I read a wonderful book over spring break, Just Kids by Patti Smith.
Ms. Smith wrote a 278-page lyrical poem that describes the birth and growth of her creative process, her transition into adulthood in gritty 1970s New York, and, most poignantly, her creative and loving relationship with her dear friend, Robert Mapplethorpe.
Overall, I was struck by Patti Smith’s fierce and natural intelligence, her independent spirit and her incredible talent within many different mediums of art.
There was one recurring theme in the book that stood out to me. Ms. Smith recounts exactly what she wore to certain major events in her young life. Although she can describe in great detail what she wore for some of the photos that Mapplethorpe took of her over the course of his life, like the cover photo for her album Horses,
she also remembers exactly what she wore on less momentous occasions, those not captured on film. For example, the first time she met Mapplethorpe’s parents on Easter:
“Robert bought me a white dress for Easter. It was a tattered Victorian tea dress of handkerchief linen.”
Or, what she wore the first time she saw Janis Joplin in the El Quixote bar at the Hotel Chelsea:
“I was wearing a long rayon navy dress with white polka dots and a straw hat, my East of Eden outfit.”
And, when she attended the premiere of the film, Ladies & Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones:
“I was wearing a black velvet Victorian dress with a white lace collar.”
This particular detail stood out to me because when I look back at big moments in my life, I can always remember what I wore. Whether it was the red Gloria Vanderbilt top and black skirt that I sported for my first trip to Europe, or the pink Polo Shirt and Brooks Brother’s madras short that I wore on the first day of classes at Georgetown.
Funnily enough, I have a good friend who can remember what she ate on all the momentous occasions of her life.
I’m pretty sure that you are more like me (and Patti Smith), and remember the clothes.
Images: From Patti Smith’s Just Kids