout college, indenting my cheeks anytime I smiled, creating an even more chipmunky smile than I already have. I didn’t know any better at the time. Having matured, my trusty sunglasses of the last ~10 years have been the Moscot Zev (with their lofty nose pads). 


While this may not seem like a lot, these are all things I saw absolutely no future use for. I'm trying to hold onto, mend, and repurpose things, and buy absolutely as little clothing unless absolutely necessary. I've recently revived a Pendleton sweater, got a pair of destroyed jeans mended, and started re-using an old work purse ♻️