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New weather almost always summons a new wardrobe, but there’s something about fall that’s particularly best for closet revival, and not just because sweaters and coats are celebratory rewards to a summer of failed dieting.  I’ve heard it said that September is the ‘January of Fashion’—that is, a sort of New Year when fresh looks hit the runways and windows, and the pages of our favorite magazines seem to chant in unison that as our Earth makes yet another rotation around the Sun and the climate adjusts itself accordingly, it’s time once again to revamp our closets and get ourselves some fresh, new attire.  


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For me, though, this changing season beckoned more than just a change of clothes.  As I finished reading a Harper’s Bazaar essay titled ‘The Best of What’s New' ('Welcome to a new season, one [of] a myriad of possibilities…,' it began) and browsed emails shouting subject lines such as ‘Introducing THIS’ or ‘3 NEW UPDATES You Need To Check Out…' it seemed that October’s chilling winds were nipping at me to evaluate the previous season’s mishaps that were not wardrobe-related, urging a restructuring of my emotional baggage, in addition to my handbag collection: 

For me, this fall meant a friend cleanout.

The ex-friend-in-question was one of the closest people in my life.  He was one of my cooler accessories, like a really trendy pair of worn-in Stan Smiths or a Céline bag that has everyone jealous the minute you walk into the room.  As a confidante, he warmed me for many years like a favorite wool sweater that’s so cozy but also just itchy enough to remind you that it's not synthetic but raw, real, honest, and very much there.  He knew everything about me from my deepest romantic regrets to my most embarrassing bowel movements.  He’d seen me through the questionable fashion choices of freshman year of college, horrible dating choices senior year, the woes of finding homes in New York, the emotional instability of finding (or not finding) employment.  

Yet all of a sudden he wasn’t fitting correctly anymore.  Something was too tight for comfort, too scratchy.  We were fighting all the time.  I couldn’t wear my pants properly.  Everything seemed discolored.  I decided I was moving on.

'Changes may have taken place on the home front, Aquarius, perhaps unexpected repairs or someone moving in or out…' my October horoscope stated matter-of-factly.  It was true: amongst other things, my September marked a move from my home of two years in quiet and arty Williamsburg, Brooklyn to the touristic and imposingly Manhattan neighborhood of FiDi—a move that forced me to finally contend with my collection of old, unworn, or ill-fitting garments stretching hinge to hinge across a closet that would not fit into my new closet also known as my new bedroom. Hashtag, New York.

Usually, no matter the weather, I hoard clothes.  I hoard them for the memories of when and where I bought them—say, this dress from Prom (…I do mean high school), this scarf because my grandmother made it, these old Converse that helped me navigate a semester abroad, from the Boulevard Saint-Germain to class on Rue de Passy, to trains from Milan to Bologna.  Clothes tell my story; they allow moments and memories to live on much longer than the temporality of events can allow.  Wardrobes are like wearable photo albums that allow us to revisit places, and people, or ourselves from times past just by digging through the backs of our closets.  Consequently I’ve always felt that throwing things away is a bit like throwing away a diary. 

This attachment is rather to my detriment, however.  My refusal to purge means I end up continuing to wear things I don’t actually look great in anymore, or which no longer have a place in my 'adult' life.  I’ll admit that I am one to keep vintage blouses with pit stains from too many parties, jeans purchased in 2008 that no longer fit my maturing, 25-year-old ass and/or have big holes in their crotches...which was like, maybe a cute look that one time at that beach party I attended during my dalliance with life as a slutty Sophomore.  Simply put, such garments could not reflect whatever centimeters of personal growth that I have clumsily inched towards as the sun rises and sets according to the Earth’s spinning. 

So it goes, they say that death must preempt life, or that only through the death of something can we ever truly find or experience renewal.  This is also what they’re getting at when they say, simplistically, over-cheerfully, out with the old, in with the new.


Only through the death of something can we ever truly find or experience renewal.


Thus, I cleared my closet to clear my thoughts.  To purge my past self.  To welcome new beginnings.  I reassessed my existence and worked to connect with my authentic, future, better self after years of exploration, mistakes and revelation.  I did what the magazines and emails said to do and I evaluated, mended, hemmed, donated, replaced. I hit refresh.  It was with bittersweet relinquishment that I got rid of much of the fabric of my life, making room for a new sweater (or five), in a new size, in a new place, for a new me.  Actually, I got rid of so much clothing that I had to beg my old college roommate to trek her car across the Manhattan Bridge, let me stuff it to the brim, and drive me to a Goodwill to unload two years worth of fashion baggage. 'My God, Anne,' she’d said, seeing the mountain I was giving up, despite knowing all too well (after three years of living with me) about my attachment to sentimental, wearable clutter.

'My God, Anne,' she’d said, when I told her my former BFF and I were no longer speaking. 

I had never been through a friend break-up before. A phase-out, maybe. A succumbing to the strains of long distance. But never an active choice to remove a person—as we remove a blouse—from my phone’s Favorites.  I prided myself on loyalty for at least sentimental reasons (re: the same reasons I hoard clothes): so many people dared shoulder me through my various stages of development, helping me through hard times, loving me despite my (albeit continued) youthful stupidity.

But while rummaging through my old things, the main question became just how long one should keep and/or put up with fabulous shoes that give you blisters, with clothes that don’t actually work for your body anymore, or are broken in or down to the point of no return.  And I wondered, as I threw my resulting discernment on the curb and wiped my hands of all that, why we don’t tend do the same thing with the people in our life.  We make friends and we expect them to fit us forever.


We make friends and we expect them to fit us forever.


But what happens when your companions, once trusted to bring you comfort and happiness, no longer measure up to what you need them to be?  The magazines offer lots of advice when it comes to cleaning out and enhancing our closets, but not much about how to sift through the Rolodex without killing your social circle, hurting people’s’ feelings, or getting lonely.  Loneliness—like nakedness—is a real threat, which causes us to hang on to our friends like an old shirt that’s pilling, stained, out-of-style, or slightly discolored but that’s just so comfortable and, you know, tells the story of an amazing night in Bushwick or Bastille or Boston—a keepsake that is very difficult to discard.

But if the blister-giving shoes, though fabulous, are always hurting you?  It’s one thing to buy a new shirt.  It’s not so easy to replace comrades.  We can’t just hang up our besties like we hang up an old shirt, or toss them aside to the Goodwill pile.  Our friends aren’t just old boots which we can place on a higher shelf when we get tired of looking at them.  

That, and an old shirt never offends so deeply as does a text that screams 'I NEVER want to speak to you again.'

And we all know that no retail therapy can fully heal a broken heart.  Anyone who has been through a breakup can tell you it is never an easy decision, especially after you’ve invested time, effort, money…blood, sweat and tears, probably, too…in the creating of a more perfect union.  But everything needs some dusting every now and then.  And so, as I stared into the starkness it occurred to me that this fall also marked a death of a very dear friendship in my life, which was perhaps the biggest, most jarring change of all.  The question was no longer 'What will I wear?' but 'Who will I call?'


The question was no longer 'What will I wear?' but 'Who will I call?'


It does seem a bit silly to compare a toxic relationship to an ill-fitting blouse.  Growing tired of a shirt is of course nowhere near as painful as falling out of love with a human—even if both clothed you, either physically or metaphysically, in love and confidence and joy, and the smells of shared cigarettes and perfumes. Each knows of your physical flaws, your bad drinking habits, your muffin tops and yet leaves the house with you anyway, helping you, empowering you, carrying you through stressful interviews or long nights out that ended with your face covered in either pizza grease or tears, or both.

Each helped you emulate you, even if by coming loose at the seams in a worn and likely inadvertent way of urging you to move on and go shopping for something else that fits you better.

And thusly, my friendship folded.

The silence that ensued in this 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,' as Keats called Autumn—the empty hum of cold, still air left behind when the geese have migrated south and the waters surrender to ice’s imminent reign—was a really a reverberating sense of, if not withdrawal, then a somber mix of reflection and apprehension.

My closet rack clacks with empty hangers, bare like trees that have dropped their foliage and await what I, too, now face, without my favorite sweater—as the season now gracefully transitions to winter, as my friendship which dangled like a crispy leaf withering in chilled November wind, which one soft blow proved too overpowering for any resistance to its falling fate—



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