Nothing to wear

“Some say our destiny is tied to the land, as much a part of us as we are of it. Others say fate is woven together like a cloth, so that one’s destiny intertwines with many others. It’s the one thing we search for, or fight to change. Some never find it. But there are some who are led.” — Brave

Have I ever mentioned my BFF, Dorothy ?

We’ve known each other since childhood. Dorothy was convinced that she had acquired the super human ability to shape shift. Not sure in how far she really had a gift, or if she just wanted to change place with somebody else. Dorothy somehow always managed to convince me to swap our clothes. She would wear my clothes and I would wear hers. The idea being that maybe adults would get mixed up and she would accidentally end up living in my home. It never happened of course. But great imagination and wonderful role playing. Much enjoyed play time.

All behaviour originates from somewhere and has been carefully nurtured. The child imitates what she has seen, consciously or unconsciously. Now the pattern happens to go like this : Dorothy didn’t seem to have many clothes of her own. Her mother seemed cluelessly unfit to dress her. Even today, she never buys clothes because it is much more fun to scrounge them off other people.  To dress like the people around you allows you take over their identity. To step into their skin and act as marvellous as they do, at least for a day.

The story telling wardrobe

Each item Dorothy wears has a story attached. I still see her wearing some of my old stuff, and that peeps, I can assure you is from more than a decade ago. I wasn’t wearing Prada back then, so go figure…

  1. Dorothy used to pretend to be her own 8-years younger sister when still living at home. Pity when said sister got married, moved out and took her clothes with her. Dorothy was back to being just herself. That sucked !
  2. Next I became the source of clothes to wear. She’s even kept some of our teenage outfits. Such a rebel! Being well in her 40’ies and running around in a teenager’s clothes. How dare she be so outrageous! What a role model.
  3. When I got married, Dorothy’s taste became more diverse. She would ask my husband to ask if I had any clothes for her. This little game went on until I commented that “I need clothes for myself too, you know!” What’s wrong with buying your own? She then skilfully redirected her energies towards other relatives.
  4. She also gets stuff from people at work. What great bargains to be found at your colleagues’ garage sale and then coming to work in second-hand clothes, worn by your glamorous friend. You have to give it to her, Dorothy knows how to own it.

The value of second-hand clothes

For me personally, wearing second-hand clothes is not done because they feel like ghosts of the previous owners, still marked and affected by the body that used to wear them. Yet there is value in eco-sustainability which makes me encourage Dorothy’s love for second-hand clothes. This obviously stems from her childhood in hand-me-downs and handing things down in turn. I can imagine Dorothy daydreaming about the life her clothes had before, and adapting it to make it her own.

The holocaust

My grandparents were witnesses to the holocaust. As the artist Boltanski explained: “I see a garment as the equivalent of a body. It is like a photograph of someone, their heartbeat. It is an object that reminds you of a subject who is not there and highlights their absence.” In that perspective again I am so proud and so honoured that Dorothy loves me to the point to still be wearing my old clothes even now.

In reaction to one of Boltanski’s exhibitions, photographer Yuki Onodera put life back into these otherwise lifeless garments in her series of photographs entitled “second-hand clothes”. She photographed fifty pieces of second-hand clothing from the exhibition. In doing so, she restored to life what was so symbolic of death in Boltanski’s work, and captured the clothing as bodiless portraits. In quite the same way, the pictures of Dorothy traveling the world in my clothes are priceless. I feel like I’m being taken places. Dorothy rocks!

A lasting impression

I find it comforting and inspiring to know that Dorothy is enlarging her circles and  “skinning” with people from all over the world! Know that this is one of her darkest secrets. Wearing someone else’s clothes brings her out of the closet and into being boldly living her naughtiest fantasies, and daringly reveal her craziest ambitions. Stepping into a role is a fantastic way for someone to be audacious. I find Dorothy always looks beautifully bad in luxurious and eye-catching outfits built for misbehaviour.

It’s a gift really to be able to place yourself in somebody else’s shoes. That talent is called “empathy”. Hmmmm… wait a minute…

— Tremelo, Belgium (May 2017)



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