In retrospect, I never quite understood Mother’s fascination with her decades-old red pantsuit. It was her prized possession, her lifesaver, and her go-to garment elevated above all others in her wardrobe. To me, it was a run-of-the-mill wash and wear outfit—nothing exceptional about it. Yet, for some unknown reason, she was drawn to that outfit like iron to a magnet.
Perhaps it was within easy reach and eyeshot in her closet. It probably had a hanger of its own, whereas the other garments had to settle for being stacked one on top of the other. Increased visibility and accessibility could’ve been responsible for her habitually choosing that outfit over the others. I can only surmise since I never took much interest in how her clothes were arranged. Maybe the simple, comfortable pants suit with the elastic waistband had her transfixed. Or was it the vibrant mix of colors in the blouse? Was it the ease of putting it on and taking it off, or was it the outfit’s easy wash and wearability? These distinct features could’ve made that outfit more appealing and irresistible in her eyes and, therefore, more favored.
While such explanations may well be credible, I suspect Mother’s obsession with that outfit was more deep-seated, rooted in some issues from her past. She grew up in the Depression—an insecure time when food and clothing were scarce. When she was a young bride and mother, World War II brought even more insecurities. Perhaps that outfit was her trusty garment, her good old faithful, providing her with a sense of security. Other than my armchair analysis of the situation, what other reasons can account for that outfit appearing on her body with such frequency?
The circumstances in Mother’s life drastically improved in the 70s and 80s. Yet that outfit starred in most photographs taken of her over the years and became her favorite whenever she grocery shopped or attended a family function like her granddaughter’s wedding or her 50th wedding anniversary.
I despised the love affair between Mother and her outfit. Over the years, I harbored resentment towards it for always being present as if it were a human being who’d done me wrong. Left to me, I would’ve put it in a garbage bag and carted it to the nearest Salvation Army, but I dared not for fear of the repercussions of doing so.
Fast forward 20 years and now, like her, I have a favorite outfit—a comfortable pair of khaki-colored jeans and a multi-colored sweater. It’s my go-to outfit and occupies a prominent place among my clothes on a hanger all its own. That outfit and I have moved seven times, and I refuse to get rid of it.
“Never!” I tell my husband who insists the outfit is annoyingly outdated. “As long as I’m alive, it’ll never be relegated to the rubbish heap. NEVER!”
I walk away from our little tussle, shake my head, and smile. The irony doesn’t escape me.