It is easy to flop around life aimlessly, hoping that things suddenly present themselves to you in a neat, tidy and sensible fashion. But when you’ve floundered so long that you can barely breathe, instead you must grasp on to all the sense you can, sewing together some meaning out of some fishing line and the utterly random patchwork of jagged edges that comprise your life.
Depression, at least for me, is like swimming in a wave pool. You feel calm for a couple of minutes and learn how to breathe again until a wave crashes over you from out of nowhere and you can’t see or hear or breathe and you think you’re going to die or possibly explode. It doesn’t always matter what kind of bathing suit you’re wearing because it’s not going to stop the waves from crashing all around (Gang Gang Dance, anyone?) but clothing is your scales, fur, exoskeleton, whatever. Clothing is the first layer of armor you present to the world. What you wear is the version of yourself you want everyone else to see, though there have been more than a few times I could barely muster the energy to put on socks let alone do some colour blocking. Your clothes already provide some sort of narrative about yourself for others to read, so it seems natural that each item of clothing should have its own narrative, some unique story that makes it a special piece whether its a vintage gem or an impulse buy that changed your life.
Lately, I’ve become obsessed with the concept of creating a meaningful wardrobe. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of clothes but have nothing to wear. It’s the age-old dilemma: water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink. As a thrift store queen, I’ve accumulated a vast array of wonderful, strange and unique items of clothing but not all of them are particularly suited to my lifestyle or aesthetic sensibilities during this transitionary period of my life. When I first started thrifting at age 14, I bought just about anything that looked cool. But as I got more experienced, I practiced a discerning eye and learned to hone in on the qualities that made a piece unique. Later still, I learned to purchase for both comfort and style instead of just the latter. The amount of money I’ve spent on thrift store shoes that just don’t fit is probably ghastly.
Day after day, I look at the same clothing surrounding me and find myself less drawn to a good chunk of things I once loved and found identity in. I have accumulated a large collection of similar novelty sweaters, sequins and ruffled blouses, most of which I longer have any use for. Yet this doesn’t make my collection of black ankle boots any less special, because each pair has a different quality that I bought it and wear it for. The more kitschy, novelty items in my closet have been put into storage temporarily, in the hopes I will sift through them at a later date and fall in love with them once again, understanding why I purchased them in the first place.
Other items will be leaving my closet permanently, sold online for cheap. These are things in which I have grown out of literally and figuratively, relics from an unfulfilling full-time retail job that no longer cover my slowly swelling frame. I am no longer a size extra-small, and that is perfectly fine. Instead, I need to find well-made, flattering pieces that are built to last and will grow with me instead of restrict my breathing.
Overall, I find the most pleasure in wearing clothing that has a story: a sweater that I knit by myself, a skirt which once belonged to my mother or the first pair properly-fitting of pants I bought in over four years. Some things people have sent me as gifts, which imbues them with the narrative of friendship. Still, some of these gifts have less resonance with my own style than the things I purchase for myself, because I know my own taste inside and out. As I learn how to become a better editor of my writing, I strive to become a better editor of my wardrobe as well, picking out only the pieces with the ability to make me smile, laugh and most of all, think.