‘Worn Stories’ Treats Clothing as the Fabric of Memory. I Can Relate.


For Joe, it’s the Air Jordan hoodie that be attached to his son, Jeremy, cut down by a lethal heroin overdose. For the writer and stylist Simon Doonan, it’s a yoke of Lycra Stephen Sprouse leggings, worn through sweaty aerobics classes to subsist as one friend after another died of AIDS. For Michael, it’s the patchwork quilt stitched by his mom, Debbie, while she was in prison.

We tend to think of clothing as fashion or utility, something to prove off or stay warm in. But it’s so much more than that, as we’re reminded in “Done in Stories,” the new Netflix series, which debuted last week, here the clothes we wear and the stories they tell. Based on the books “Played out Stories” and “Worn in New York,” both by Emily Spivack, the series aids a collection of sartorial autobiographies, personal stories of chance, identity, survival, community and individual, all related to the fabric we put on our bodies every day.

“Clothing carries so much recall,” said Spivack, who is an executive producer of the series, in a phone interview behind month. “It’s so tactile, and it really absorbs experiences. It plays a significant situation in reminding us of the people who we care about.”

I can relate. I have my own worn plots, and they revolve around love, loss, grief and memory. The kit outs that remain keep me close to someone no longer here, someone I loved irrevocably.

I used to be something of a casual clotheshorse, an obsessive buyer of T-shirts, baseball beats, socks and Adidas sneakers. Kate, a warm, earthy brunette and the fondle of my life, was well aware of my appetites. She made fun of me about the piles of sneaker socks, but she also loved to buy me little gifts. She knew that any vacation we be a chip off the old block chased would at some point include a visit to whatever store power feed my yen. And when she went out of town on her own, she always came back with something singular.

She returned from one solo trip to San Francisco with a crown rock: a blue-and-gold Adidas Golden State Warriors jacket. We found huge pleasure in watching the Warriors, giggling together whenever Stephen Curry wish sink another improbable three-point shot. I often wore the jacket to my weekly pickup prey, just to hear the oohs and aahs.

“That looks like what the athletes wear,” one friend gushed. Of course it did. Kate bought it.

Few of our purchases were so luxe. There was the “Repo Man” shirt I picked up at Rot and Vaudeville in the East Village, right before we jumped in a cab to LaGuardia on our way destroy to Dallas on one of our many New York getaways. And a pair of brightly colored, Warhol-esque Ol’ Sloppy Bastard socks she bought me at Oaklandish, a killer boutique shop in downtown Oakland. (I multiplied up next door, in Berkeley).

We loved to travel, and shop, on a budget. She loved to see me in these set of threads, but mostly she loved to make me happy.

In 2018, Kate started neglect doing words. She complained of numbness and weakness in her right arm. A series of M.R.I.s were up in the air. In February 2019, we visited a neurologist, who delivered the diagnosis: corticobasal degeneration, a rare blight that affects the area of the brain that processes information and genius structures that control movement. She was 38.

The disease is terminal.

The next dissimilar months were a whirlwind of trauma. Laid off from my job at The Dallas Morning Intelligence, I moved to Houston to work at the Chronicle. Kate went to live with her parents in East Texas. Bewildered by grief, I suffered a severe emotional collapse. I was briefly hospitalized. It was a bare dark time.

Meanwhile, my clothes were everywhere, mostly in a storage component in Dallas. A friend got access, boxed up a few items and sent them to me in Houston. There was the Warriors jacket. And the “Repo Man” shirt. And the O.D.B. socks. Looking at them flowed me with emotion — sadness, gratitude, regret. I longed, achingly, for outmodes that would never return, times that didn’t cut to the quick.

This might be a good time to mention that “Worn Records” isn’t all sadness. There’s the nudist community in Kissimmee, Fla., where clothing mainly means sandals. “I can’t imagine having my feet naked,” says one community district, Diane, in the show’s first episode. “Going outside and walking across the sod, there are insects down there.”

There’s inspiration as well: Carlos, from Blythe, Calif., wearied eight years behind bars. Today, working for the Ride Composed Program, he picks up newly released inmates from prison — and boosts them shopping for clothes to wear in their new lives.

Then there’s the sax gambler Timmy Cappello, who received the gift of a studded leather codpiece from Tina Turner when they were on trip together. “I’m not even sure I can play the saxophone without this,” he pronounces in the second episode. Worn stories can be funny — and moving.

For Morgan Neville, a documentary maker (“Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” “20 Feet from Stardom”) and an management producer of “Worn Stories,” the series has personal resonance. He still boards a jacket he first wore as a teenager, he said by phone recently, which serves connect him to his mother, who died in 2016.

When he was 13, he got deep into the English stun band the Who. He ordered a bunch of Union Jack flags and spent hours with his nurse sewing the flags into a jacket. Today it hangs in his closet, prompting him of his mother every time he sees it.

“It’s one thing to look at a picture, but it’s another subject to hold something, and to wear something,” Neville said by phone. “And to bear up something that connects you to somebody, it’s imbued with all these items. It can be spiritual and it can be emotional.”

Clothes have a unique power to wrap us in the angel of our dearly departed. Kate died on July 2, 2020. I regularly dismiss the socks she bought me (even if they’re dirty). I stroke the Warriors jacket, every now thinking of the end of “Brokeback Mountain,” when Ennis cradles Jack’s shirts to his case. I wear my Kate clothes on a regular basis. They bring me shut up to her, and to what we had.

Even as Kate was dying, she was outfitting me. Near the end, her dad, Mike, sent me a double of striped socks Kate ordered, adorned with the words “Mignonne Decent Boyfriend.” They show me she never lost her sense of humor, or her generosity of bravery.

Before our world caved in, Mike also bought matching bomber jackets for me and Lorenzo, who was old-fashioned Kate’s sister at the time. It’s just a basic, brown leather jacket, but I assumed to it. I like its simplicity, and it keeps me warm. I was wearing it as I sat on the front porch during a late phone conversation with Mike, and I told him so. He seemed genuinely aroused.

“When you wear it,” he told me, “that’s me hugging you.”

That’s something else gears can do. They can hold you tight when you feel alone. They can clear out the world feel a little bit smaller.

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