My History in Clothes
When I was a child, shopping for clothes was a kind of torture that I endured with a very brave face. It was the rare day that I’d find myself wandering in a mall looking for clothes as a teenager. Firmly ensconced in the latter half of my life, however, my attitude towards clothes has evolved, and though I’m still reluctant to spend time in any mall, I’ve discovered the opportunity for a kind of self-expression each morning when I get dressed. It was not always this way, so here’s a short history of a life in clothes.
My mother’s taste ran toward a kind of patrician elegance, and she routinely dressed my sister and I in Florence Eismann dresses for special occasions or whenever we were to board an airplane. (I’m writing this on an airplane… boy have things changed.) For school, we were carpooled off to a small private elementary school, and later a prestigious girl’s school where uniforms were the norm. Our elementary school jumpers with accompanying bloomers and saddle shoes were surprisingly comfortable, but the high school threads were just weird. We looked closer to registered nurses in our light violet shirt dresses, and though we did have grey skirt with white button down shirt as an option, I didn’t have enough of them to wear every day.
College years through the eighties were probably the nadir of my sartorial taste; I preferredgrunge a solid ten years before it was the trend among the musicians of Seattle. Of course, hours in the studios, darkrooms and late nights in the dorms was not quite the place for fashion, which means I never fell into the look of television’s Dallas or Dynasty, much to my relief. I’d shudder to think about any photographic evidence of overstated shoulder pads and gravity defying hair. There were, however, a few gems in my closet: I’ve never had the nerve to get rid of the softly romantic pink embroidered vest I bought in London that was my favorite way to dress up dark jeans when we went clubbing.
A career in publishing meant days in a bland office building for most of the 90’s, and it was during this time that, with a bit more money, my taste began to shift. I gave the clothes I wore more thought. Working in the photography department at a news magazine in fashionably conservative Washington, DC meant a careful dance of professionalism with a dash of artful creativity. After ten years or so, I left the world of offices for New England and for motherhood, and my grunge phase returned. Somehow, being well heeled and lipsticked was incompatible with changing diapers and dealing with projectile vomit.
My sons are teenagers now, and my creative flare for clothes that began with that office job returned. Each morning is a chance to express my moods through the skirts, slacks, sweaters and scarves I’ve collected on my rare forays to the shopping mall.
— Suzanne Révy