HOW HAVE I NEVER WORN THIS DRESS? Do You Save Clothes "For Good"?

Saving Something For Good: when you acquire an article of clothing so amazing, that you can't bear to subject it to the horrors of everyday life.
Publish date:
October 28, 2013

This dress is mocking me.

It didn't all start that way. We started on good, even great terms.

My friend Joy and I had driven to San Diego for a day of touristy relaxation. We fed little exotic birds at the San Diego zoo, we ate Mexican food, we ambled around Old Town San Diego looking at souvenirs and tchotchkes.

We went to The Whaley House, "the most haunted house in America", where I made Joy pose in blurry, dark photos a la "a ghost." I wanted real ghost pictures, but Joy makes a great spooky stand in.

The trip was a relaxing reprieve from our hectic life, and the cherry on top of the day was the dress.

Joy is masterful at finding the best thrift stores in any town she visits, and this trip was no exception. Between Mexican food feedings, we ventured out beyond the tourist traps to a little industrial looking store Joy had read great things about on the interweb.

The thrift store, though it looked like nothing on the outside, was a Stylish Grandma's Closet heaven upon entering.

Lots of vintage and vintage-style dresses in a plethora of sizes. Loud printed 60's dresses, 50's style circle skirts, slinky evening wear from every era -- all for the right price. It was here that I found the dress.

While Joy was trying on something black and boobacious, I spied something blue,white and seersucker peeking out from the racks. When I pulled it out, I fell in love.

Now, normally I'm not a big fan of pastels and seersucker, but this dress reminded me of playing tennis, if I were playing tennis with "The Great Gatsby." It was short, drop waist, and had delightful little blue and white stripes all delicately suckered and puckered into adorableness. Plus it was a size 14! My size at the time!

Not to mention, my foot was in a cast on this trip, so after clomping around for the past four weeks in a boot, I was a "sucker" (haha) for anything feminine and dainty. When I slipped on the dress and zipped it up, I immediately had visions of myself sipping iced tea tennis court side, while crackily, jaunty music played from a radio somewhere, and somebody did the Charleston.

It was mine. I quickly paid for it, and happily hobbled out of the store with my find.

I never wore that dress.

Every time I picked it out of my closet to decide if I should wear it to an event or just, ya know, on a Sunday, it never felt like the right time. Somewhere in my head, I felt the dress deserved a proper "debut." A wedding, a cocktail party, a day at the races -- that is what that dress deserved, and I just didn't have the right party to offer it.

Finally, a couple few months ago, my husband and I had a wedding to attend that seemed deserving of the dress' ceremonial tag cutting. I gleefully pulled it out of my closet, steamed it (meaning I hung it in the bathroom and took a hot shower), and excitedly slipped it over my head.

Hmm. It didn't hug my hips the way it had a couple years ago. Was it longer than I remembered? Were the arm holes always this big?

With trepidation I looked in the mirror and actually whimpered a little.

I don't know why I thought the dress would still fit. When I bought it, I was a size 14. Now I am a size 6. That's a difference of eight sizes. I looked like a little kid playing dress up in mom's clothing.

While staring at staring at myself in the mirror, tugging and lifting the dress wondering if there was a way to salvage it into it's former glory, the life of what could have been for the dress -- parties, outings, Gatsby themed tennis matches -- flashed before my eyes.

I had done it again. I had saved a dress "for good," and it had expired.

What is saving something for good?

It's when you acquire an article of clothing so amazing, that you can't bear to subject it to the horrors of everyday life. So in an attempt to keep it as new and pristine as possible, you save it for only special occasions. And sometimes, when you tend to obsess and fret, that special occasion never comes.

My closet is a graveyard of "saving for good."

I wonder if this habit is the result of growing up with lots of hand-me-downs. My family and I have often remarked that you can track certain articles of clothing, particularly this hot pink cable knit sweater, through several generations of wearers when you look through our family album. Everyone's wore it for picture day, everyone's been stuffed into it for an Easter brunch picture.

Yes, we got new clothes, but if it was especially loud or trendy, you'd be tortured mercilessly a few years later by it's new wearer, because they now HAD to wear it. My youngest cousin Denise, who was at the very bottom of the clothes chain, actively hated me, and mocked my fashion choices, for making her the recipient of the "perfectly wearable" electric blue, sequined sneakers I had begged and pleaded for a few years prior.

But new fancy clothes weren't the norm. Clothes were meant to last and "grow with you."

Somehow I guess I got it ingrained in me that if you get something good, you hold onto it and make it your own. It's SPECIAL. This is your chance to be unique. It's not to be wasted. What if you rip it? Spill on it? All would be lost and you're not getting another one.

This mentality also accounts, I think, for why I so rarely buy "pretty" things, a habit I'm trying to break. I think I'm afraid I'll end up obsessing the item into oblivion, so what's the point?

What's so ridiculous in all this "not being wasteful," is that by hoarding all the special items in my closet, I'm essentially throwing my money away. The money that the clothing store or boutique had to wrench from my sweaty little hands in the first place.

In trying to undo my "saving for good" ways, I've had pieces that don't fit anymore altered in an attempt to give them a resurrection. It doesn't always work, as certain pieces just don't look right altered or resized, and my guilt is then magnified. They deserved better.

The little blue and white seersucker dress was my wake up call. Since then I've tried to force myself to wear the dresses and shirts and pants that were previously moldering in my closet. I'm sure it's a symptom of my perfectionism and obsessing, but sometimes deciding to wear the "perfect" little black dress out on a less than "perfect" occasion, just because I WANT TO, feels akin to running it over with my car.

But there's no such thing as "perfect," and I need to get over that.

So this post goes out to the little blue and white seersucker dress. I'm sorry you had to be a martyr for the cause, but I'm grateful for the lesson learned.

Does anybody else do stuff like this? Do you "save things for good"? Do you have clothing quirks that cramp your style?