My mom has always had a bountiful wardrobe. When I was growing up, I’d sit on the laundry hamper in her closet as she was picking out her clothes, and I’d say things like “You have a lot of shoes!” or “Why do you have so many clothes!?” And she would say something to the extent of “Because once you stop growing, your things will fit you for a longtime.” My concern, of course, was that it was already the mid to late 1990s, and she still owned way too many blazers with shoulder pads, but I understood what she meant.
My closet is not like my mom’s yet. I reached my final height (“short”) around 8th grade, but my weight has fluctuated by a size or two and my taste has as well. As I’ve moved from place to place, my style tends to adapt to each city’s new dress code and my latest lifestyle needs. I am not yet at a place where I am keeping clothes “forever.”
But I do have one really old shirt that I am confident is the oldest thing I own and still wear regularly. In fact, I believe it was purchased the same year I stopped getting any taller, which means the shirt is at least 13 years old. I’m not old, so it is scary to think anything in my closet has been with me that long, even if there was no planned long-term commitment.
The shirt is from Gap’s golden age, when it was the place to go for dancing khakis, logo t-shirts, and things we saw as distinctly American basics: polos, white t-shirts, jeans, and, of course, khaki everything. It was during this era that I bought this shrunken Oxford shirt with a little hint of stretch and three-quarter length sleeves. In college, I wore it to class with jeans. Post-college, I’d wear it to work with a pencil or mini skirt or even layered under a dress. And in laid-back New Orleans, it is perfect with a pair of dressy shorts or colored denim.
With every closet clean-out, this shirt slipped by undetected. I never thought about how old it was or questioned if it was still in style. Every once in awhile, I forget it exists until I rediscover it in my closet and wear it again. But the shirt looks the same as it did the day I bought it 13 years ago and possibly fits me even better today, so it hangs on in my closet and does its job when required. It has proven to me that age doesn’t determine the wearability of a piece and that the perfect basic in your wardrobe doesn’t have to be particularly special or memorable, it just needs to be made right to last. So as tempting as it is to clear out the old, some pieces should be allowed to stick around.
What is the oldest thing in your closet? Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear to share your story.