Take an event in your life that happened at least ten years ago, a date of significance, but one that was not immortalized in a photograph or video.
Now tell me what you wore.
First day at a new job? First day of school? First date? Graduation (not the cap and gown, but the outfit to the party afterward.)
The thing is — I cannot do this, not without the cheat of a photograph. There’s practically a genre of books devoted to what women wore on certain occasions. (And maybe men, too, but I haven’t seen any of those.)
I know I wore red shoes my first day of work at the San Antonio Light, but that’s all I remember, and I’m certain I wore something else along with the red shoes. Wait — I remember what I wore to my job interview at the San Antonio Light, but that’s because there’s a narrative attached. I hadn’t been planning to attend a job interview, it had happened at the last-minute, so I had to assemble an interviewing costume, if you will, from my weekend wardrobe of thrift-shop finds. I got the job. Lord knows how.
I remember what I was wearing the day I took my final in American History, sophomore year of college, because my t.a. commented on it. (It was exceptionally feminine, not my style, and I said, “I’m trying it out, for the hell of it.” And she said: “Isn’t it nice to have that option?” I liked that t.a. I wish I had gotten to know her better.) But, again, there’s a story or sorts.
I remember the green, flower-print Laura Ashley dress, purchased at Loehmann’s, that my colleague burned a hole in, back when people were still allowed to smoke in newsrooms. Another story. It was a small hole, easily concealed. She didn’t mean to do it.
Oh, there was a divine dress, black with white polka dots — okay, maybe it was tacky as hell — and I wore it the night I met the oyster-shucking frat boy, who seemed cheerful and confident and interesting, until he ended the evening by bursting into tears in the parking lot of a bar, while trying to tell me his life story, which didn’t seem all that bad.
And I remember a long skirt and lilac sweater and white Oxfords worn to an assignment of absolutely no importance. But how I loved those white Oxfords. I wish I still had them.
I can remember clothes, but not dates, dates but not clothes. The trick is to remember them together, which fails me more often than not.
Anyway, try it, see what happens.