Clothing and Memory: What Makes a Garment Special?

Can you think of a piece of clothing or an accessory that has a special place in your memory? Oftentimes, we consider clothing as one part of the various paraphernalia that fills our lives and we don’t give it much importance. The truth is – and I’m not proclaiming groundbreaking news – life is filled with lots of small things. 

There may be events that mark major changes and phases in our existence – an educational degree, a new job, the loss of a loved one, a marriage, a child – and any other smaller occurrence is inevitably located “before” or “after” such events. However, I think of these moments as if they were painted in black and white, and that they acquire vividness only after we color them with those small things that we so often neglect.

Clothing and Memory

My graduation day

The day of my graduation wouldn’t be such a sweet memory if I didn’t fill my mind with the smell of the beautiful flowers my parents handed me when I finished defending my thesis; one of the first memories I have after moving to the United States is the burst of flavor of the glaze coating my very first yeast donut; when I think of my last trip to Florence, I remember with a shiver of pleasure the feeling of raindrops running over my lips and down my neck when a shower surprised me.

Clothing falls into this category of apparently trivial details that give color to our lives and make memory a comfortable (and sometimes dreadful) place to be.

Perhaps the most influential piece of clothing I owned was a simple white shirt that my mom bought me when I was about 17. It was the first “professional” item to appear in my closet, and it was really nothing special or great quality. On the contrary, it started to show wear quite soon, and I had to ask my grandmother multiple times to mend it and reattach the buttons that kept coming undone. However, I never felt the need to purchase another white shirt, and this one served its purpose and went through many stages of my life: castings during my years of modeling, job interviews, opera concerts. I even wore it the day of my graduation, and the familiar feeling of that dreadful poly-blend on my skin soothed my spirit and hid the tumult of the heart underneath.

Clothing and Memory

In Florence during Pitti91

The last time I wore it was at Pitti Uomo in January, to the great disappointment of my husband, who tried to persuade me to buy a new, better quality shirt to bring to Florence.

I finally threw it away shortly after, and replaced it with a sartorial shirt I found during the sales in Turin.

Some pieces of clothing are like people: you run into them and think they are nothing special or relevant at all, but they end up being there when you’re most in need, or inspiring you when you least expect it. My shirt had finally exhausted its purpose, and shuffled off its mortal coil along with zillions of other white shirts. I like to think that in the afterlife they’re as immaculate and pristine as they were when first handed to their owners. 

I’m going to ask you again: can you think of a piece of clothing or an accessory that has given color to your life?


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Arianna Reggio

Arianna is an Italian trapped in Southern California, and she's still trying to cope with the fact she's living in a country where they put pineapples on pizza. She is into both Style AND Fashion, but she hardly ever writes about it because all her free time is spent between yoga, rock concerts, and Victorian poetry.

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2 thoughts on “Clothing and Memory: What Makes a Garment Special?

  1. My wedding outfit, which thankfully I can still wear. Custom made by an eccentric freak in Berkeley. Ill fitting, poorly made, but still really cool. Double breasted black velvet jacket with a high collar and cuffs in satin. Very Mr. Darcy, or John Martin Harvey, depending on the time period. I wear it to Peter Murphy concerts.

    • That’s amazing Peter! I’m dying to see a picture!
      My wedding dress is an authentic vintage piece from the 1950s and I like to think that I look like a Jane Austen heroine when I wear it 🙂

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