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OPINION | KAREN MARTIN: Cherished possessions behind a closet door

by Karen Martin | February 14, 2021 at 8:38 a.m.
Karen Martin

Opening a closet door is seldom an entry point to memories and musings. Figuring out what to wear isn't all that mentally stimulating. Considerations involve the day's schedule, the weather, and the physical condition of the clothing at hand.

That was before the pandemic. Now, with wardrobe needs restricted by the narrowness of working remotely, a visit to a closet can be as evocative as suddenly catching a whiff of a fragrance worn by a long-ago romantic partner.

For women, working in an office means her closet likely includes slacks and jackets, a few suits, fitted knit cardigans, blouses, an ever-declining number of dresses, and appropriately heeled shoes.

A more casual work environment would line a closet with jeans (black denim, blue denim, brown corduroy, and maybe a straight-legged pair in pink or plum) and khakis, sweaters, shirts in linen, cotton and flannel, and several pairs of flats, trainers, and ankle boots.

But while working at home during the pandemic, clothing choices needn't be comprehensive. Sure, I could pull out my black Evan-Picone pantsuit (a hand-me-down from my sister-in-law after she retired from her career as a junior high school principal), along with a pair of two-inch-heeled pumps, accessorize with subtle diamond earrings and a nice watch, apply eyeliner, mascara and lipstick, blow-dry my hair, then settle into a chair at the desk in a corner of my bedroom and get to work editing columns for the Perspective section and arguing with my co-workers.

Instead, my at-home work outfit often consists of a pair of J. Jill jeans (fashionably shredded through constant wear, not by the manufacturer), a soft black hoodie I got when attending a movie junket for "21 Grams," the Alejandro González Iñárritu's crime drama released in 2003, finished off with a shaggy too-big North Face fleece that my husband found abandoned on a golf course and a pair of nearly disintegrated leather moccasins acquired on our wedding trip in Santa Fe in 1993.

All these clothes are not only comfortable; they're comforting. They are interwoven with recollections of attending concerts, museum exhibit openings, First Thursdays in Hillcrest, Argenta Art Nights, street festivals, film festivals, St. Patrick Day parades, chili cookoffs, and parties. The memories they stir are every bit as detailed and cogent as notations in a diary.

And, unlike the black pantsuit, they are equally at ease in leaving my at-home office chair to take the dogs out several times a day for a romp in our pocket neighborhood's common area. Can't say that for the two-inch-heeled pumps.

A glance around the closet reveals many other impressions of good times: a gray cashmere sweater that always travels with me to the Tribeca Film Festival in April, a pink linen Liz Claiborne dress handed over by a girlfriend whose pregnancy increased her size at a time when my size decreased, a white Anne Klein denim jacket acquired at another friend's clothing swap a few summers ago, a rough-textured navy blue wool scarf crocheted by my mother well before her death in the late 1980s, white cropped pants that I stubbornly refuse to wear until after Memorial Day, although such fashion dictums are, well, out of fashion.

A downsizing move in April 2019 was reason to get rid of everything that wasn't being used or didn't matter. All my clothing resides in one dresser (also a hand-me-down) and one closet. That makes it easier to cherish what's there, and look forward to bringing these evocative garments back into a post-covid world, rested and ready to incorporate bright new exposures and experiences into their fibers. And mine.

Karen Martin is senior editor of Perspective.


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