I scoured the sale rack on a solo trip to the H&M in Sweden. My semester abroad in Sweden involved a lot more alone time than I was previously used to, but I readily embraced it. Now, the Swedish H&M was much pricier than its American counterpart, and it was filled with clothes with a decidedly Swedish vibe. Where the American store is filled with a great variety of styles, Swedes thrive in normalcy and sameness. What’s in vogue is a sort of classic, crisp, hipster-vision of fashion. Lots of dark colors, not a lot of patterns. Bleach-blond men and women in black jeans and leather jackets-they really pull it off.
I found a beautiful royal blue dress tucked away, just my size, on the sale rack of the Swedish H&M one day. I hadn’t packed much clothing for my time abroad because space was tight. I tried to convince myself that staples were all you really needed when traveling, and that this experience wasn’t about sartorial sophistication, but rather inner growth. I think I did a fairly good job, for someone who is fashion obsessed, of letting myself get into the comfortable rhythm of having a faux-uniform, which almost always included snow boots and my down coat.
I learned to let go, to let my clothing take a back seat priority-wise, and it felt really good-until I had a date, that was. It was the spring, and the sun was finally coming out. Rising early and setting late, we were having tons of daylight, people were taking 1 a.m. strolls through the park without problem or fear. It was time to shed my winter skin, my puffer coat, and my four pairs of bottoms-two pairs of tights, a pair of leggings, and a pair of jeans, topped with woolen socks, of course. One pair of pants was officially sufficient, and it was a beautiful day to be alive in Uppsala, Sweden.
But now the problem was, I had a date with a handsome blond Swede and no outfit that was appropriate for the occasion. When I found a loose blue dress, with the sash, I knew it was perfect. Plainly, chicly Swedish, but also bright and festive. Swedish spring fashion worn by an American girl. I had no roommates to sound the decision off of. It was up to me, and in the dressing room I quickly converted the Swedish currency to dollars and took the plunge. The next day, I walked my usual route to downtown Uppsala decked in my new dress, light jacket, and flats that were quickly filling with the gravel that had been scattered everywhere during the winter months.
His friends wanted to know who the girl in the bla klanning that he was walking around town with was. They hadn’t recognized immediately that I wasn’t a Swede like themselves. (Once I opened my mouth and rattled off quick, easy English, or slow, labored, broken Swedish over pear ciders, however, they definitely knew.) It was my good luck dress, and it would get a lot of use. Even after this first date, I wore this dress obsessively for the next few weeks. It was one of my only spring outfits, and I couldn’t help how great I felt in it. That dress is full of memories, late fikas, and walks in the park-my last day in Sweden, even.
Fashion is not just function, it is not just art, it is not just style, it is not just status, or label. Fashion is also in the business of creating memories. Outfits serve to take us back to some of the most monumental moments in our lives. When we talk about memories, we often talk about what we were wearing. It makes these memories more vivid. My current roommate always says she remembers meeting me freshman year and that she remembers exactly what I was wearing on that move-in day. We speak fondly about almost every day of freshman year, differentiating one event from another by what we wore. “Don’t you remember that party, you wore that top that I love?” It’s that simple.
Looking through my closet is not just about picking an outfit, it’s about picking a mood, calling on a memory, closing my eyes, and believing that I am somewhere else for just a minute. The way that blue dress, bla klanning, fits reminds me what it feels like when the sun finally comes out after a very long winter. It reminds me what sitting in the sun drinking coffee for hours feels like. It reminds me of the fear and the excitement that is all mixed up when you are all by yourself in a strange place. It sounds like broken Swedish, and it smells like popcorn and first dates. Looking through your closet can be even more powerful than looking at a photo album-trust me, take a look.
Featured Image via HM.com