Netflix’s ‘Worn Stories’ delves into people’s deep connection with the things they wear

Published April 5, 2021, 1:16 PM

by John Legaspi

As fashion designer Marc Jacobs once said, “Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them.”

Do you still have those customized shirts you had in high school? What about those vintage pieces you love that your grandparents used to wear? Or the items you bought in the last five years (for this author, it’s a combo of a fringe shirt and a blouse with pleated sleeves both in black) that truly reflect your style? Well, those are prized possessions no concept of Marie Kondo can eliminate, as they are made even more valuable by the personal stories that go with them. Netflix celebrates just that with its newest docuseries titled “Worn Stories.”

Adapted from the book of the same name by Emily Spivack, the show puts a spotlight on the power of clothing in a person’s life. Beyond beauty and trends, clothes are vessels for moments where one is given comfort, pushed to the limits, felt love, and even loss. 

Charo and her favorite performance outfit (Photo from Netflix)

“I started working on ‘Worn Stories’ in 2010,” Emily says on the show. “I would look at my own closet and I would see all of these stories associated with the clothes that my grandmother had given me and friends passed down, that I had found in flea markets and my travels. But I had no idea it would turn into the thing that it has become today.” 

In the eight-episode series, produced by Emily together with Morgan Neville and Jenji Kohan, people go deep in their closets and share their treasured items and anecdotes on what makes them special. Some of the subjects are first featured in the book and others are new found stories.

US Representative of South Florida, Frederica Wilson and her collection of cowboy hats (Photo from Netflix)

While the show presents famous personalities such as politician Frederica Wilson and her extensive collection of cowboy hats, Spanish and American Las Vegas performer Charo and her bedazzled performance wear, and fashion editor Aya Kanai and her trusty winter boots, it’s main focus is on everyday people’s relationship to clothes, from the freedom that comes from shedding prisoner’s uniform, the instant confidence given by a jockstrap, the adventures one gets while donning a little black dress, and more.

A man shopping for new clothes after serving four decades in prison (Photo from Netflix)

It also dabbles on the fashion paradox that is “clothing as a way to stand out and a way to belong,” with community stories about ditching clothes, gender-neutral b’nai mitzvah garb, and the essential role of the uniform.

A senior showcasing her dress for a date in a retirement home (Photo from Netflix)

“A closet is an archive of memories and experiences,” Emily tells Vogue. “When something unexpected or momentous happens to us while we’re wearing a piece of clothing, it suddenly becomes imbued with so much more significance…My hope is to capture some of the stories before they disappear.”

Watch the trailer here:

 
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