While I was searching for a title to today's post, Uncle Dave Macon's song "Wreck of the Tennessee Gravy Train" came on and I thought that it would be perfect. Of course, this post has nothing at all to do with what the song is actually about (1930's bank failure and political scandal) but it seemed like the way to go since honestly, I recently spent a day teetering on being a complete wreck and risking emotional bankruptcy. Thanks to clothes. Yes, clothes.
This week, I had a little tea party with aging and mortality. You see, Family Tree Estate Sales is having a vintage clothing sale this weekend and Lisa and I had been talking about taking some things out there to consign. While she admitted to coming to terms with a wee bit of vintage clothing hoarding, I'd only half-admitted to my own personal demons - until I cracked open the bins of clothes that I'd been storing away and found that those very demons were buzzing around me like horseflies at a rodeo.
"And Now we're up against it and no use to raise a row, but of all the times I've ever seen.. we're sure up against it now..." - Uncle Dave Macon
I'm forty two. There - I said it. There is no getting around it. It happens to all of us sooner or later. When I was in my thirties, I had an entire closet full of vintage clothes - cute dresses, pin-up lingerie, swing skirts and back-breaking heels. I only wore vintage. I'd hit the thrift stores every Saturday and then come home with at least a dozen new-to-me and economical vintage items to further strain my tiny-and-bursting rental house closet. Trust me when I say that those were the days when you could find great vintage for cheap in thrift stores in Nashville. I had just gone through a divorce and had wiggled free from a long and stifling marriage. I was finally discovering who I was and I felt like there weren't enough hours in the day to feel free and to try new things. I had gone from owning a wardrobe of dour, my-life-has-no-joy clothes to bright and cheerful fashions of hopeful eras past. I couldn't get enough of them and snatched them up with vigor.
When I watch "Sex And The City" reruns now, I realize that I was a Carrie Bradshaw. I was hustling and bustling and happily dating and undergoing heart wrenching breakups - I was awash in joie de vivre. I'd write on my blog about everything that happened with no filter. I remember my Mom emailing me once after reading a blog post and saying, "And just WHO is this 'bad boy' whose arm you woke up under?!" Sorry Mom. I'd stay out late and go in to work tired and answer those phone lines, barely sitting up straight. I wasn't a boozer, mind you. I was just drunk on life. Those swishy skirts and talkative heels got me through the days better than any of today's energy drinks ever could. Stories...oh god, I had stories. And enough laughter and tears to last a lifetime.
Fast forward to forty two. When you age, your body changes. And it's not like I've done a lot to keep it from changing. That would be the "gravy" in the "Wreck of the Tennessee Gravy Train". Yum...gravy. So, I stored away the majority of these cute dresses and vintage items, saying that one day, I'd fit back into them again. And years kept passing. When I pulled out those bins this week and started to come to terms with each item, I felt like I was undergoing exposure therapy. Pulling out dresses and remembering first (and last) dates that I'd gone on in each of them....thinking back on music shows and weekend trips.....holding small-waisted skirts up to myself and looking in the mirror only to wonder if I'd once had some ribs removed to fit into them.
There was a real battle going on as to whether I should keep them and hit the treadmill - or let them go so that other Carrie Bradshaws could live days worth remembering in them. I reasoned that surely there were other girls like me - starting fresh but looking back to eras past for clues on how to showcase their future. In the end, I packed up three bags full and took them to the sale. I won't even get started talking about the two suitcases worth of vintage baby clothes that I took along as well - my acceptance that children aren't in my future is fodder for another day's post. Life takes twists and turns and though we think we know what's going to happen - trust me, we don't. Like I said, it's been a real week! I think that's why I'm always telling my younger friends to enjoy things more and to take things lighter - there is always time for deep reflection and planning - and during your twenties and thirties is not the time to spend most of our time that way. Some, of course - but not all.
I once heard a psychic say that when we bring vintage items home with us, we should realize that they carry the residual energy from those who have owned them before. This can be positive energy or negative energy. She said that if someone was generally happy, their items would go forth through the decades carrying this happy energy until perhaps an event happened to shift the energy from happy to unhappy. Going through those bins of clothing took me through waves of both.
I'm never going to be that person who wore those clothes again - but who's to say that I'm not (or won't soon be) an even better person? The days and nights that I spent in those clothes made me who I am today. This emotional week of purging has made me realize that the items that we allow into our lives - our clothing, home furnishings, and even people - are like the wardrobe, set design and supporting cast of our lives. They don't make us who we are but they can affect our moods and how we view ourselves. They can also absorb our residual energy. That said, holding on to the old sometimes takes up space where the new should be.
My life is good now. New loves and lost loves have given way to having an amazing husband. Who's to say if I would have ever been able to fit into those clothes again - but I've let them go. They won't be here for me to torture myself with. Yes, I was strong then but I'm also strong now. - and my life is hardly over. Do I stay up until three in the morning on weeknights these days, singing along with rockabilly bands and going all out? Hardly. These days, I'm more likely to be found during those wee morning hours either nursing a sick animal or a bout of insomnia. Party on.
When the estate sale company posted photos of some of the sale merchandise this morning, I could see some of my old items displayed there. Admittedly, I did have a bit of a panic and wanted to go snatch them up - but then I realized that just like with the women who had worn those clothes before I had, there comes a time when you have to let go and move on - and see where life takes you. There are seasons in fashion - but also in life too.
"The only thing that we can do is to do the best we can. Follow me good people. I'm bound for the promised land..." - Uncle Dave Macon, "Wreck of the Tennessee Gravy Train"
Until next time,
x's and o's,
I love you.
You are wise beyond your years.
This is an amazing, honest, and heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing.
As someone approaching my 40th birthday who has been divorced and remarried...I appreciate this post more than you know. Thank you.
Beautiful piece. We've all been there. Wrenching as it feels at the time, purging and de-cluttering is a liberating thing. And I turn forty-freaking-FOUR in May -- how the hell did that happen? Keep up the great work. x
You're so wise. Thank you for sharing!!
"the items that we allow into our lives - our clothing and our home furnishings (and even people) - are like the wardrobe, set design and supporting cast of our lives. They don't make us who we are but they can affect our moods and how we view ourselves. They can also absorb our residual energy"
Dear Ms. EK this is profound and especially so from such a young'n as you :) !!!
I know how hard it is to let go of vintage clothing, even those items you haven't worn in years. You attach feelings and memories to these things. Makes it all the more harder to give them away.
Mid-forties and divorced three years ago, here. I understand every word of this post, except for me it's furniture rather than clothing. Thanks for this post. I had to go find some tissues and smeared my mascara a little, but all for the good. You've said in words what I've felt in my heart. And look at it this way: clearing your past life out of the way makes room for more stray pets and cross-eyed squirrels, the things that make you happy now. Enjoy!
Thanks for such an insightful post. As I prepare to move into my little modernist nest, it's time to downsize once again. When I bought this house, the love of my life had just died. I brought his clothes, shoes, wallet, glasses, old tax returns and checkbooks...practically anything he had ever touched...with me, but it's time to let some of it go. Your post made it easier.
You are a wise lady, Ms. Kitsch! I swear. I think its a beautiful thing to give these beautiful old clothes a third life. And ps, I always thought of myself as the Carrie too (with some Miranda bitchiness...but let's face it...no one wants to be Miranda)
Glad to see I'm not the only one who has a hard time letting go of my clothes. I take pictures of the things I have parted with. They take up less space and I can revisit them even when they don't fit me anymore.
Thanks for this! I am going through a major transitional period right now and part of that is coming to terms with all of the "stuff" (clothing, knick-knacks, etc.) with which I have surrounded myself. There is so much energy/emotional investment in all of these items. Then I remember that they are just things and it is time for me to let them move on so I can move on too. I'm hoping that yours and Jack's Hollywood careers takes off so you guys can all come out here and we can party!!!
beautiful post lady. i went through my closet lately and donated tons of stuff (i wish i had a closet full of vintage but it was mostly cheap crap that didn't make me feel good) and it felt so great. and you know there will be some vintage loving ladies who will get a thrill out of what i don't doubt are some amazing pieces! i can't decide if i am going to check the sale out yet, i've known nothing but heart break when it comes to finding vintage clothes that fit me. but the mention of baby stuff has me intrigued...
So much truth here. Once again you moved me to tears. Thanks for your wisdom and your being you.
Sigh. I love your blog.
You just write so beautifully--with so much emotion. And humor! :) I have to say that I can really feel what you mean in some ways. How lucky that you were able to find and wear so many awesome vintage garments. I'm a smite jealous :) When I was in my younger (and skinny) days, I didn't think of making a point to try and find vintage clothes. Now I wish I had. I can only think of one vintage dress I ever really wore--a really gorgeous gold dress from the 50's. And it was such a cool fun to do so. How nice to have had a whole era like that!
Yup. That's some good writing there. And true.
i love this, so, so much. You are such a great writer and i identify with so much of this! there's so much of life to still be had. Have fun! :D
Oh, it's true! Objects (vintage or not) carry energy. That energy can tether to your own past. Even if the memories associated with the objects are good, I think they can make it difficult to move forward. That's especially true if there isn't physical room for anything new in your life. Possessions can cast an invisible shadow over you. Getting rid of stuff feels so good!
Congratulations on making room for new things in your life. And you can be sure those dresses will be loved by someone who is doing through her own metamorphosis now.
I'm curious whether the space where those storage bins were kept feels different to you now.
I wish I would have had someone tell me when I was in my 20s to lighten up a little bit, though I think even in my 40s it is sage advice. Sometimes I get too mired down in the minutiae of things and let it affect me far to much.
Great post girl, as always.
I'm 42 too (also?). I do not feel 42. I really have no idea where the last 15 years stomped off to, but it's gone. I have been very, very close to coming to the same point and offloading most of my (beautiful, hand-thrifted, hard-to-come-by-now) clothing (and other junk). I can relate to nearly every word in this post. I can still remember days in the late 80's/early 90's where you could pick the vintage up by the bags full at $3-5...and that was just one store! Oh, the glory days of thrift scoring (i.e. later shortened to the hipper sounding "thrifting"!)
Can't wait to hear how you did!
I'm 52 and I've finally given up the heels and when I got divorced and was Carrie Bradshaw for a while, I had every kind of pump imaginable, even polka dotted. Oh, that outfit was so cute... Anyway, it was like letting go. A bit of a relief, but kind of sad too. Wait another ten years. It really sucks when you like something trendy but you know if you wear it, people will be whispering that you can't accept getting old. So my goal is to be like Betty White. I may be in my flats, but I'm going to be a fun old lady!
I can't find Jack Kitsch on FB.
Oh what a heartfelt post. I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes. :) I've long held that belief you mentioned about how everything we've lived makes us who we are today. And we can't recapture any of our memories (or the potential of what memories might have become but didn't) by hanging onto possessions we really no longer need, even when they're something we adore. Of course I say those things with many years (36 of them in a couple of months) to get me to really feel that instead of just say it. And I still have my struggles!
peeling back the layers of onion to find out more about Eartha.
thank you for sharing. now, what is the Family Tree Estate Sale? email me info please!
you go, girl.
i have such a hard time letting go of things and not getting attached to (vintage) items. josh is constantly reminding me that we've only lived here a little over a year and i've already packed this house full. i hope i can be tough like you and not let the things around me have such a hold over me.
Great post, EK. Must be the season for these kinds of musings. I'm 43 and recently re-connected with a long-lost college friend, which started me down a sentimental train of thought that nearly turned downright maudlin. But hey, onward and upward! Seasons of life is exactly right.
This might be the best blog post I've ever read, anywhere, ever. You're such a cool woman and I love your writing! Thank you for sharing.
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