The fashion industry has evolved immensely over time. Over the years, people gravitated toward clothing that provided style, rather than functionality. It is fascinating to look back at what people wore throughout each past decade, reflecting on just how drastically fashion has changed. “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” perfectly illustrates this idea.
Ilene Beckerman published the book in 1995 as a memoir of sorts. As the title promises, the book follows Beckerman’s life journey as she navigates relationships, death and divorce and what she wore through it all. Every turn of the page presents a story about a specific event and what she wore for the occasion, alongside a simple drawing of herself in each different outfit. The chapters are separated by decade, beginning with the 1940s. This reminds the reader of the passing of time and the clear ways in which fashion aged along with Beckerman. This setup serves as a time capsule.
Sometimes the writing that pairs with the drawing will simply describe a regular day instead of a memorable event. This immediately demonstrates to the reader that however ordinary the circumstances may be, one can easily hold onto the memory of what they wore at a certain time. Beckerman shows that articles of clothing can be strongly tied to certain moments in one’s life and become heavily associated with relevant feelings from that time — despite how insignificant they may feel now. Fashion choices seem symbolic of life’s circumstances.
Fashion journalism is more widespread than ever, growing far beyond the pages of printed publications. For decades, fashion magazines ruled the fashion world. People would eagerly anticipate the release of new issues and find themselves heavily influenced by what they read. There were few other sources for fashion content, so people relied on these magazines to learn what was trendy. Today, fashion journalism is mostly online. Of course, there are still popular fashion magazines, but the majority of fashion content today is digital. Even Vogue posts articles to its website much more frequently than it releases physical magazine issues.
This switch has allowed for an immense overflow of fashion content. It used to take a great amount of effort to get published by a fashion magazine. Now, literally anyone can create a blog and say whatever their heart desires. It does not automatically make someone’s opinion correct or important simply because it was posted on the internet; however, it is interesting to see such a huge range in fashion content. Basically, any style that you may like is being worn and discussed by at least one person on the internet right now. This allows people to make new fashion choices that they may not have before, as they feel encouraged by seeing others that agree with their style preferences.
When everyone has a chance to share their point of view on fashion, it becomes less about overall trends and more about day-to-day choices. This new environment has fostered a space that encourages fashion writers to share singular, specific outfits. This is known as the Outfit of the Day (OOTD) — and “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” was the first version of this.
Beckerman wrote “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” in a style extremely similar to the way some write on their fashion blogs. This idea that one simple outfit can be so meaningful revives a concept that Beckerman pioneered decades ago. On one page, Beckerman writes about the outfit she wore for her senior photos for the yearbook. This may seem unimportant, but it was a huge deal at the time, and so it stuck with her. Additionally, beyond her own fashion choices, she writes about what her loved ones wore. In one section, she remembers her sister with red fingernails and a love for Frank Sinatra, more details intertwined with descriptions of a dress her sister used to wear. The memories of her sister’s clothes all these years ago are deeply connected to the personality traits she displayed. Beckerman writes about her aunt’s jewelry and her grandmother’s stockings. These seemingly small details stayed in her memory because some fashion choices represent something more meaningful than just clothing on one’s body.
Current fashion journalists should take “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” to heart. Beckerman perfectly illustrates how fashion is meaningful. People often write about fashion in a way that ignores the strong emotional ties that people can hold with their clothing. Perhaps because it has become so cheap to buy poorly made clothes, the focus has shifted from quality to quantity for many. It is difficult to feel anything about items that fall into this category. You should love what you already have in your closet. Your wardrobe does not need to reflect your wealth. Beckerman writes about an abundance of outfits her mother made for her, which she held as dearly as items that cost a lot of money. You can buy clothing secondhand, and search for those pieces of clothing that you feel connected to.
Sally Wendkos Olds wrote an article for nycitywoman.com about her experience listening to Beckerman speak at a book group. She writes: “Her warmth and unique fashion sense reminded us about the emotional touchstones our clothes hold for us. The reason, she said, that both her book and the subsequent play were so successful had to do with their acknowledgment of women’s emotional connections with their clothes, a bond that reaches across generations, nationalities, and income levels.” Allow yourself to feel those emotional ties with your clothing. When wearing your absolute favorite item, you should feel invincible.