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One hundred and fifty years is a long time to keep and preserve a dress, don’t you think? That was one of the ah-hah moments from this summer’s visit to the Art Institute of Chicago for the touring exhibit of Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity. Many paintings from the exhibit were shown side by side with the original dresses worn in the portraits. The most poignant moment of the exhibit came with the realization that someone had to decide what to do with these dresses long after their owners were deceased.

Imagine having your clothes outlive you. If you’ve already lost someone dear, then it won’t tax your imagination at all. You’re already acquainted with the way mortality forces loved ones to deal with mundane tasks and possessions in the midst of their grief.

After Albert Bartholomé’s wife died, the artist carefully preserved the dress she wore in her portrait, In the Greenhouse. It’s said that the portrait was done in one of the happiest periods of his life. Considering the way he bathed Madame in chiaroscuro and brushed her in lush color, one could hardly doubt that. You have to marvel at a man who loved his wife enough to treasure one of her dresses.

This morning I completed my first necktie evening bag. It’s a trial run before I begin sewing with my family’s treasured garments—my father-in-law’s neckties. If there are enough, I’m planning to make evening bags and accessories for all the women in the Hammon family.

There are so many ways to memorialize someone by refashioning garments from their wardrobe. Check out my Pinterest page for some of my favorite recycled projects. Share some of your favorite ideas for memorializing a relative or beloved friend by leaving a comment!

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.