The below piece is one I had written for my column writing course last year. Some of my closet, which is discussed below, has changed. And while I know the work can be edited and fixed, prodded and poked, I’m just not as coordinated as my closet anymore. In fact, I’m all out of order these days. So for your enjoyment, and my backtrack into 2010 — 2011, here is Skeletons.
Skeletons: How the Closet Defines the Girl
I am the contents of my closet. I clutch to hangers, strap by strap. I fold on shelves next to boots that hurt my feet. My closet is me: The confident me. The sexy me. The self-conscious me; my personality bared in the buttons and buckles; my life filed in shirts and shoes.
A girl’s closet, like her purse, represents the individual. Clueless (1995) featured the closet of a Beverly Hill’s adolescent. Mechanized and systematic, the closet revealed Cher’s place as a rich but unsure teen in constant need of approval and praise. In Sex and the City (2008), writer Carrie Bradshaw found her walk-in as a place of worship—her shoes, miniature idols to the gods of fashion.
But for college students like me, the closet is an archive, a sort of historic dig site for anyone seeking a little input into not just how we dress, but how we’ve lived. Study us, and you will see how that plaid shirt is actually a memory of grandpa, or how the cowboy hat we rarely wear was once a symbol of our love for a boyfriend.
In high school, I started to color-coordinate my clothes. Pinks, reds, then oranges. Yellows, greens, then blues. Purple. Brown. White. Gray. Black. When I moved to college, I broke this organization down further before placing items in their makeshift rainbow: suits, pants, skirts, jackets, shirts, dresses. For me, it was where I found control. Despite curfews, then college choices; acceptance letters, then potential futures, it remained the single constant. It was only recently, after I moved from Miami to Boston for graduate school, that I realized I’d become the very closet I’d organized. I filled the closet space with pieces of my teen-hood juxtaposed with pieces of the twenty-something, bang-haired girl with glasses who takes an extra fifteen minutes to get dressed because she has “nothing to wear” (when her closet is absolutely full). Then I stare into the polychromatic depths, decide I want to wear red (so I pull from the middle-left), grab the black shirt I had chosen the night before, and stick it back in its place. Because, well, everything has one.
So this closet is the section of my life that is organized, the personal shrine where the only significant decisions involve where to place a shirt of multiple hues, or a memory. My closet includes boots (both high-heeled and snow), hats, a filing cabinet, elaborate pumps I rarely don, belts, old scarves, and a bedside table. (The table used to be in my grandparents’ house as a home to playing cards and notepads. Now it contains bathing suits and bras.) A Santa hat—that I used to wear at Subway at Christmastime—hangs off the edge of a bag. There’s a UCF football visor I took from an acquaintance. A Marlins hat. A knitted hat from Peru I received as a gift along with a rain stick. My high school homecoming dress and prom dress. The dress I wore to go salsa dancing the week before I broke my ankle in my third year of college. Personalized orange Converses that say “The Flash”—a Christmas gift during undergrad that eventually led to a first “I love you” the following February. This closet exposes me without restraint, my fears disrobed: self-consciousness in the bulk of a sweater, arguments dropped in plastic containers, family deaths hung like turtlenecks—among everything else.
There is the Harley Davidson jacket, size small, which my mother gave me in middle school: a reminder of her, and the wild girl I could have grown into. I tried it on the other day and it didn’t fit. Another jacket reminds me of my grandma— a hybrid half- jean – half-sweater thing that used to be part of a set. I remember buying it with her at Sawgrass Mall and how she smiled when I wore it. But I outgrew the pants. They were donated years ago, the jacket now resting—barely worn—between a gift and a hand-me-down.
The clothes I do wear are an eclectic mix of stripes and solids, V-necks and collars, darks and lights. I have several sweaters left over from high school I still wear, which were once worn in the Florida sunshine to hide my chest (now I wear them just to keep warm during Massachusetts winter). There is the minimal collection of business attire: the start of a changing closet, a step into the professional world being taken in very short strides.
And then finally, there is the suit: The first suit I ever had to buy on my own. The suit I tried on as I cried in the dressing room of Macy’s. The suit I wore as I stood at my grandmother’s funeral, speaking last after my father. This has its own place on the leftmost side of my closet. And perhaps I’ll find the opportunity, the strength to wear it again—a suit potentially representative of both the old, and newer me.