Posted January 30, 2014 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment

Clothes–Minded Memories


Nostalgia is the feeling and emotion we  experience when remembering the past and longing to be in a moment again.  Something as big as a photograph, or as small as a smell, could trigger our memory and take us back in time. Clothes play an important role in nostalgia.

Other than one’s closet being full of unorganized clothes, it is also full of memories. Sometimes you may find yourself picking up a white button down shirt or your mother’s jewelry and an instant flash of memory rushes to your head. Clothes trigger our senses; the feeling of linens touching our skin, the smell of your ex imprinted on a flannel, etc. Both a wistful and fickle thing, nostalgic clothing is something quite powerful.

It all comes back to nostalgia. Perhaps it’s got something to do with how when you are little, clothes are a beacon of leisure, adventure and endless ambition. In a study published in the “Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,” researchers coined the term “enclothed cognition,” referring to the influence clothes have on our psychological processes. They concluded that two factors influence us: the symbolic meaning we attribute to our clothes and our experiences when we wore them.

For the 20-something now, the ‘90s were your childhood, a world free of care, full of innocence and lost to us, except in memory. Most times we look back on such intervals and want to continually revisit and escape our present — into a portal to another time.

Fashion and memory have a close relationship. Trends tend to look back on themselves and reappear on store shelves. Historicism, the theory that social and cultural phenomena are determined by history, is something we all have become accustomed to through magazines, such as “Vogue” or “Harper’s Bazaar,” telling readers that “vintage” is “in.” Fashion highs in the past determine how we renovate them in the present. The loose and messy aesthetic of the ‘90s generation has been tailored for the modern age. All of these different combinations of memory and fashion largely have to do with what a person throws on day-to-day or sees around the city.

Today, what have we held on to? What past are we making into our “golden age?” This is important, since so many of us who are currently reminiscing about ‘90s trends like the florals and denims worn by the cast of “Saved by the Bell,” or Sabrina’s velvet dresses and chokers, or Britney’s casuals and sportswear. But beyond pop culture nostalgia, our memories, experiences we have lived through, and stories passed down to us by family give each item of clothing something extra. It is common to associate the most poignant and meaningful events in our lives with what clothes we were wearing at the time — a dress that fit just right or a shirt that seemed to bring good luck. Student Katie Shaughnessy takes us back in time to a photograph of her baby eyes gawking into the camera, wearing a pretty blue and white dress with a collared bib, pink bow and classic shades. She emulates the very idea of cheerful bliss. These stories are all interwoven no matter what your fashion choices may have been.

We should feel passionate about the clothes we put on. After all, fashion is just like one long episode of “Reeling in the Years;” constantly looking back, smiling at the better bits and flinching at the damn right inexplicable. The manner in which we wish to dress is very much knotted with our memories. Fashion isn’t really about trends and brands and what the latest celebrity is wearing; no, fashion is much more about those fleeting, fluid, shards and slices of unattainable memory.

Photo collage by SARA FABIAN