I need to make one thing clear right from the start: I am not the fashion snob people think that I am. I don’t care if you wear sweatpants to the grocery store. If you want to put on white after Labour Day, go ahead. It’s no skin off of my nose. I feel the same way about men who wear loafers without socks. I don’t get it, but I also don’t give two hoots. But Victoria, you may be thinking, how can you say that when you go everywhere dressed to the nines? There’s a very simple explanation for that and here it is: I’m freaked out by dead people.
I never used to be freaked out by them, nor was I afraid of death, but then ten years ago my mother died. I watched it happen, and let me tell you witnessing someone take their last breath is one of the most traumatic experiences you can go through. It’s not like it is in the movies, where the actor imparts one final tidbit of wisdom, gives a weak smile, and then immediately drifts away. Those final moments for them is an agonizing struggle for breath. You know your loved one is suffering and you know that there’s nothing you can do about it. When that final breath is taken and you’re left with nothing but a rigid body to look at all you can think is, ‘Oh my God…oh my God…oh my God!’
You can’t think that for too long, though because the coroner will be there soon, or the funeral home, or the doctor responsible for declaring them dead, and they’re going to want you out of the room. Until they arrive, you take every second available to you to stare at this person you will never see again. You study them, notice everything about them, and know that you will never forget that moment.
My mother was wearing yellow pajamas with bumblebees on them when she died from COPD. I had bought them for her three months earlier for Mother’s Day. She was buried in a different outfit, of course, something very matronly. My siblings and I had a hard time picking out what she would wear for all eternity, but once we had, the decision was also made to take the rest of her clothes to a thrift shop.
“Would it be weird to take them to the same shop from which they were bought?” one of my brothers asked.
“No,” said my sister. “She’d probably like that, knowing someone else made use of them.”
It was at that moment my approach to fashion changed. Like my mother, I used to buy all of my clothes at thrift shops. You can find some very nice outfits at thrift shops and for next to nothing, so why not save yourself a bundle? Because, it occurred to me that day, there’s a good chance that outfit you’re eyeing has been worn by a dead person.
I have no idea if someone was wearing what used to be my favourite sweater when they dropped dead from a heart attack. What if all of those pants I bought for less than ten dollars were worn by people the day they found out they had inoperable cancer? Who knows if any of my dresses were a widow’s outfit of choice the day of her husband’s funeral? There’s a reason why people don’t want those old clothes anymore, and it’s because there’s one less person on this planet who needs those clothes.
I know what you’re thinking. Surely not all used clothes can come from dead people. Some of them must have been donated from those who simply don’t fit in to them anymore. You’re absolutely right, people do donate clothes that no longer fit…people who were once skinny but are now fat. There’s just too much heartache and loss and broken dreams inside a thrift shop.
That’s why everything I buy has to be brand new, bold, and brightly coloured. I want my clothes to say, “I still have plenty years of living left in me!” If that makes me a fashion victim – well, that’s a label I’m be proud to wear.