by Barbara Mattson
Most of the time I've added to my wardrobe gradually, so I've had no problem remembering what color a given style of pants or top is. My clothes have also been few enough that I've worn each often enough to keep their colors in my mind. I have also depended on my limited vision to reinforce my memory.
As I've aged, my vision has become less reliable. So not long ago after buying some dressy outfits, I ordered some metal braille color tags. (I certainly didn't want to be mismatched wearing my new outfits.) But the tags sat unopened because the thought of having to sew them in overwhelmed me.
Two months later disaster struck. I was at a friend's funeral when I looked over at my sister and then back to me, and I wanted to get up and run out of the church. I realized the black pants I was wearing had suddenly turned to Christmas green! I realized this when I remembered what hanger I'd gotten them from, and the top that was on it. (This was one of the new outfits I'd bought.)
Later I mentioned my faux pas to my family and my sister said she'd wondered if I'd meant to wear the pants. However, someone else said that someone had worn red and that funeral attire was more relaxed now. Having grown up with a mother who always wanted me to look especially nice for church, coupled with regretting that I hadn't worn the intended pants, renewed my motivation to begin color tagging my clothes.
The following week color tagging flew to the top of my list when I inherited quite a few clothes and shoes from the deceased friend. If it hadn't been toward the end of the month and the family hadn't wanted to get my friend's assisted living apartment cleared out, her clothes would have come in slower increments.
Now it wasn't just sewing in a few tags, it was suddenly sewing in what seemed like dozens! But then I had a brainstorm. With my mother telling me the color of each new pair of pants and top, I used a small safety pin to attach the appropriate color tag to the tag of the clothing. Besides eliminating the sewing, the tag can now easily be detached when the clothing wears out.
But tagging only my new clothes didn't solve my problems. Less than a month later, Mom and I stopped by my church to have my picture taken for the church directory. I changed into one of my friend's nice tops (a mauve pink), and a gray/blue suit coat for the head shot. Afterward, Mom and I were headed to do some shopping when she asked if I wanted to change clothes again. I told her I wanted to keep what I had on, since my white blouse and yellow and red sweater were damp from being in the rain. We were in the car when Mom asked, "Do you know what color pants you have on?" Oops! The blue pants I thought I'd been wearing suddenly looked purple. (It was definitely time to work on my old clothes, too.)
Then there was the puzzle of my friend's shoes. Again, if my shoes are different styles, I can usually keep their colors straight. But this friend had at least four pairs of dressy shoes in the same style.
So I needed a system for knowing what pair would go with various outfits, and to make sure I wore two shoes the same color. Color tagging each shoe wasn't practical. Meanwhile, there was one pair of canvas shoes that I pinned a color tag to temporarily. (They are navy and I wasn't sure I'd remember they weren't black.)
The solution for the other shoes finally came to me, probably at 3 o'clock in the morning. Now, on each hanger of clothing, I hang a matching pair of shoes dangling in a plastic grocery bag. It makes the clothes take up more room, but it beats hanging them on a shoe rack.
At my friend's funeral, her son said she loved to help people. Little did she know that besides continuing to pass clothes to me, she also pushed me to color tag my clothes.