Bargell: Lessons in layering clothes & emotions
Ryan Summerlin January 15, 2013
We all know how to stay warm in this weather – layering, and a good glass of red wine. In Summit there’s no worry about walking out the door dressed in so many layers I resemble Pop-n-Fresh, the Pillsbury dough boy. One of the fringe benefits of mountain living is blissful ignorance of the latest in haute couture. So, when I saw the playbill for the current offering at the Backstage Theatre in Breck, “Love, Loss and What I Wore” my initial response was, “why I should care?” Still, the show was by Nora Ephron and her sister Delia, so attending seemed a fitting tribute to the loss of this amazing woman, just last year.A few moments into the first monologue I realized the focus was not so much on fashion, but instead on the layers of emotion conjured when women recall the outfits that have accessorized major life events. With budding teenagers in our household, the mother-daughter exchanges were particularly poignant. After losing my mom to cancer more than 20 years ago, I sometimes find myself searching the nooks and crannies of my brain for pieces of her to remember. The play summoned buried memories of our annual sojourn to the local fabric store to take in the latest Simplicity or Butterick pattern book. We’d sit side by side on the stools, turning pages of the oversized books that surely weighed more than 20 pounds. We’d pick out three, sometimes four, dress patterns that never failed to be my favorite for the coming year. Good thing too, since it wasn’t until I was in fifth grade or so that pants became accepted, standard attire for school girls. It was a tradition that continued through high school, at which time her repertoire expanded to dance dresses. While she pinned, tucked and sewed everything from velvet to corduroy we navigated my formative years. Clothes can be emotional, and when I chasten my daughter for losing a favorite sweatshirt I can feel her pain, recalling the coveted baby blue wind shirt that I managed to misplace the very first time I wore it to junior high. Based on the laughter that emanated from the women, and the brave gentlemen in the audience, it was pretty clear nearly everyone could hear the echo of their mother’s voice, right down to the tone, when the actress shared the line, “you’re going to wear that?” The play has yet another layer. Based on the bestselling book by Ilene Beckerman with the same title, the character sketch of the protagonist Gingy detailed a life so confounded by hardship I was pretty sure the stories had to be fiction. Not so, however, as I later learned the vignettes and accompanying wardrobe illustrations were reflections of Beckerman’s life experience. But Beckerman didn’t even take up writing until she was 60 years old, when her desire to tell her life story pre-kids, to her five kids, propelled her into a new profession. As the years pass, I’m always encouraged to learn of women who successfully take up something new, just when the expectation is for life to wind down. My favorite line from Beckerman’s website is, “If someone had told me all this would happen to me, I would have told them to stop smoking whatever they were smoking.” While the designer names thrown about in the story admittedly sailed right over my head, the production made me appreciate the fact that we don’t have to worry about New York fashion to enjoy a New York production just down the road. How to keep warm in this weather? Take in a show that pierces through all those Pop-n-Fresh layers in order to warm the heart – and don’t forget a glass of red wine. Cindy Bargell is a mom and attorney who lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.