Do you form emotional connections with your clothes? The secrets behind the clothes we keep

Do you form emotional connections with your clothes? The secrets behind the clothes we keep

Guilty as charged

Text: Michelle Yeoh

Image: Instagram |

Just over a week ago, the snagged yarn on my prized cardigan finally gave way and unravelled into a hole I could fit my fist through. The cardigan was by no means an expensive masterpiece  I had knitted it myself, which seeks to further prove my point but it was an object so personal to me that it had its own intimate narrative in my heart.

The concept of losing a piece of clothing that was irreplaceable never occurred to me as I've always considered most of my material possessions as inert objects devoid of deeper meaning. As I further considered my relationship to said objects, I realised that I had deeply rooted emotional connections to some of the items sitting covertly within my closet.

A cardigan, for example, had been part of a school assignment back when I was studying fashion. Crocheted with chevron stripes in a mismatched palette of fuschia and turquoise (and displaying clear signs that gave away its homespun beginnings), the primrose stitch cardigan was more of a raggedy swathe of textile than an actual piece of clothing. And yet, I could never get rid of it.

Putting it on reminds me of the peppiest time of my life; bumbling adolescence and the type of, in retrospect, innocuous turbulence that comes with it. It's almost a representation of the years spent committing myself unreservedly to something I loved, alongside equally passionate people who ran the race with me. That was its value the way it had woven within itself memories that are lucid, rich with emotion, and most importantly, palpable only to me.

Something worth holding on to

There are other items that act as relics of my past, such as the croc-embossed top handle bag passed down to me by my mother when I turned 21. I've coveted it since my days of dressing up in her closet, so acquiring it had felt much more of a rite of passage for me.

Do you form emotional connections with your clothes? The secrets behind the clothes we keep (фото 1)
I've since attached a crossbody chain strap to my mother's croc-embossed purse as a way of making it mine.

There is also the red chiffon midi dress I had, patterned with ditzy floral prints. Purchased in one of the stores tucked underground on the streets of Myeong-dong in Seoul, the dress fell into my lap during my graduation trip with five of my closest girlfriends... none which I have remained friends with after a falling out. I remember wearing that dress almost everyday for the rest of the trip.

Not all memories are quite as sappy. I still hold on to what must be the world's grisliest pair of rainbow tie-dye shorts fresh from my youth and riddled with flashbacks of my acne-ridden, people-pleasing self. A faded green t-shirt with Nick Jonas' face on it, a too short and way too tight dress from my clubbing days... I mostly still keep them for a laugh.

The stories we tell ourselves

Do you form emotional connections with your clothes? The secrets behind the clothes we keep (фото 2)
The red floral dress from Seoul is one of my favourite lazy day pieces to throw on.

Chewing over the unspoken bonds I've formed with my items gave me a broader outlook on what I consider to be "investment pieces". What could be more of an investment than the stories embedded in the garments we attach a part of ourselves to? I'm starting to see that the pervasive ethos of wearing it for the 'gram, where we refuse to allot more than one Instagram grid per clothing, diminishes this power that fashion has. I'm an old-timer in the department of impulse buys, and my key takeaway from this is that exciting trends can never quite mirror the nostalgia some of these pieces have given me.

It's also the nostalgia that helps me to remember, whenever I wear my red dress, of a particular morning I had while on my graduation trip. I was having one of the worst hangovers of my life, and two of my girlfriends had made me a bowl of congee in the Airbnb we were in. Despite the phasing out of our friendship, that dress of mine retains facets of my life that are worth remembering.