To me a wardrobe is more than a structure that stores clothes, bags and accessories. I like to think of them as a repository of memories – happy ones, sad ones, funny and bittersweet ones.
Some clothes have such strong associations attached to them that long after they have ceased to fit or be fashionable I’ve still held on to them. They form tenuous if somewhat threadbare links to my past that I’m loathe to sever.
Like the tiny waistcoat I’ve had for a good 20 years now. In a lurid rani pink, it’s embellished with Chinese symbols and lined in white faux fur. Hardly a look for Spring/Summer 2006. But I remember wearing it to a birthday party (of a person who I can no longer remember) when I was five years old. It reminds me of a carefree time in my life when I could eat all the ice cream I wanted and not worry about the consequences. That’s the beauty of clothes - I may forget faces and names but I’ll always remember what I wore.
There’s the white dress my father bought me after a business trip to London. It hangs in my cupboard, the cellophane covering from a dry cleaning 12 years ago untouched. A denim jacket from my terrible tweens covered in lovingly collected buttons and badges that proclaimed I was ‘Single and ready to mingle’ or ‘One atom bomb is all it takes to ruin your day’.
There are the dresses I no longer possess but still remember. Like the beige and cream salwar I wore on my first day of college. And the leather Fab India satchel I had slung over my shoulder. Desi but not dehaat. Or at least I’d hoped so. The sari I wore for my school farewell. 6 metres of maroon organza dress material that were so transparent I still can’t show anyone the pictures.
There are the good, the bad and the ugly. Brand new, hateful hand me downs and delicious booty stolen from my sister’s cupboard. Atrocious denim capris embroidered with letters of the alphabet circa 1987. A black and red bandhini skirt that I wish I still had. The white chikan work dupatta my sister bought me from Lucknow. Too beautiful to actually wear but regularly taken out and caressed.
And then there’s my wedding sari. Nine yards of peacock blue juxtaposed with a startling red and gold border. Awkward and uncomfortable. Hard to sit and walk in and difficult to drape. It hangs in the dark confines of my cupboard now, taken out once year for Varalakshmi Nombu. During this annual airing I like to pretend that the smell that clings to it is actually from the smoke of the agnikundam and not eau d’mothball. That the small dark stain in the corner is one of the many tears I shed that day and not payasam (kheer). And that every crease and fold that stubbornly stays in place represents a memory that can never be ironed out.