A few weeks ago, I stood in our hugely open plan office as a colleague strolled past. I did a whiplash double take. I remembered that kimono top! It was from a popular high street store from, I’m guessing, 1983. I’d once bought and worn the matching skirt.
It wasn’t just that I remembered the print. I was transported to a specific day in my life. Stroking the fabric in the shop, feeling the cold press of air conditioning on the back of my neck. Later, wearing the skirt to a disco. Ignoring my ex-boyfriend. Back To The Future doesn’t even begin to cover the journey I was on as I gripped my office mug of tea.
I twitched every time I caught sight of my colleague. ‘I think I remember that outfit,’ I said eventually and shyly. ‘1980s?’ She smiled. ‘Ah, yes. Dug it out of my mum’s attic.’ I waited for the hiss of my punctured ego shrivelling like a discarded birthday balloon. You’re the same age as her mum. Actually, I found I didn’t care that much.
But it keeps happening! This afternoon I spotted someone wearing one of those huge, fuzzy cardigans my peers and I all sported as teenagers. Melanie Griffith wore one in Working Girl. I think. Mum knitted me a pale pink version on giant needles.
My past isn’t coming back to haunt me. That would be too … ghostly. It’s vivid and it’s packed with scents, sensations and snapshots. The kids who shop in vintage shops aren’t just wearing my clothes; they’re stirring up the embers of my youth.
Now, please god – don’t let anyone wander into the office wearing the same coat I once shivered in one long ago winter evening, sat on a dry stone wall with my new beau, fists shoved nervously into my pockets. The surprise of finding satin beneath my fingertips as I realised my ballet shoes were hidden in those pockets. The shame! What boy would want to kiss a girl who still attended weekly dance class?
If those particular memories flood back during office hours, I might pass out in a dead faint. Clothes. They don’t let up their grip. Ever.