Skeletons in the Closet

We all have skeletons in the closet. Some are major.

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Some of them are distant memories that manifest themselves as current issues. I refuse to wear a backpack to this day because of a horrible high school memory. I tripped in the stairwell hall and fell on my overloaded backpack, trapped awkwardly like a turtle with my arms and legs flailing. It was awful!! It was between classes so the hall and stairs were packed with people. Maybe no one else remembers it but it traumatized me toward backpacks of any kind for fear I will end up like a turtle again.

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Some of our skeletons in our closets are veritable artifacts of clothing that we just can’t or won’t get rid of.  I recently did a complete closet cleanout for a client. We didn’t even do any styling we just cleaned out. Her life has recently switched directions so she finally had the time to go through her things. In exchange for eternal anonymity I was allowed to take a picture and show you this.

Oh my “heavens…”

I gasped when I saw it. No I don’t go in to anyone’s closet and make fun of them or their things. It’s just not the way I work because I think it is mean. But this was so not this person’s style I was utterly bewildered. We had easily packed 5 trash bags of items of things to be donated or consigned, some even with the price tags still on them, without any hesitation on her part. But this item she clutched and said “No!” I backed off. Sometimes people hold on to things for memories. But the part that was horrifying about this particular celestial needlepoint vest is that my client simply said “It might come back in style.” Cue the needle screeching across the record. “What?”, I said. The client reminded me of the unfortunate time in fashion when vests were considered fashionable. I shuddered at the memory because I think I too had worn some in the 80s. I agreed that sometimes some trends do return. But wearing a celestial theme was a personal expression, not a style trend. But she was attached, sheepishly so. She even admitted it makes her laugh when she sees it. A closet should be a happy place so if it gives her a chuckle when she sees it then that works for her.  So we kept it. If you discard 5 bags of clothing you are definitely allowed to keep a couple of items for your own reasons, however delusional they may or may not be.  I never want anyone to think I will browbeat them into giving up their stuff. We work together, it is not a style dictatorship. My goal is to help you let go. So many of our memories, good and bad, are tied to what we wore. Letting go of some of these things can be an emotional cleanup as well.  Sometimes we just need less stuff.

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Some items we  won’t let go of  because we still wear in secret shame. I love to get dressed up. I would pick dressing for a cocktail party over a casual bbq (or a kids field trip) any day because I am more enamoured with the clothing options for a party.  But when  I dress down, it is way down. Like shamefully so. I have a love/hate relationship with some really old t-shirts in my closet. I mean really old. As in 1987.

No excuses for this.
Yes, that’s a massive hole.

This t-shirt is from U2’s  Joshua Tree tour at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I was 11 years old when a friend of my mom’s went to the concert and bought me the t-shirt. I do not keep it because of some deep devotion to U2. I just really really love the way it feels.  I think I wore the t-shirt to sleep in because it was so big on me at the time.  It is 25 years later and I still wearing the t-shirt to sleep in. It is broken in to the point where it is physically now broken.  It has holes where no clothing item should ever have holes.  The armpits look like a rabid animal ate them. It is so thin you can see through it. I wash it by hand and lay it flat to dry.  On my worst of days or when I am sick it makes me happy to wear it. But it is gross, really.  Get thee to a therapist because there a major issues at work here.

I promise you I have never worn it out of the house. Some beloved items are for indoor wear only. When  we were young and carefree (aka before kids) my husband and some of his friends had Harley-Davidson motorcycles. I even had my own helmet which unfortunately made me look like a character from the Spaceballs movie.

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One night out with some friends at a bar one guy lamented about not being able to meet any girls. He was a super nice guy but was intimidating in stature. An ex football player he looked like he could beat you up with the swipe of his hand.  I told him his t-shirt, while funny to us, just might be giving off the wrong message.

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In a show of solidarity I will expose my biggest skeleton.

If my daughter ever decides to go become all Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City , living in New York wearing tutus these would fit into her wardrobe perfectly. Although I am not sure based on her reaction. She saw me taking pictures of the jeans and she pointed with a look of disgust. The dialogue went like this.

What are those?


With rocks on them?

Well, beads and yeah, I guess those are rocks?

rocks, in the shape of heart…not cute

Mom, they are rocks.  Did you ever wear them?


Did you pay for them? With real money?

Yes. (About $200, whoops)

Why? Did you wear them when you were young? (I was mid-twenties, that is young right?)

Yes, sort of.

Why do you still have them?

I am saving them for you in case you ever want them someday.

I get her “look.”

What you talkin’ bout Willis?

Okay maybe I will think about donating them?

*Insider Tip – Letting go of pieces we are attached to can be hard. You can relate it to ripping off a band-aid. Slowly move it out of your closet into a guest room and pretend it’s gone. Or just take it out and be done with it. If you need a reminder you can even take a photo of the item. Or better yet you wearing the item.  That might even help you remember why you are getting rid of it. Kind of like the scene in Pretty in Pink when Annie Pott’s chararcter dresses up in her old dress for one last hurrah before she lets Molly Ringwald cut it up and re-work it into a new prom dress.

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*Insider Tip – Do allow yourself 1-3  items to keep “just because.” But limit this to no more than 3 or you will end up justifying all sorts of items for all sorts of reasons. We kept the celestial needlepoint vest as a compromise because we got rid of the three others she was saving for the style resurgence that wasn’t on the horizon. Just please for the love of Boy-George don’t do that menswear vest with the satin adjustable back again.

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*Insider Tip – Admit mistakes and move on. I bought a sweater this past winter that was a red and dark gray striped sweater. I do not have a picture to show you because it is gone. I didn’t really love it when I got home but I hated it by the end of the day. I couldn’t stand one more quip from my husband asking if I needed help doing every day tasks due to my blade fingers.

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What’s your skeleton? Anything you want to share? If you email me a pic or share your story I do promise to keep your identity hidden!

Published by suziegaffney

owner at Suzie Gaffney Styling

4 thoughts on “Skeletons in the Closet

  1. I don’t know why, but while reading your post, it took me back a decade ago reading “Elvis and Me.” Priscilla had wrote that Elvis had once told her to never wear large prints as it made her look fat….

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