I had a silk dress suit, a slim black skirt with fitted emerald-green top. The silk was soft and subtly patterned, the top with a perfectly fitted bust and waist, and the overall effect was stunning.
I bought this outfit when I was in my late 20s, so it was a size 10. I’m not sure when I stopped wearing a size 10, but by my mid-30s that outfit had absolutely no hope of being worn by me again.
But, unlike the rest of my size 10 clothes, I didn’t give it away. It was still hanging in my closet a couple years ago – which means I’d had it for at least 25 years, and had even moved it to Dubai and back without ever wearing it.
Enough, I finally said, and summoned the courage to take it out of the closet for good.
Rather than giving it to the thrift store, I shipped it off to my niece, who IS a size 10 and on whom it would look gorgeous. It was a timeless style, and the silk was still in flawless condition.
I would be surprised if she has ever worn it (I can’t bear to ask), but it was the only way I could part with it.
The question is why? What, exactly, was I hanging onto? And why could it only be given to my niece?
It represented youth and beauty … sure, that’s the easy answer. But I don’t think that is why I held onto it for 25 years. I’d long since discarded my other youthful, pretty clothes.
When you’ve had something that long, it creates its own inertia with its sentimental value. You can’t get rid of it because you haven’t gotten rid of it.
But that explanation doesn’t seem right, either. This outfit had no real sentiment attached to it; I couldn’t name a single occasion when I’d worn it.
I liked to touch it, though. I’d see it in the back of the closet, and fondle the fabric.
This outfit felt … luxurious. It was expensive, by my standards at the time, and even more so because it was impractical – a dress I knew I wouldn’t be able to wear very often. I bet I didn’t wear it more than a half-dozen times.
Was that it? Just frugality? I hadn’t gotten my money’s worth?
No…. the opposite.
That outfit was the opposite of the hand-me-downs I have worn all my life. It was from a brief period when I was really good to myself, when I felt confident that I deserved good things, nice things, that I could afford them because I would always earn good money.
I was about my niece’s age then. By sending this outfit to her, I hoped to bequeath her that exhilarated confidence, the deserving of nice things, a luxury of spirit.
I’m not sure when I no longer felt that I deserved good things. Perhaps, when I realized that I already had all the good things a person could ask for in one lifetime.
Or perhaps it wasn’t about deserving them, but rather rejecting them. From traveling in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, I no longer wanted to live a life where I had need of luxury goods.
I bought my freedom with my frugality. Spending less = earning less = working in a job you hate less.
But there was a price.
Maybe I should ask my niece to send that outfit back.
Day 111’s penny is a 1988, my best estimate of the year that I bought the silk outfit.