Noelle McCarthy: Clothes I can't live without

By Noelle McCarthy

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A well edited wardrobe - not the writer's... Picture / Babiche Martens
A well edited wardrobe - not the writer's... Picture / Babiche Martens

I am packing for a move, and so we return to the impossible dream of streamlining the wardrobe. Long have I nursed in vain the hope of being that woman who makes her choice every morning from 12 perfect garments or fewer. The same woman who wanders the globe with little more than a tube of Eight Hour Cream, a cashmere cardigan, an Alexander Wang shift and a toothbrush. Judging from last night's efforts, that won't be something I am going to be capable of, ever.

Four jumbo laundry bags and a full shop-size rail of garments is the current total of my holdings, after a solid six hours of culling. This is as low as I can go, in terms of wardrobe volume, or it's as low as I'm willing to go, rather.

I know the rules of having a clear out; if you haven't worn it in a last year, and you don't think you'll wear it in the coming year, chuck it. It's a simple rule and easy to follow. I think it's bullsh*t though, that's the problem.

Anti-clutter rules don't work for me because they don't recognise the role emotion plays in my wardrobe. My relationship with my clothes isn't based around utility, solely. Nostalgia is also important, as are attachments that aren't really rational. I have three dresses I'll never throw out, for example. One I've worn once only, two I'll never wear again. I can't live without any of them.

The once-er is a Marilyn Sainty. I got it for 40 bucks in an op shop. It's a floor length black column, timeless and impeccable. It's also wool, alas, and long sleeved. I wore it once, to a play and was sweating like a pig by the encore. But I'll keep it forever in spite of that. Forty bucks for a piece of New Zealand design history is amazing. A Sainty is a Sainty whether or not you wear it.

The other two are mirrors of each other. They're both by Miss Crabb and the same flaming red colour. Being Miss Crabb dresses, they're sexy. They drape just-so and they're short enough to show a bit of leg. I've had them for years, and given them a good going over.

Over the last decade or so, there's not an event in this city those dresses haven't attended. Fashion weeks, film festivals, big days out, big nights out in general, those dresses have served me well, with no more than a few loose threads to show for it. But I can't wear them anymore, because the time of my life is written all over them. Parties, dramas, heartbreaks, career milestones. I remember every single time I wore those dresses, every night that was happy, and every one that was disastrous and painful. That was a distinct period of my life, a self contained era. I don't want to go back to it, but I don't want to forget it either. That's why I'll be hanging onto my red dresses, because they remind me. Sometimes clothes are history, as opposed to clutter.


* Do you have clothes that you simply can't live without? Let us know in the comments below.

- VIVA

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