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Exploring Who We Are Through What We Wear (Rebroadcast)

Emily Spivack's project "Worn Stories" offers vignettes into people's lives by way of their clothing.
Emily Spivack's project "Worn Stories" offers vignettes into people's lives by way of their clothing.

After a year of referring to jeans as “hard pants,” it’s safe to say that living through a pandemic has changed our relationships with our wardrobes.

But just because our more festive garb has gone unloved for 14 months doesn’t mean our clothes don’t matter — to ourselves and to the rest of our world.

This idea — we are what we wear — is the inspiration behind Emily Spivack’s “Worn Stories.” It’s an archival project, turned book, turned Netflix miniseries that offers vignettes into people’s lives by way of their clothing.

Here’s how Vogue described it:

The series features a wonderfully diverse range of storytellers who have clothes in their closets that they just can’t quit. Spanish and American actor Charo appears to discuss the dresses that made her famous, as does Simon Doonan, who adores his cycling pants. Representative Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) comes on the show to talk about her world-famous cowboy-hat collection. But it’s not just focused on celebrities. The first episode of the series, for example, is themed on community and features different nudists talking about why they don’t wear clothes—that they feel more like themselves without wearing them. In episode three, which is focused on new beginnings, there’s also a story of Rudy, who goes shopping for the first time after being in jail for 41 years and reclaims his identity in the process.

We talk with Spivack — as well as folks featured in the show — about their worn stories.

Here are the “worn stories” you sent us.

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1A producer Kathryn Fink got this whale skirt from her mom Debby, whose own mom made it for her when she was in college. It was originally a wrap skirt, but Kathryn and Debby took it to the tailor to update it.

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One listener wrote: "I have a shirt from a concert I went to in high school with friends. It was Projekt Revolution, and it was the second time I got to see Lincoln Park. Atreyu even signed it."

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Guest Ernie Glam behind the scenes of The Joan Rivers Show in 1992.

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From 1A producer Arfie Ghedi: "These docs are my most storied item of clothing - I got them in 7th!! Grade!!! And the store clerk had me size up by 2 because they were expensive and I'd outgrow them otherwise. I wear them constantly and especially when I have an outing that makes me anxious about how I look (which is most outings lol) bc they look good with everything. My personal style was built around these boots. They are a security blanket that occasionally gives me blisters."

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From 1A senior producer Paige Osburn: "My clothing item of choice is my late stepmom’s wedding dress, which I’m using for my own wedding in September. I have a ton of memories of her and dad’s wedding, and while it’s emotional to wear something so personal, it’s a nice kind of emotional. It was strange to take her gloves out of the box because they still smelled like my parents’ incense."

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Listener Rich wrote in: "Even though I retired from the US Air Force in 2003, I still have my MA-1 flight jacket. I was an A-10 Warthog pilot in Desert Storm 1."

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Listener Susan wrote: "As a recreational sewer, clothes are also an expression of love. All through childhood I've made my son's Halloween costumes. It gave me great joy making a custom costume that he was so excited to wear. Now that's he's older, I look back upon the photos with great memories."

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Listener Miranda wrote: "The red wool socks I wore when I gave birth to my daughter in 1985. She was born 2 months early and labor was fast — no time to take them off."

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One listener shared: "My item is an old bowling shirt that a friend gave me. He had bought it used and once ran into the widow of the man who'd worn it. We each committed over time to taking "Howard" out to party. However, maybe it *is* time for him to get a new wingman."

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From listener LeAndrea: "I wore this dress when I was crowned Miss Juneteenth for Kansas City. I'm hoping my daughter wears it somewhere special one day!"

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From listener Christopher: "This jester hat is my cloth talisman because my GF made the yin/yang symbol and turned it *sideways* for my first Burning Man. BM is where i realized life was worth the effort against cancer."

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From listener Skip: "My favorite item is traditional Ethiopian clothing that was made by a village priest in Yeha (in Tigray), and the staff given to me by another priest there, a dear friend recently departed. Both are pictured on either side of me with the items that remind me of better times."

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Listener Troy writes: "I’ve had this faded pink hoodie for over a decade that’s been on every trip I’ve taken."

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Listener Lisa wrote: "In 2017, I ran for public office for the first time, and was the first Latina to ever run and win a seat on the Boise City Council. I am a renter and come from a low income background. This campaign shirt reminds me to keep it pushing! Si Se Puede!"

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