Hang onto your boyfriend…jeans

“Maybe we love clothes more than we love men – sometimes that is the case.”-Louise Roe, presenter on Clothes Show Live

You know those ageing leather boots you were wearing the last time a passing stranger winked at you? The classic white shirt with the red wine stain you just can’t bear to give away because of how great it makes your boobs look? Those cozy leggings you still watch reruns in on Sunday mornings despite the hole in the inappropriate place? Well apparently we value these hard-to-throw-out items more highly than marriage. We can easily see when a relationship is over, but when it comes to that now too mini-mini: “Leave it! I don’t want to talk about it!”

According to research done by the Clothes Show Live, women keep their favourite items of clothing for up to 12 years- longer than the average marriage in Britain. Although that’s not saying much when you look Britney Spears (divorced within 55 hours of saying ‘I do’ in a Las Vegas Chapel that probably also sold fried chicken).

It is true though that we attach deep feelings to clothing, which is why we keep some things for extended periods of time. And it’s not just classic items like shirts, dresses or blazers; it’s also what you bought on a whim one Saturday when you wanted to treat yourself. My mother hauled out some items for me that she’s had for over ten years, the one being a lace body-suit she bought as a sexy item which she now wears underneath other things to keep warm. I look at this piece; barely bigger than a baby grow and I’m shocked that such a thing has stood the test of time, especially when its owner is a woman who rejects platform heels, glittery make-up and above all; lacy underwear. Another item she shows me is a very 70’s denim jacket. I look at its now faded colour; feel it’s soft; flexible material and I’m in love. Unfortunately she probably won’t grow out of it any time soon.

When I asked my much loved aunts if there were any items they’d hung onto:

“I have the one pair of jeans that I can’t let go of – they now have a few patches because they’re wearing thin. They’re my happy schloof jeans… I also had a big jersey that your mom borrowed when she was pregnant, it was that big and long. It was my evening-at- home-with-a-drink-jersey.” -Cara Dowling, Sound Engineer

“I’ve got an old pair of dungarees that I think I will never throw away because they remind me of my bra-less years. ..I could also run and play with children and feel a bit more like them – the nearest I could get to a baby-grow. I used to wear them even to teach in until I sadly realised I was just too old for them and maybe they were not the most flattering things because once (in my childbearing days) a hairdresser asked me, talking to me above my head, looking into the mirror “So when’s the baby due?” They still remind me of dreams I had of working on a farm, happy in dung in dungarees.

But at least I did lots of research in tiny Eastern Cape villages wearing them. A chief once asked me imperiously, pointing at my dungarees “Aphi amabele akho?” Where are your breasts? I miss my dungaree days.”- Dr. Tessa Dowling, lecturer in African Languages at the University of Cape Town

There’s a lot of talk about how we must keep our wardrobes stripped bare of excess, free of dated and falling-apart items, but I feel differently. I still remember the ghastly gaudiness of the pink hoodie I was wearing when my uncle Shaun had a heart attack, the grey-greyiness of my school skirt as I sat waiting to see the body my departed father had left behind. I also remember my blue V-necked t-shirt’s brightness as I grinned at the A’s on my Matric report.

Clothes go through everything we go through and we should acknowledge them for that. Maybe that means we keep them for years, wear them often or pass them on to a loved one. Or maybe it means that when the zips break, the buttons give way or the elastic snaps; we don’t simply throw them into the bin without a second thought, we take one last glance and remember the drunken nights we’ve spent in them, the food we stained them with, the good people that held us whilst wearing them- and we give them a proper burial.

Now I’m in no way encouraging hoarding or the keeping of things you no longer fit because you hope Weight-Watchers will get you back into them, but I am celebrating clothes. Not everything has to be chucked out every season unless it’s a pair of harem pants, (those things make women look like Jasmine’s dumpy sister and they aren’t durable.) But I’m for all those people and garments that are ‘there’ for you: the for-better-or-for-worse denims; never forgetting the till-death-do-us-part cardigan.