Maintaining an Ancient Wardrobe

Growing up, I marveled at my mom’s commitment to maintaining an ancient wardrobe hidden in her bedroom. She was famously nostalgic and her closet was no exception.

In her bedroom, hidden under the bed, bursting out of her closets and poking out of the dressers were:

Costume jewelry from the 60’s and 70’s “Oh, just in case they ever come back in style!”

Pants that were just…old. “Well? They’re perfectly good and they still fit!”

Shoes she never, ever wore “Well, I know they’re dated but they’re still just so comfortable!”

I’ll never forget a pair of underwear she had for decades that barely stayed up for its lack of elastic. But “I just think they’re funny and I’ve never found ‘dancing skeleton’ underwear to replace them!” (Yes Dancing skeletons.)

There were tons of unopened items she’d probably bought on sale – all underwear and socks (but no dancing skeletons).

Ugly Christmas sweater upon ugly Christmas sweater, never purchased or worn for its ironic ugliness. Each one would make an appearance at some point in the Christmas season.

And then there were her Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sweatshirts. They were threadbare and holey – in just the right way to make them super cool in 2020. Kappas would definitely pay a premium for their distressed look, today.

I’d ask how old the Kappa sweatshirts were and she’d giggle and dismiss me with her famous hand wave and say, “Oh, I don’t know. Fifteen years, or so?”

“Mom! That’s like…maintaining an ancient wardrobe! Throw it AWAY!”

In my teenage years, I couldn’t imagine EVER holding onto clothing more than a decade old.

I mean – why replace? It’s dark, ergo: timeless.

Bringing us to today – I definitely have clothing a decade (or two) old. Not that much, but there are some dress shirts I only wear a couple times a year – why trash them? They’re timeless for New Years-y wintery events. And for a night when it’s dark and everyone’s drunk, already, no one notices if the collar’s TOTALLY from 2007, right?

(OMG. That’s 13 years old. How did that happen?)

I’ve definitely held on to a pair (or 3) of hole-y jeans that are bunny-soft and just feel good.

Somewhere buried away is my sweatshirt from rowing on the crew team in college – full of holes and cracked logos but oh, so beloved.

And I just threw away a pair of Adidas sneakers made with durable navy blue felt that were eight years old. You wouldn’t have known it, except, well…the laces were broken and my pinky toes poked through the crease where the shoes folded when walking. Yeah – it was time.

Picture of the author's "Vote" v-neck t-shirt making the neck the "V" in "Vote"
My “Vote V-neck” t-shirt from (gulp) 2004.

And I’ve recently pulled out of storage (because why just leave it buried in a box?) a V-neck t-shirt that says “Vote” vertically, incorporating the v-neck as the “V”.

I bought it during the John Kerry Presidential election 2004. The website on the back of the shirt reads It’s now a dead end.

But in those comfortable times watching movies on the couch or puttering around on Saturday mornings, I fully embrace maintaining an ancient wardrobe sparking joy and reminding of the journey I’ve traveled.

I’m really trying to pare down my wardrobe of unnecessary items. Reduction by attrition (as with my Adidas shoes.) It seems so much more practical to be a bit more European in my approach to clothes – higher quality, less volume.

But hell, I love a good disposable shirt from Zara from time to time – as long as I know I’ll wear it till it threads apart.

And I’m never throwing away my crew sweatshirt.


  1. A couple of years ago, I managed to donate a bunch of my business suits to Goodwill, and many other clothes went to the poor, but I still have many favored outfits I just can’t give up. I remember my mother-in-law almost hermetically sealing in plastic an old pair of slacks my husband had as a teenager — so it would be hard for him to get at. At least there are many charities who take used clothes, and people who are willing to wear them. I couldn’t bear to just throw them away — it seems wasteful and immoral.


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