Saturday, October 9, 2010

readings on clothing and memory...

"Nowadays this is Else's recurring dream: she enters a room whose walls are lined with wardrobes.  She opens the door of the first one and inside on a shelf is her mother's sewing machine with the thick transparent Cellophane draped over it to keep the dust off.  Round it, under it, above it, are drawers. Inside each of them is a complex filing system of folders.  Inside each of these folders is a too-small garment.  A dress, a cardigan, a waistcoat, slacks, a pinafore.  Each piece of clothing has been made for Else.  The folders fill the drawers and the drawers fill each of the wardrobes and the wardrobes crowd the room so that there is almost no space in it, and each piece of clothing is pressed flat in its folder, shrunk and airless as if vacuum-packed.  Else is dizzy with them.  She unpacks the first, and then the next, then one after another after another they pile up round and over her feet and even though she has opened hundreds of them there are still thousands more to unfold, all different, all hand-made, all stitched with care and thousands more drawers of them waiting for her to open them.  Puffed sleeves.  Tapers and waists.  Pinking-shear edges.  Zigzagged black braiding.  Crimplene and cotton, nylon and wool, polyester and terylene and suede, and each of them is useless; too small, too fragile, too clean, too much; the wardrobes go on forever packed with unwearable love, and in her dream Else knows with a sheering hopelessness that she is asleep and that, untakeable as it all is, it will rip her apart at the seams one more time to have to wake up and leave any of it, one single piece of it with its empty arms, behind.

It is a nightmare."

(Ali Smith, Hotel World, 2001)

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