I am standing in line with sweat beads running down my lower back. I shift from foot to foot, straining to see past Mark, my Sunday school classmate. It’s far too hot in the church for mid-October, I decide, squirming. Mom had bought me this beautiful navy woollen dress to wear to my first confession. I’d put it on sometimes, playing dress-up, loving how serious and grown-up it made me feel. Catching my mother’s eye, I stop rocking from foot to foot and smooth my woollen dress with an inward sigh. Finally, Mark moves and I’m at the front of the line. I secretly think my life is too boring for me to have to go to confession, and wonder what I’ll tell the priest when it’s my turn…
A couple of years pass. It’s Christmas break, and my brother and I are sliding on new snow. We race up the hills behind our country house. Sliding down the hill first, I almost run into a tree, just swerving away at the last minute. I tumble head over feet over head, a blur of grey snowsuit punctuated by red woollen mittens. Falling has never been more fun. My brother reaches for my mittened hand, and we climb the hill again. My mittens, homemade by my aunt, hang like droopy petals on my hands. I ask my brother how he manages to never crash his sled. He laughs, and on the next trip down, capsizes his sled as I did to mine. We walk back to the house hand in hand in our wool mittens, warm and tired and happy, hoping mom has hot chocolate on the stovetop. The mittens dry on the grate while we tell mom all about our adventures. I tell her I’m like little red riding hood but with red mittens instead. We decide that’s better, especially in the cold weather.
Years slip past. I’m getting ready for my first job interview, adjusting a woollen sheath dress that is probably the big sister to the one I wore as an impatient seven year old. Vibrant fuchsia, I hope that the bright dress will hide how pale and quiet I am, lost inside my own teenage awkwardness. Arriving at the interview awash in my insecurities, I tell my father that this is a terrible idea. I have no qualifications. “It’s a grocery clerk job, Morgan. You don’t need qualifications. This is HOW you get qualifications,” he explains in that matter-of-fact way he has. I roll my eyes, leave the car, and walk into the store. Forty painful minutes pass. Then, I stand up from the plastic seats in the back of the grocery store and clammily shake the hand of my new boss. I smooth my pink woollen dress and sigh inwardly, hoping the dress hasn’t hid my pale, quiet nature to the point that she’ll be disappointed when I show up for my first shift, sans powerful pink.
The dresses and mittens have faded now, both in colour and in memory. The stuff of my past is now probably the stuff of Goodwill bins. At what point does a piece of clothing start to be something more? I’ve worn wool over my pink skin when I’ve tried to keep still, keep warm, and keep calm. Clothing and costume can be more synonymous than we think, and the wool I’ve worn has always helped me aspire to a better version of myself. Somewhere in the weave of the fabric lies a more polished Morgan than there is anywhere else–and when I pull on my wool sweater, I find her.
This text on Wool was written and submitted by Morgan Mullin for Round 2 of Modeconnect’s International Fashion Writing Competition. Check Morgan’s entry for Round 1: Fashion’s Asian Invasion