I I’m not a minimalist: I don’t want to live with extreme amounts of anything. I like “things” and I like them me things, which means that I have several boxes of clothes, bags and shoes in my possession that have been with me for the better part of two decades. One of the boxes is my biggest and best suitcase. When I was still traveling fairly regularly, I had to empty the contents of the suitcase and stack them elsewhere for my return, a process that feels a bit like discovering memories and repressing them again, two weeks later, with a zipper going all the way around. .
Given the displacement of a series of house moves in my early 20s, the fact that I still own the American Apparel navy corduroy shorts that I used to go dancing in college (now for users of the Depop fashion, a vintage item), or the 70s yellow, white and purple striped t-shirt I was wearing when I had an encounter with the much more colorful interior designer Iris Apfel, feels nothing short of miraculous. Today, I can recite what I used to interview various figures in my former role as an editor at a fashion magazine, carefully planned outfits, though they can go wrong, like when the zipper on my green plaid skirt broke while meeting Chloë Sevigny . .
The new Netflix series Worn Stories is all about this very theme: the stories behind the clothes we cherish. It is not about following fashion, but about our clothes and what it means to us. This is not a new idea – book projects exploring how clothing shapes our lives have been top sellers in recent years, such as 2014’s Women in Clothes, by Sheila Heti, Leanne Shapton and Heidi Julavits, or the book series (Worn Stories in 2014 and Worn in New York in 2017) by Emily Spivack from which The Netflix show was developed In the introduction to her first book, Spivack explicitly positions her wardrobe as more than just clothing storage: it is, for her, “an evolving archive of experiences, adventures, and memories.”
The eight half-hour episodes of Worn Stories bring this way of thinking and through clothing. on the television landscape. The treatment of the narratives gathered here is tender: each episode, structured thematically (“Community”, “Lost Objects” and, yes, “Love”), contains stories of discovery, loss and self-realization connected to specific garments. from a leather truss of Berlin origin to the first items of a post-prison wardrobe. A series of on-camera interviews, the show stitches these testimonies along with trips to places like a giant dry cleaner in Las Vegas, or a center for Korean retirees in Queens, New York. And, in addition to appearances by famous people from antiquity like the Spanish-American glamazon Charo and Tim “Sexy Sax Man” Cappello, the tales are told by a diverse group of figures of all ages, lifestyles, origins, and senses of life. fashion (a nice expansion on the books, which at times felt a bit too New Yorker in their selection).
Unlike plants, biscuits or ceramics, this was the first time I had seen ordinary clothing treated with such reverence on display. Together, these stories throw a new idea into the fascinating world of Netflix. In other words, maybe clothing is about more than self-improvement or status. In this way, to me, it feels like a response to a recent trend on television that encouraged us to shed, to let go, of the past: from the extremes of Marie Kondo’s ordering, to the narratives of self-development. Queer Eye’s archaic approach to preying on women’s insecurities (see: Trinny and Susannah’s What Not to Wear). Better to leave the insult-laden narratives of the latter in the early 2000s, obsessed with body image. But maybe, a year after a period of being at home surrounded by everything from our past, 2021 is an opportunity for a different kind of storytelling about clothing: less, “Eliminate my past to become a better me. “plus,” I am who I am, and these are the things that have shaped me. “
Still, I couldn’t help but feel like everything was a little too well put together. Although Worn Stories offers colorful tales, the question remains: why do our memories stick to the clothes we wear so strongly over other objects? Also, there is something inscrutable about clothing, something magical that is often difficult to articulate. This also frustrated Virginia Woolf, who wrote about it in her journal in 1925: “My love for clothes interests me deeply, it’s just not love; and what I must discover. “There is a feeling, with The close-ups of Worn Stories’ misty lens garments, its Edward Scissorhands-style score, and animated segments, of a kind of visual tension in the face of this same inarticulable thing.
It is difficult to translate to the small screen what clothes really mean to us. But has anyone really tried it before? Its touch, emotional life, and wear and tear feels like it’s been most successfully captured on film: from Peter Strickland’s black comic horror In Fabric, on a dress that haunts its owners. to Sofia Coppola’s Virgin Suicides, with its 1970s prairie aesthetic, or the taffeta dresses and ironed shirt cuffs of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread. All these films understand that clothing, with the mysteries it contains, is just one type of material to tell stories about life. And, as such, they are worth holding onto.
Beneath the cuddly close-ups and puffy music, it feels like Worn Stories understands this too. For memory hoarders like myself, who continue to resist the life-changing magic of ordering, the series feels like an important addition to that canon. As the lockdown reduces our wardrobes to their most essential content, perhaps my old shorts also deserve a different kind of respect.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism