Last Saturday night at 8:30 pm, I decided to go through all my dresses as part of my closet clean-out. (Now you know how I like to spend my Saturday nights.) I counted a total of 31 dresses. Sounds slightly insane, I know, but we’re talking dresses from the past 15 years or so.
I love dresses. I love them more theoretically at this point, since baby-wrangling isn’t really a dress- or nursing-friendly activity. These days I’m mostly about jeans and striped mariniere tops that can take a beating.
But I used to wear them all the time. I have some lovely frocks, many of them acquired from sample sales, sales racks of cool-girl NYC or Brooklyn boutiques, or sheer dumb luck at Beacon’s Closet. (I remember nearly hyperventilating when I found a gorgeous Lanvin dress there once.) There was a point where I was buying a dress from everywhere I travelled as a souvenir, so I would refer semi-grandly to “my dress from Reykjavik” or “my Bangkok frock.” My whole adult life is basically epitomized in my dress collection.
But when I followed my little closet clean-out protocol and tried all my dresses on, I realized:
1. Things just didn’t hang the same way, thanks to pregnancy and nursing for a year altering my silhouette
2. They don’t fit my life or my sense of self anymore
Oh, the feels! It seriously bummed me out for a moment. Here was incontrovertible evidence that my body has changed: my whole shape has shifted, and those tight little bodices and shoulders I once favored can’t contain my newly voluptuous bust. I have a lower belly that drives me nuttier than ever before. My whole upper body has broadened. And this means some dresses just don’t work on me, even though I can theoretically fit into them.
But the saddest feels were for dresses I simply couldn’t see myself in anymore, in the sense of “What kind of crazy minx wears this?” It’s a lifestyle thing. It’s been years — even before a baby arrived on the scene — since I went out nearly every night for drinks, movies, dinner, parties, openings, rock shows or just hanging out somewhere in a city. In the past few years, I’ve slowed down and chilled out. So did I really need 10 going-out type of dresses taking up room in my closet?
And yet…I still loved them.
It was hard to be ruthless and just axe them. Part of me — a very vain part of me — admits that I wanted to keep some dresses just to remind myself I was an extra-small at some point in my life. The label-whore part of me wanted me to hang onto some dresses like trophies. Others I wanted to hold onto because I had so many wonderful memories attached to them. But don’t be attached to the past, Kat! I told myself. Honor your present! Don’t be such a sentimental marshmallow!
I was holding onto so dresses, of course, because I was holding onto my past. Not just holding — clutching. The truth is that I miss my past freedom, as much as I love my child and my little family. I romanticize that sense of perpetual adventure you have in your 20s. (Or having an extended adolescence in some great city!) Sometimes I miss cavorting and carousing past midnight, going to see some crappy punk band in Bushwick, or just wasting a Sunday afternoon reading magazines.
Of course, I’m not so into those things now — except for the magazines on a Sunday — but the beauty of freedom is evergreen. And these dresses were like love letters from a past life.
So I needed to do some fashion therapy. Fashion therapy, of course, isn’t like real therapy, but the principle is the same: reckon with the past, and then let it go. So I took a page from a “getting over your ex” playbook and wrote my dresses some goodbye letters telling them how much I appreciated them, reveling in some memories with them — and then sending them off down their own path. Some “keepsake” dresses I put into storage, like the ones I got during traveling. Others, though, are off to the consignment store in the sky. But that doesn’t mean I loved them any less.
Goodbye, dresses: it’s been real.
Dear Pink Marc By Marc Jacobs Zebra Striped Dress
I fully and baldly admit that you were my favoritest ever. I wore you to so many occasions! Parties, New Years, dates, movies, art openings. You always made me feel like the fashion equivalent of a Cool Ranch Dorito: zesty, cool and confident. Argh, I’m so sad about having bigger boobs, especially if that means giving up this dress!
Dear Pair of Sheer Diaphanous Martin Margiela Silk Dresses
Whenever I wore you both, you made me feel like the sophisticated art gallery denizen I always wished I could be. You were some of the oldest dresses in my wardrobe, but I can’t wear you anymore because I used to wear just a slip underneath you and I just am not that brave of a lady anymore. But you lasted forever and I will think of you fondly.
Dear 50s Like Cheapo Dark Floral Dress With Sweetheart Neckline and Red Straps From Charlotte Russe
You get a medal because my sweetheart always liked it when I wore you. I always thought of you as my homage to Italian cinema, particularly Fellini — you have that traditional lady vibe but are way less stuffy. You have a sweet adorable spirit and charm, and you always made me feel my best, especially during the summer, which always makes my body feel yucky. I am sad that we will never ride a bike through Rome together. You would’ve been perfect for that.
Dear United Bamboo Severe Schoolmarm Dress
I loved how Chanel-like you were: black, kind of schoolgirl, swingy, with a Peter Pan collar and a sheer skirt. You were a garment made with such exquisite care and detailing that it took my breath away just to behold you, right down to the vintage beads at the cuffs and collar. And you made monasticism seem very glamorous and sexy, and the men who appreciated you were, on the whole, a cut above the average dude in terms of taste and sensibility. But alas, you have to be utterly flat-chested to wear you — and I am just not that anymore.
Dear Vera Wang Tea Dress
It’s especially hard to give you up, because you were a perfect ‘state occasion’ dress. You could meet Grandma, go to a wedding, get tea at Cafe Sabarsky and stroll down Riverside Park — you were surprisingly versatile. But you are also one of those dresses where the waist placement is just off and now I feel like a stout Oompa Loompa wearing you. I thought about putting you up on a wall like a piece of art, because you are exquisite — but then I’d have to do that with half of my dresses I’m giving away, and sadly, my sense of justice oddly extends to inanimate objects. It’s not you, it’s me.
Dear Hippie Dress From Target
You were a perfect summer dress — earth-toned, made of cotton voile with eyelet trim, with wonderful little knife pleats in the skirt. It was a dream to wear you in hot weather, and you managed the trick of making me feel pretty in super-hot, icky-humid weather. We went all over the world together! I called you my calm adventuress dress in my head, because you were refined yet intrepid. I shall miss you, but it’s time for new types of adventures now.