Dress Memory1

Sleeping lions jumpsuit

My mum’s old clothes were my first and last dress-ups: I’m still wearing them now. They’re usually too short for me in the waist but it doesn’t matter.

She’d been making all her own outfits ever since she was a girl. I rediscovered this yellow velvet jumpsuit a few years ago in one of the wardrobes at my parents’ house, where I was storing my clothes while I went overseas. Mum tells me the colour never suited her and that she didn’t wear it much, but she must have worn it sometimes because I remember how the solar collar felt in my koalan baby grip.

For my 29th birthday my whole family came to my parents’ house for dinner, except for my brother who was living in India. I was just about to leave and join him there for four months, to live rent-free in his apartment and read Proust. Mum, on the other hand, had turned 29 in a far western Queensland mining town where she was raising three kids—soon-to-be four. The photos from that time show her eyebrows plucked into neat, deliberate commas instead of brackets; I don’t think she had time to read much Proust.

There were four kids in the house the night of my birthday too; my young nieces and nephews had replaced Mum’s four children who weren’t anymore. The jumpsuit’s practicality and comfort (“It’s a Vogue pattern,” Mum reminds me) combined with the kids’ hyperactivity and tumble-friendly ages resulted, inevitably, in a game of tackle. Afterwards we played Sleeping Lions, a children’s game I’d learnt from my absent brother the previous Christmas: the aim is to see who can lie the quietest and stillest for the longest time.

While they were playing it (brilliantly!) I crept back to the kitchen where Dad had opened another bottle of wine. My sisters went home well after the kids’ proper bedtime, and Mum, Dad and I stayed up drinking and talking.

They came to visit me in Istanbul a few weeks ago, my parents. When they left I cried, which I do every time we say goodbye. It always takes a few hours for me to adjust back to a grown-up state of sovereignty after I see them. As I marched home, down the long boulevard called ‘Independence Avenue’ in Turkish, I was fuming at how momentarily dependent and helpless I felt. Why does an adult still need her parents? And also: when was any parent ever not a baby too?

Sleeping lions jumpsuit: 2 comments

  1. shimmmergirl Says:

    I’ve loved this whole series. I’d do the same, but I’m not sure if I’d fit in all my beloved dresses. I love the line about ‘when was any parent ever not a baby too?’ I see it in my Mum, I remember it in my Dad, I see it in myself.
    By the way, I love the fact you’ve kept these clothes. I’ve thrown many out under pressure from the anti-hoarders. Things I’ve kept: long red satin dressed which I wore while being kissed like a wanton woman against a tunnel wall; my beautiful wedding dress (kept the dress, not the husband);the black camisole my friend gave me in uni 20 years ago. Things I wish I’d kept? The cross over top that could be pulled off over the shoulders (sigh), the polka dot dress I wore at uni; by brown leather spanish brothel boots with wooden heels. They evoke such nostalgia. I didn’t realise how much they’d mean to me….your beautiful writing reminds me that these closes are part of my life and my memory. Thank you.

  2. Mel Says:

    You are fab. Completely fab. And this jumpsuit makes me want to weep with nostalgia about my mum in the 70s! I want to wear it! So much! And she would absolutely remind me that its a Vogue pattern. That was important when people bought patterns and created wonderful reflections of themselves from beautiful fabric. So glad I found your site (in Frankie, by the way).x

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Sleeping Lions FINAL
Image by Lee Sandwith © 2011