I had this daydream about creating a kind of collective closet as a social experiment about shared possessions. We share houses with spouses, hand-me-down furniture from family, tools with neighbors. Some of us share our cars, jobs, emotional burdens or even sexual partners. Clothing is personal, it’s not the same, is it? Could we set aside a portion of our often overstuffed wardrobes to experiment with the presentation of self among friends? There are occasional clothing swaps, yard sale season, thrift shops, how about adding into circulation textile pieces deliberately engineered to go on a journey and to tell a story, with a message somewhat that of Paddle to the Sea, “Please put me back in the water. I am Paddle-to-the-Sea”.
This idea to produce personal objects that people can check out from each other, came while browsing through vintage bookplates.
To use the garment, sign and date the ‘Checkout Card‘ on the inside, made of a material receptive to common pen ink. Write a little statement about where you’re at in your journey. Draw a picture on it/take a picture and post it somewhere, wash and pass it on. Each subsequent wearer incorporates the story bites into their own retelling of the wearing. Could the ritual of using, altering and sharing an object take on qualities something like a social media interaction and pull it back into analog space? Can we co-opt the conventions created by social media, to which we are beholden, and borrow from them freely to remake a public space with real face-to-face interactions?
Ultimately, these garments could be thought of as a little piece of relational fabric between those who share in the ritual. An exercise in collective ownership, blurring the rigidity we’ve built up around ideas of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, relaxing into an open trust, risking being vulnerable. Does it matter if you get it back? No. If it gets dirty or destroyed, patch it, embellish it. It is an outerwear piece, of rugged construction and made of durable materials. It only comes in colors that will patina well with age. Maybe one is even passed between generations somewhere, you decide.
This kind of circulation and evolution in a garment, an item that we are so used to thinking of as a throwaway, must have been how textiles were treated before industrial looms. The expenditure of energy and material resources embodied in a piece of fabric would have been too great to waste. We take for granted the transmutation of sunlight to fiber by plants, the labor to harvest, spin, weave and stitch. If you decide to try this for yourself, please share photos of completed ‘checkout garments’ and receive updates of other’s participation in this social experiment by emailing NestandTessellate@gmail.com. I made one for my partner, so far it’s just been traded back and forth around our household…more on that later.
Judge a book by it’s cover; clothing is extra skin we wear to express what’s inside.