I’ve been having something of an existential crisis lately. It began (or I noticed it) earlier this summer when my daughter kept raiding my closet for clothing to wear to her internship.
Beyond the fact that there was usually a wake of rejected dresses left on a heap in the closet, it rankled me to watch my self leave the house in a different body, wondering where I was going and what might become of my self during the course of the day.
It became more acute while packing my other daughter for college and I kept unearthing items that were technically “mine”. It culminated when, during the final push, I held up a cute dress and said “This is nice…” and she replied “…it’s hard to wear. You can have it if you want…”
All this is well and good, but what is bothering me is two-fold:
1. My inner only child is kicking her heels, acutely perturbed that what’s mine is everyone else’s, and
2. I’m 50. My daughters are 17 and 20. There is something misaligned in the sartorial universe if we are all wearing each other’s clothing.
While I have always considered myself a generous and giving person, there is something about clothing that makes me highly possessive. I remember in college a hall neighbor asked if she could look in my closet for something to wear to a semi-formal. I immediately cringed and told her that I was late to class but maybe later in the day she could come back. I promptly stashed all my favorite pieces in fear that she would ask to borrow one of them and I would appear unkind and ungenerous in saying no.
Even today, when one of my kids exits the house in my clothes, I feel the need to remind them that it needs to come back home and not make an unexpected layover at a friend’s house, or worse get left behind at their dad’s house, in which case I’d have no physical recourse to recover it on my own terms. Lest you think I am a selfish gnome, I will gladly lend you books, furniture, cook ware, cars, houses…all sorts of tangible goods. I will give you the metaphorical shirt off my back, but ask for the actual one and it’s a different story.
I wonder what this speaks to, this need to keep my wardrobe to my self. My daughters willingly offer dresses and sweaters and shoes to one another (ok, maybe not to one another but at least to me…and their respective friends…!) Am I like that tribe in the Amazon forest that fears photographs because it robs them of their spirit? Is it possible that so much of who I am is based on what I am wearing?
Which brings me to point number two… While I would like to think that my fashion sense transcends generations, I can’t help think that perhaps I am sending the wrong message if, in theory, I am dressing the same way teens and young adults choose to dress. There must be something appealing about my clothing – other than the fact that they are clean and pressed – if the under 20 set is so keen to wear it.
There is no way I could ever imagine wearing my mother’s clothes when I was 18, but my mother did dress in a much more formal and structured manner than suits my personality. It’s flattering to think that at middle age I can fit into the same sizes that my progeny, who have yet to develop fully mature, post baby figures, wear, but does that mean that I’m dressing like a teen?
Writing this I am wearing a white T-shirt, rolled jeans, flip flops, and a big chunky necklace that I heisted from my daughter’s dressing table. Thinking about it, the items that make up my outfit are age and gender neutral. They are the uniform of our century. But my focus is on the necklace, wondering how long it will take my daughter to notice that I’m wearing it, and how long before she asks me to return it…