When A Coat Is More Than Just A Coat: How Certain Articles Of Clothing Take On A Special Meaning


My favorite sneakers were maroon vinyl with a holographic overlay of sorts that made them sparkle in the sun, a 90s take on Dorothy’s ruby slippers, and I wore them until they literally fell apart, the vinyl cracking into pieces.

I was 15 when I bought them, or, I should say, when my mother gave in and bought them for me, as part of my 9th grade transition from geek-in-highwater jeans to “alternative” by-way-of-Contempo-Casuals-girl, and though I’ve never really been a shoe person, I can safely say that I loved those shoes more than anything I’d ever had in my closet before or since. No one else in my high school had them; and everyone had something to say about them, and I felt, for the first time in my life, that I was wearing something that was actually cool and the object of envy from various classmates, both male and female. They were the shoes I wore for my first kiss, the shoes I wore the first time I said, “I love you,” the shoes I wore when I had my heart broken, and the shoes I wore when I worked through that first heartbreak, kicking them together and watching them sparkle, even through their cracks, as I walked down the weird path of adolescence and attempted to find my own way.

It physically pained me to throw them away three years later, even though I hadn’t worn them in ages, due to their deterioration, and part of me still wishes I’d kept them, as a relic of the era. When I threw them away, I remember telling myself, “They’re only shoes. They’re only shoes.” But they weren’t just shoes; they were a physical representation of a million emotions, and throwing them away was a bit like throwing a piece of myself away, an act that was both heartbreaking and liberating and a reminder that there were new paths to walk down, and that I didn’t need my broken down ruby slippers anymore.

Nora and Delia Ephron, the mighty sisters of romantic comedy, have put together a successful off-Broadway show called “Love, Loss, And What I Wore,” which is based Ilene Beckerman’s bestselling autobiography “and women interviewed by the Ephrons, including Rosie O’Donnell, who’s in the New York company.” The show revolves around the idea that certain articles of clothing hold more importance than others, as they become representative of a time in a person’s life in some meaningful way. Delia, for example, tells the Los Angeles Times that she wishes she still had her first special winter coat, one she’d bought with the help of her sister at Saks Fifth Avenue, and Nora notes that the purchase of the coat represented “when our friendship as adults began, when we were both away from home.”

The shoes I loved so much have since been discontinued, and I’ve found myself doing searches for a deadstock pair on the internet, to no avail. But even if I found a pair, I’m not sure I’d buy them. They would be the same shoes, but they wouldn’t be the real shoes; the ones filled with pen doodles on the soles and cracks in the vinyl and dirt on the laces, the ones that had carried me from one memory to another. Those shoes are long gone. But the memories associated with them remain, and though those memories, like the shoes, may deteriorate a little bit with each year that passes, I think it’s best that I ultimately let them go. In the end, it’s much better to have a sweet memory of a pair of ruby slippers than to have the reality of an old pair of sneakers stinking up your closet.

Have you ever been attached to a certain article of clothing? And do you still have it? Feel free to share your stories in the comments.

Ephron Sisters Weave Clothes Into The Fabric Of Women’s Lives [LATimes]

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