Emily Spivack’s Worn Stories sits on the bookshelves in my office. As someone who spends a considerable amount of time reading, writing and pondering over clothes, identity and why we wear what we wear, I loved the ‘sartorial memoirs’ contained in the 2014 best-seller. Spivack asked each contributor to choose a meaningful item of clothing (one they still own) and tell the compelling story behind it. Worn Stories has now been turned into a charming Netflix series. Each of the eight episodes has been given a theme, such as, Beginnings, Lost & Found and Community; with three or four interviewees recollecting their stories, all neatly tied together with animations and graphics. You can guess what I’ll be doing this weekend…
One of my favourite tales (so far) is about the woman who checks her coat in at a Manhattan bar, only to find when she goes back to collect it later in the evening that it’s been taken by someone else. The cream bouclé wool coat is a one-off bought at a Rachel Comey sample sale and she wants it back; even more so when she realises that her cell phone is in the pocket. Together with her cousin she sets off on a wild goose chase across the city in the early hours of the morning, eventually tracking her phone to a random apartment, ‘Losing the coat turned into a great, little adventure – and ended up being a bonding moment for me and my cousin.’
Over the East River in Queen’s, Mrs Park talks about the yellow sweater given to her by a Buddhist monk. Feeling depressed and wearing her favourite jumper for confidence, she joins a senior dance troupe and finds her community, ‘These women are like my family,’ says Mrs Park, ‘ I’m going to keep dancing for the rest of my life.’
Then there’s Timmy the saxophonist and the leather cod piece bought for him by Tina Turner (who he toured with for over 15 years). After making it big in the 1980s, Timmy hits a fallow period when saxophones go out of style. He’s lost but eventually rediscovered, ‘After 30 years people started calling the original sexy sax man again and I just think I’m the luckiest motherfucker in the world. I’d always been second banana, now I get to play my own shows.’ The 1980s leather pouch is part of his onstage persona, ‘ When I’ve got that cod piece on I can dance how I want.’
One of the most moving segments is the story of ‘Rudy and his new shirt.’ Having been in prison for 40 years, Rudy has no-one to send him his ‘dress-outs’ (clothes to re-enter the outside world in). The Ride Home Program organises everything that a newly released prisoner needs, including clothes, a meal and a lift home. Carlos one of the drivers meets Rudy outside jail and takes him to buy a new outfit: a checked shirt and jeans, ‘ I’m a free man with these clothes on,’ explains Rudy, ‘ I looked in the mirror and I liked what I saw – and that makes all the difference in the world.’
What would your worn story be? Mine would include the Once in a Lifetime Céline tuxedo bought for my first book launch. The jacket was a huge splurge, the most I’d ever spent on an item of clothing – and I am very careful with money. Growing up on a council estate up north, most of my clothes were second-hand but I’d worked hard to reach this point in my career and this significant achievement required a significant piece of clothing.