If I had a dollar for every time I completely changed my mind about an item of clothing –
And I mean going from thinking I have to get rid of this thing I’d never be caught dead in it, to I absolutely love this thing
– I’d have about $20.
Which isn’t a lot, but it’s more than you’d expect, and enough money to thrift something magical.
The thing is, I’m terrible at getting rid of clothes. When I manage to get over my attachment to them, there’s the issue of physically disposing them. I can’t just bin them, knowing they’ll be rotting in landfills longer than my entire lifespan (and any legacy I happen to leave behind). Especially when they’re in good condition and could be loved and worn by someone new. Selling clothes online never works out – not many people see the ads I post because I don’t pay to promote them. Being a student, why on earth would I spend money on that? Anyone who does view my ads ignores them or reaches out only to ghost me afterwards.
I could donate my clothes to thrift stores. But after learning that most donations end up in landfills (usually in developing countries on the opposite side of the world), that lost its appeal. Plus, then I’d have to find the time and effort to drop the clothing off, which for me is a whole problem of its own.
I wouldn’t dare ask any of my friends or family if they wanted these clothes – how could I reveal the fact that I own such strange pieces? The only other option is to mail the clothes to a textile recycling facility. But being more expensive than promoting listings online, and more complicated than dropping off clothing at thrift stores, it’s just not my cup of tea.
The point is, even when I really don’t like a piece of clothing, I don’t get rid of it. Instead, it ends up forgotten and buried in the back of my wardrobe.
Until I happen to be cleaning, and rediscover it.
And fall in love.
Like good wine, my stashed away clothes get better with time.
Take my ‘Octopus Army’ t-shirt for example. When I inherited it from my Mum I thought it was hideous. Huge, and brown, with ‘octopus’ written off-centre across the chest, printed like an anonymous threat letter from a movie, letters cut from mismatched newspaper clippings. On the right sleeve ‘army’ was written in a different font, and in a colour that practically blended in with the fabric. As a basic teenager at the time, of course it didn’t suit my taste.
But when I saw it for the second time, years later, I took it in with shining eyes. I had discovered the perfect oversized t-shirt. Made of thick cotton, the colour of brown sugar. The fitted crew neck embodied a distinct 90’s vibe. It was the perfect length for tucking into a pair of jeans. And it was completely free – because I already owned it. I realised that the way ‘octopus’ was written is actually pretty cool. And the positioning of ‘army’ on one of the sleeves is a nice touch. An instant new favourite.
Not long after this, I experienced another dramatic change of heart. This time with a colourful commemorative t-shirt my Grandma gave me after an overseas trip. I appreciated the thought. But the minute I laid eyes on it, I knew I wouldn’t be walking around in a top that loudly declared ‘I ♡ Boracay Islands Philippines.’ Just not my style.
While that hasn’t changed, when I rediscovered this shirt I realised it would be super comfy to sleep in. And honestly, I just like wearing it around the house because my Grandma gave it to me.
These turnarounds aren’t rare for me. They’ve also happened with belts, dresses, pants, shoes and jackets. My wardrobe would definitely lack variety and interesting pieces if I only kept what I liked at that particular moment. And I would have lost irreplaceable vintage pieces, some that are also irreplaceable in their meaning to me.
I think that stashing and rediscovering clothes adds to their story, and the joy they bring. Being the sentimental person I am, I like that because it makes me feel more connected to my clothes, which makes wearing them even better.
So I will keep on holding onto my clothes, even if I don’t particularly like them.
And I recommend you give it a go and do the same.
Maybe you’ll find yourself a new wardrobe staple.
Maybe 80’s activewear will come back in style.
We’ll just have to wait and see…
Originally published in Woroni Vol. 72 Issue 5 ‘To Be Confirmed’
Think your name would look good in print? Woroni is always open for submissions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with a pitch or draft. You can find more info on submitting here.
We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and emerging. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.