In my house, back home in the suburbs of Chicago, there’s a room off to the side of the staircase on the second floor. We call it the Secret Closet, but it’s neither a secret nor, really, a closet.
I’m pretty sure it’s where my mom used to keep our Christmas presents, but now it’s essentially a storage unit for all of my family’s old clothes — most of which are in the process of being designated for eBay or the Salvation Army at any given moment.
But in between items like the Whole Foods bags labeled “GIRLS 12-14 SPRING EBAY 2018” and my mom’s old flute case from 1982, there is a hidden treasure trove.
The Secret Closet doubles as my own personal mall for all things plaid, flannel and tweed — most which was worn by my father exclusively during the 1990s — and clothing that my mother has placed a ban on me reprising for the 21st century.
After going home for fall break this past weekend, I found myself FaceTiming one of my best friends while wearing a long-forgotten brown suit jacket with shoulder pads wider than my head, asking her if I should consider sporting this look to class next week.
I think my fascination with stealing and wearing my dad’s old clothes mostly comes from the comfort of familiarity. I feel safe wearing my dad’s old pink-and-purple-checkered, Timberland flannel or throwing on his “pirate-esque” Grandfather shirt purchased in Ireland nearly two decades ago. It’s the same feeling I had as a kid, falling asleep in the backseat of the car with my cheek pressed up against my seatbelt—my eyelids drooping as the backdrop of the city’s skyline faded while my dad sped up on the expressway on the drive home.
He has always been the captain of navigating our family, and when I wear a shirt of his, from however long ago, it feels like I am a bit more capable of steering my own ship.
I couldn’t tell you why I, and a growing number of young women, enjoy wearing sweaters and button-downs that Nordstrom and The Gap featured in their men’s sections in 1998, but, as unattractive as these oversized looks may seem to my parents, their modern variations are now being sold for $59.00 a pop at Urban Outfitters.
“To be honest with you, I had no idea that was in style,” my dad said when I asked him. “They’re not exactly good-fitting clothes, Kay.”
I think there’s something to be said about the subjectivity of what is fashion, but personally, I like being slightly strange.
During my freshman year of college, my friends dubbed my aesthetic “Portland Hermione.” Apparently it had to do something with the fact that I looked like a character that Fred Armisen and J.K. Rowling morphed together in some sort of eclectic homage to “Portlandia” and “Harry Potter.”
I enjoy being, appearing and dressing somewhat goofy because I feel like most of my life and my career aspirations are very serious.
In the past several weeks, I have been stressed out and frustrated over the state of our country following Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing and the underlying tribalism that has fractured America.
I’ve watched this negativity trickle down to Miami throughout my two-and-a-half years at this university, and I have seen firsthand how a lack of empathy and understanding has contributed to some of our community’s biggest problems: sexual assault, mental health, racism, alcohol abuse, etc.
And there is comfort in putting on a worn but familiar flannel in the morning — as small of an act as it is — that makes life just a little more bearable.
“I guess there’s some nostalgia there,” my dad eventually admitted when I asked him what he thought of me adopting his nineties attire.
“Peculiar though,” he said.