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JEANNINE STEIN / Fashion Police

Putting Out the Call for Clothes That Will Not Die

October 08, 1998|JEANNINE STEIN

Dear Fashion Police: In 1951, I purchased a pair of summer-weight slacks from a department store in New York City for 50 cents. To this day I have been wearing them every summer--and washing them, of course. They never wear out. They were made in the USA and are cotton. I'll take them to my spot in heaven when I reach 100. Have you heard of material so strong that it lasts so very long?

--PROUD OF MY PANTS

Dear Proud: That's a new one. A pair of pants--and cotton, no less--that's lasted nearly half a century. Maybe they were really created by aliens from some high-tech fiber that mimics cotton but lasts thousands of years and . . . OK, maybe not.

But 47 years is nothing to sneeze at. We have a couple of shirts that date back about 10 years and still look presentable, but that's the best we can do.

What's the best you can do? Who else out there has an amazing story about Clothing That Will Not Die? Here are the parameters:

* The item of clothing must be at least 20 years old.

* It has to be worn and cleaned on a regular basis--at least once a month.

* It has to be in good, wearable shape. No holes, tears, worn spots, pulled threads or discolorations.

* It has to have been originally purchased by you or given to you at the time it was made. In other words, it's not eligible if it's from a vintage clothing store or an attic trunk.

* You must state to what you attribute the item's longevity.

* Any amusing, touching, warm-fuzzy, Reader's Digest-y types of stories about the item are welcome. However, don't embellish it in a desperate, pathetic attempt to get into the Fashion Police column. Although we know how prestigious this is, there will be other opportunities.

*

Dear Fashion Police: As always, a trip to the outlet mall inspires guilt. But probably not for the reasons you're thinking. When I come home to stow my spoils there is no room in a closet that is jammed to the gills with special keepsakes--from bowling shirts and overalls to a pair of goldenrod Union Bay baggies with blue pinstripes (ah, yes, a particularly sentimental relic from the New Wave '80s). But I figure, you never know what might come back. I've tried time and again to be faithful about cleaning out the surplus at least once, sometimes twice a year. But even when I fill two hefty Hefty bags, there still doesn't seem to be room for my new loot. What is a helpful rule of thumb for a boho gal who likes to keep a wide range of looks on hand but also wants to lay a foundation for a wardrobe to build on?

--IN THE CLOSET

ABOUT MY CLOSET

Dear Closet: We admire you for wanting to change and acknowledging that you need to change. That is the first and most important step.

A few years ago, we too had scads of clothes stuffed in our closet. Make that closets. Searching for a particular item took flashlights, extra oxygen and a good half an hour. We knew we had achieved critical mass when we moved into a new apartment and the moving guys, on their zillionth clothing haul, said, "Lady, how many clothes do you have?"

It was time for drastic measures. But before we dove into the abyss, we set a rule: If we hadn't worn it in the last year, out it went. That included the skirt that had needed hemming for three years, the vintage dress that always smelled like moth balls, the sweater still missing the button from six months ago, and the jacket with the ripped lining that never quite made it to the tailor.

The Year Rule is harsh but necessary if you have some serious bulldozing to do. However, if you're not quite at the ruthless stage, there is some middle ground you may feel more comfortable with.

Make three piles: I Still Want It in My Life, I Really Can Live Without It, and Oh God I'm Not Sure Don't Make Me Decide Now.

Let's look at that third pile. Go through each piece again, deciding whether you will truly commit to wearing this thing again.

Once you have that pile whittled down, put it in a separate place in your closet--don't mix it in with the other stuff. Then in six months, look at each item again. If you still haven't worn it, give it the boot.

You are not alone in wondering whether something should be granted a stay of execution because it just might come back in style some day. That some day could be a year from now (doubtful), or 10 years from now (maybe). Chances are good if and when it does come back, it won't be in exactly the same incarnation it was originally. So you could hold on to those pants for another decade, only to find they still don't fit in with current fashions. And confidentially, we don't have a good feeling about those goldenrod baggies with the pinstripes. Think about this--where is Flock of Seagulls now?

Some people like to tackle this task with a friend. We don't recommend it. You may, in a fit of misguided generosity, give her clothes that you'll want back later. Also, usually you spend the whole time talking and then going to lunch and not getting much done at all.

And just think--in the end you'll have a clean closet, a nice tax write-off from donating your clothes to a worthy organization, and a reason to go shopping.

* When reporting or preventing a fashion crime, write to Fashion Police, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, or fax to (213) 237-0732. Submissions cannot be returned. No telephone inquiries, please.

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