“Worn Stories” Explores How Memories Are Made and Maintained Through Clothing
The Proustian madeleine cookie is an oft-cited example of how our memories are intertwined with the senses. But just as evocative are the outfits we wear, and the moments we come to associate with them over time, as demonstrated in Worn Stories, the new Netflix docuseries based on artist and writer Emily Spivack’s New York Times–bestselling book.
An engaging watch for those interested in the cultural currency of clothing, rather than high fashion, the series puts a pop-anthropological lens on the sartorial attachments of a wide cast of characters—including an Elvis impersonator, an airbrush artist, a non-binary teen, and a crossing guard—as they share intimate anecdotes about their prized garb. Across the board, everyday items ranging from a sample-sale find to a leather codpiece demonstrate the profound (and often entertaining) connection between real-life folks and the garments they wear—or don’t wear, in the case of a couple who reside, happily, in a nudist colony in Florida—and the meanings these tactile, sentimental objects accrue over time.
Spivack herself features in an episode, as she prepares for the arrival of her newborn daughter, and weighs the considerations for how she’ll dress her. “I’m excited for the time when she can pick out things on her own,” she says. “We all have stories connected to a piece of clothing. I’m curious what hers will be.” You might not be what you wear, but as the show argues, you’re very much what you choose to hold on to—bedraggled, pilled, distressed, tattered, and loved to death.