Friday 21 October 2016

Katie Byrne: Skeleton in the closet

Do you hang on to your 'thin clothes'?

Published 03/07/2016 | 02:30

Features writer Katie Byrne
Features writer Katie Byrne

There are certain items that serve absolutely no purpose to a woman but which she is, nevertheless, incapable of throwing out.

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These items should have been consigned to the bin a long time ago but have somehow avoided the merciless inclination of spring cleans, house moves and various decluttering expeditions.

In the hope of restoration, we hold on to broken jewellery and shoes with scuffed heels.

In the hope of the hopeless, we hold on to anything made from speciality fabric or crafted out of unusual textiles. "Hope is a thing with feathers," wrote Emily Dickinson. Damn right it is…

Rummage further into a woman's wardrobe and you'll find even more items that have long passed their shelf-life but are, nonetheless, folded neatly on the bottom shelf.

Known collectively as 'thin clothes', these pieces fall squarely into the 'some day' category.

Skinny jeans that no longer travel past the knees. Shirts that no longer button up without gaping. Dresses that require no sudden movements.

Will we ever wear them again? Probably not. Still, it's best to hold on to them in case there's another potato famine or we all contract a deadly flesh-eating virus.

Failing that, these pieces can at least be exhibited in the Museum of Your Former Self. Oh, these old 28-inch things...

I have a friend - a former model - who keeps all of her decade-old 'thin clothes' in her bottom drawer.

There are skirts that she could now wear as headbands, T-shirts that look like they were made for a Sylvanian Family toy and an assortment of stonewashed delusions.

Evidently, these clothes have about as much purpose as those iodine tablets that the Government distributed to every Irish household in case of nuclear emergency - but that's not really the point.

This is her trophy cabinet, and every so often she likes to be reminded of her erstwhile Olympian ability to do the maple cleanse for six days straight.

There are obligatory oohs and aahs when these teeny-weeny clothes are unveiled. Apparently we're supposed to be wowed by the 24-inch waists and not at all appalled by the idea that we're fondly recollecting her eating disorder.

In many ways, this friend's nostalgia for her slimmer days is like the archetypal ex-athlete who sits slumped over the end of the bar. "You should have seen me, Johnny. I was majestic!"

Then again, unlike the ex-athlete who'll never perform again, my friend at least has the hope - however slight - that she could return to her former weight.

William Morris famously opined that a person should have nothing in their house that they "do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful". Well, these clothes are beautiful in my friend's eyes.

More recently, Marie Kondo said we should throw out anything that doesn't "spark joy". As it happens, there's always a look of manic glee in my friend's eyes when she delivers yet another throwback to the time she had a thigh gap. In a study last year, 42pc of women admitted that they keep clothing that is too small for them in the hope that they will lose weight and wear these pieces once again.

I assume the other 58pc lied, or were just content to leave their top button open after dessert.

'Thin clothes' are one of the many female-specific delusions. We all believe that we will one day slim back into our skinny jeans, in the same way that we foolishly harbour hope that we can change our romantic partners and find anti-ageing creams that actually work.

Anything else is admitting defeat - akin to conceding that the most probable chance of you hitting the big time is via the Credit Union, or acknowledging that you should stop reading Condé Nast Traveller when your holidays tend to be more Budget Travel.

Holding on to your skinny jeans is symptomatic of living in the past, but it also shows hope for a better future. A thinner future!

There's a pair of jeans in my wardrobe that I was able to fit into for about five minutes in my early 20s.

These jeans constricted my breathing; stopped my circulation and caused more than one urinary tract infection. In fact, the very act of pulling them on defied Newton's Laws of Motion.

They gave me a neat little bottom, yes, but this was almost always accessorised by a rictus grin (the constant fear of the top button flying off and seriously injuring an unsuspecting passer-by didn't help).

Suffice to say, they should never have been on my person. And yet they still take pride of place in my wardrobe.

Will I ever wear them again? Of course not. Would I like people to know that I was once able to wear them? Of course. Will I ever throw them out? I'll come back to you...

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