a blog by Ellen Davies

Writing prompt: that one thing you never wear

Picture your closet. Messy or neat, it doesn’t matter. Think about everything in there–shirts, pants, sweaters, skirts, dresses, shoes, jackets. Maybe you have things arranged by season, or color, or maybe there is no particular order, but you know where everything is. Now picture that one garment you never wear. Maybe you have never worn it. Maybe you wore it once, but never again. Maybe you used to wear it all the time, but now you don’t.

Draw a picture of this garment. Doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, maybe just a pencil sketch.

Now write about this garment. Time: 30 minutes.
What is it?
Where did you get it?
Who is associated with it?
When did you put it in your closet?
When did you wear it?
Why aren’t you wearing it?
Why is it still in your closet?

Have fun!

Here’s mine…

Looking back, I realize that my unhappiness with my clothes was the first sign. Did I say “unhappy”? What I mean is: I hated my clothes. I hated all of them. I hated how I looked in them. So I kept buying more clothes, trying to find something to wear that made me feel good. The result was a closet stuffed full of garments that I wore once, then decided I hated.

It was a sign that I was outgrowing the old me. I didn’t recognize it at the time. All I knew was that I was sick of jeans and solid-color T shirts. But I didn’t feel comfortable in anything else. Nothing really felt like me.

Stuart and I traveled to Vienna that July. One afternoon I wandered out, looking for gifts for the girls. I ended up in a department store. I liked the clothes I saw, and I became determined to buy something. I wandered around and around, looking, looking, looking. I picked out a dress and tried it on. Yes, this was the dress! I would buy it and be able to tell everyone, “Oh, this dress? I got it in Vienna.”

But something made me pause, standing there in the hot, cramped dressing room, and take another look. This dress—a solid color sheath dress—was exactly the same as all the other dresses I owned. There was nothing distinctive about it. It looked okay on me, but not extraordinary. And this was the whole problem! All my clothes were blah and indistinctive, and none of them made me feel fabulous. So why was I buying this one? 

I tore off the dress and marched back out onto the sales floor. If I was going to buy a dress in Vienna, goddam it, then it was going to be a really great dress. I took a determined deep breath and pawed through the display racks again.

Then a flash of color caught my eye, and there it was. Not a dress, but a short pleated skirt, with a circular floral pattern. A cheerful pattern, one that looked geometrical from afar, but up close it was flowers. The colors were summery, but in cool tones of green, pink, and aqua. This was it.

I draped it over my arm and kept looking. I noticed that there were other skirts in the same style, but different fabrics, and those fabrics had matching tops. I wanted this fabric. But I couldn’t find the matching tops. I dug through the racks, searching. It had to be there. The match had to be there.

It wasn’t there. I returned to the dressing room anyway, and pulled off my perspiration-damp T shirt and shorts. The skirt—it fit. It was flattering. It was so damn cute! I loved this skirt!

Then my self-doubt elbowed its way into the dressing room. Was it too short? It fell about four inches above my knees, which was a little high for me. Did it make me look like a cheerleader? It was pleated, after all. Was I too old to be wearing this?

I debated in my head: Should I buy it? Yes, I want this skirt! I want it to be the skirt I buy in Vienna! I don’t have anything to go with it. A white knit top! Those are easy to find. But what shoes do I wear? Sandals! Don’t overthink this! Just buy it! You’ve been wanting to break out of a style rut, and this is it!

I bought the skirt.

Back at the hotel, I tried pairing the skirt with the tops I had in my suitcase. Nothing worked. That was okay, I’d wear the skirt once I got home.

Back at home, I tried it on with various tops. The white knit top didn’t look exactly right with it, but it looked right enough. The shoes, however, were a problem. Flat sandals? No, I hate those. Wedge heels? Not with this short a skirt. Maybe the skirt really is too short? This will be okay. No, it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t look like me. I will feel awkward the whole time. It’s okay, you look fine! No, I don’t. No, this isn’t going to work. No.

I changed clothes.

I hung the skirt up and placed it in my closet.

I returned to it again and again, but nothing was ever right for it. For a while I did shop for a top to match it, but nothing worked.

Eventually I came to see that the skirt was more than a skirt. It represented the first baby step into my new life. Because I was growing into a new phase of my life, and my old clothes would no longer fit. But just like that skirt, the new role didn’t feel totally comfortable at first. It brought up a lot of mixed emotions, as I debated with myself, just as I had with the skirt, whether or not the new role was really me.

Three years later, I’m still adjusting to the new phase of my life. I’m an empty-nester, a writer, a yoga instructor, a wife. Instead of taking care of my girls, I focus my energy on my creativity. The skirt fits with my new life—it’s bright and cheerful, it’s airy and floaty, it’s cute and spunky. But I still don’t have a shirt to wear with it. My growing isn’t done.

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