Five Stages of Grief: Ill-Fitting Clothes
We’ve all bought something that doesn’t fit or doesn’t suit us. Let’s call them sartorial fictions—things not just a size too small, but that look as though they belonged to another person. It happens for a lot of reasons. A pair of button-straining, Kelly-green, designer jeans were bought while trying to live up to a friend’s aspirations. A tie-dyed dress, several inches too short, was inspired by an Eric Rohmer movie. I’ve been misled into wide-legged trousers by slimming mirrors, and have nearly crippled myself in shoes purchased in the frenzy of a sale. But whatever the case may be, the aftermath of a bad purchase tends to cycle through the same reactions. We’ve all heard of the five stages of grief—Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance—but here I submit the telltale stages of Clothing Remorse.
Stage 1, Denial:
Includes creative interpretations of reality such as, “That’s not pulling, that’s just the cut,” or “it just needs the right belt/slip/slimming under-garment.” Subjects often distort maxims with faulty logic, such as “You get what you paid for and I paid a lot, therefore it must be perfect.”
Stage 2, Anger:
Often following quickly after stage one, subjects begin to view attention as criticism. Some commonly heard phrases are, “What’s with people staring all the time?” And, “Since when did everyone become a stylist?”
Stage 3, Tailoring:
Subject begins to accept the problem, but believe there is still a solution. The article in question is not “an everyday piece,” but “the secret to great clothes is tailoring.” Subjects begin a desperate search for the “right” tailor. They believe the problem is worth fixing, whatever the cost.
Stage 4, Back of the Closet:
Subjects are hard to approach during this stage, and often missing from the party Friday night. They exhibit shame and a lack of humor. They don’t want to talk about it, and don’t want to see the clothing anymore, and so relegate it to the back of the closet. The tone is often self-pitying, as in “Why am I destined to look frumpy?”
Stage 5, Consignment:
The final stage exhibits a return to pro-active behavior, “The faster I get it out the door the better” “We just weren’t meant for each other, but I can cut my loses.” Often the idea of visiting a consignment store brings renewed sense of hope, “Who knows,” says the subject, “I might find something better when I drop it off!”
Catherine Despont considers size vanity in this issue. She has learned how to count in many different size languages and trusts her tailor more than any designer. Her work has appeared in Open City and Purple. She is currently working on her first novel.