My Grandmother's Jackets
The two jackets worn by Sonia and Julia in the photographs above belonged to my late grandmother. My grandfather passed them on to me when she died, along with a half-dozen other jackets, most of which were suede. My sister also received an equal number of coats. And the pounds upon pounds of vintage clothing which my grandfather did not have the stamina to sort were given to a Goodwill on Second Avenue in New York.
In the 1960s and 1970s, my grandmother was an alienated housewife in New York City. Her husband—whom she would later divorce—would not allow her to work a job outside of the home. Yet, she tucked away money and used it to amass an enviable closet. This closet held, among other things, over ten Missoni rainbow knitted tops, Roncelli studded jackets, and berets in every color. When I looked over her clothing after she died, it was easy to identify the clothes which belonged to that era of her life. They were graphic and vibrant—reminiscent of the color palette from a Candyland board game. I often wonder if clothing served as a means of escape from her at that point in her life, especially given that in the years that I knew her, the only color I saw her wear was black. I wonder if she found herself in her black clothing. Perhaps black felt more honest?
Now, when I think about my own style, it is impossible for me to separate it from that of my grandmother’s. I have received so many of her pieces throughout the years, and wear something of hers almost daily. And when I wear her clothes, I do not forget that they were once hers. It is not just that I abstractly feel connected to her through the vessel of the clothing, but rather that I conceive of her clothes as entities that gazed upon her life and now gaze upon mine.
Models: Sonia Joseph and Julia Yu
Photographer: Elaine Romano