There’s a mink coat that hangs in my closet that I rarely wear but would never part with. It was passed down to me by my grandmother and has a message stitched inside from my grandfather. About two years ago, I started collecting soccer jerseys from each of the countries I’d visited because I wanted a souvenir that I could wear. And there are these Dior moon boots that I’ve been wearing religiously every winter since I asked for them for Christmas in 2006 because I had seen Mariah Carey wear them in a paparazzi shot in Aspen.
It’s not just me. Everyone has stories behind the clothing they own, whether they wear it or not.
For the past ten years, through various projects from Worn Stories to her most recent work, An archive of everything worn to MoMA, artist and writer Emily Spivack has been talking to people about their relationships with the garments they own. She deals with clothing in an anthropological way rather than spotting trends and strictly viewing garments through the lens of fashion.
“[These are] the things that we put on our body every day and then go out into the world and live our lives in,” says Spivack. “Those choices are portrayed on the Internet or through photographs or archival material. We can learn a lot about culture and society and who we are through the clothes that we wear.”
Spivack’s investigation into clothing started in 2007, when she wanted to explore why people get rid of clothing. For this project, called Sentimental Value, she spoke to eBay users about the clothing and accessories they were selling and why. Eventually, she started bidding on the clothing and put together an exhibition that showed in Brooklyn, Portland, and Philadelphia.