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‘Worn Stories’ Treats Clothing as the Fabric of Memory. I Can Relate.


For Joe, it’s the Air Jordan hoodie that belonged to his son, Jeremy, reduce down by a deadly heroin overdose. For the author and stylist Simon Doonan, it’s a pair of Lycra Stephen Sprouse leggings, worn by way of sweaty aerobics courses to manage as one good friend after one other died of AIDS. For Michael, it’s the patchwork quilt sewed by his mother, Debbie, whereas she was in jail.

We are likely to assume of clothes as style or utility, one thing to indicate off or keep heat in. But it’s a lot greater than that, as we’re reminded in “Worn Stories,” the new Netflix collection, which debuted final week, about the garments we put on and the tales they inform. Based on the books “Worn Stories” and “Worn in New York,” each by Emily Spivack, the collection presents a group of sartorial autobiographies, private tales of probability, id, survival, neighborhood and life, all associated to the material we placed on our our bodies day by day.

“Clothing carries so much memory,” mentioned Spivack, who’s an government producer of the collection, in a telephone interview final month. “It’s so tactile, and it really absorbs experiences. It plays a significant role in reminding us of the people who we care about.”

I can relate. I have my very own worn tales, they usually revolve round love, loss, grief and reminiscence. The garments that stay maintain me near somebody not right here, somebody I cherished deeply.

I was once one thing of an informal clotheshorse, an obsessive purchaser of T-shirts, baseball caps, socks and Adidas sneakers. Kate, a heat, earthy brunette and the love of my life, was properly conscious of my appetites. She made enjoyable of me about the piles of sneaker bins, however she additionally cherished to purchase me little presents. She knew that any trip we took would in some unspecified time in the future embrace a go to to no matter retailer would possibly feed my yen. And when she went out of city on her personal, she at all times got here again with one thing particular.

She returned from one solo journey to San Francisco with a crown jewel: a blue-and-gold Adidas Golden State Warriors jacket. We discovered immense pleasure in watching the Warriors, laughing collectively every time Stephen Curry would sink one other unbelievable three-point shot. I typically wore the jacket to my weekly pickup recreation, simply to listen to the oohs and aahs.

“That looks like what the players wear,” one good friend gushed. Of course it did. Kate purchased it.

Few of our purchases had been so luxe. There was the “Repo Man” shirt I picked up at Trash and Vaudeville in the East Village, proper earlier than we jumped in a cab to LaGuardia on our approach again to Dallas on one of our many New York getaways. And a pair of brightly coloured, Warhol-esque Ol’ Dirty Bastard socks she purchased me at Oaklandish, a killer boutique store in downtown Oakland. (I grew up subsequent door, in Berkeley).

We cherished to journey, and store, on a funds. She cherished to see me in these garments, however principally she cherished to make me pleased.

In 2018, Kate began forgetting phrases. She complained of numbness and weak point in her proper arm. A collection of M.R.I.s had been inconclusive. In February 2019, we visited a neurologist, who delivered the prognosis: corticobasal degeneration, a uncommon illness that impacts the space of the mind that processes info and mind constructions that management motion. She was 38.

The illness is terminal.

The subsequent a number of months had been a whirlwind of trauma. Laid off from my job at The Dallas Morning News, I moved to Houston to work at the Chronicle. Kate went to stay along with her dad and mom in East Texas. Overwhelmed by grief, I suffered a extreme emotional collapse. I was briefly hospitalized. It was a really darkish time.

Meanwhile, my garments had been all over the place, principally in a storage unit in Dallas. A good friend acquired entry, boxed up a couple of gadgets and despatched them to me in Houston. There was the Warriors jacket. And the “Repo Man” shirt. And the O.D.B. socks. Looking at them flooded me with emotion — unhappiness, gratitude, remorse. I longed, achingly, for instances that might by no means return, instances that didn’t harm.

This is perhaps an excellent time to say that “Worn Stories” isn’t all unhappiness. There’s the nudist neighborhood in Kissimmee, Fla., the place clothes normally means sandals. “I can’t imagine having my feet naked,” says one neighborhood resident, Diane, in the present’s first episode. “Going outside and walking across the lawn, there are insects down there.”

There’s inspiration as properly: Carlos, from Blythe, Calif., spent eight years behind bars. Today, working for the Ride Home Program, he picks up newly launched inmates from jail — and takes them purchasing for garments to put on of their new lives.

Then there’s the sax participant Timmy Cappello, who acquired the present of a studded leather-based codpiece from Tina Turner after they had been on tour collectively. “I’m not even sure I can play the saxophone without this,” he says in the second episode. Worn tales could be humorous — and transferring.

For Morgan Neville, a documentary maker (“Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” “20 Feet from Stardom”) and an government producer of “Worn Stories,” the collection has private resonance. He nonetheless retains a jacket he first wore as a youngster, he mentioned by telephone not too long ago, which helps join him to his mom, who died in 2016.

When he was 13, he acquired deep into the English rock band the Who. He ordered a bunch of Union Jack flags and spent hours along with his mom stitching the flags right into a jacket. Today it hangs in his closet, reminding him of his mom each time he sees it.

“It’s one thing to look at a picture, but it’s another thing to hold something, and to wear something,” Neville mentioned by telephone. “And to wear something that connects you to somebody, it’s imbued with all these things. It can be spiritual and it can be emotional.”

Clothes have a novel energy to wrap us in the love of our dearly departed. Kate died on July 2, 2020. I recurrently kiss the socks she purchased me (even when they’re soiled). I stroke the Warriors jacket, typically considering of the finish of “Brokeback Mountain,” when Ennis cradles Jack’s shirts to his chest. I put on my Kate garments regularly. They deliver me nearer to her, and to what we had.

Even as Kate was dying, she was outfitting me. Near the finish, her dad, Mike, despatched me a pair of striped socks Kate ordered, adorned with the phrases “Pretty Decent Boyfriend.” They present me she by no means misplaced her sense of humor, or her generosity of spirit.

Before our world caved in, Mike additionally purchased matching bomber jackets for me and Lorenzo, who was courting Kate’s sister at the time. It’s only a primary, brown leather-based jacket, however I took to it. I like its simplicity, and it retains me heat. I was carrying it as I sat on the entrance porch throughout a latest telephone dialog with Mike, and I advised him so. He appeared genuinely moved.

“When you wear it,” he advised me, “that’s me hugging you.”

That’s one thing else garments can do. They can maintain you tight while you really feel alone. They could make the world really feel a little bit bit smaller.



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