Guest Blogger: Emily Spivack
March 10, 2015

Emily Spivack has some major accomplishments under her belt, and you can be sure that belt was carefully chosen. Among other things she is currently the creator and writer of Threaded, the Smithsonian’s only fashion history blog.  In 2010 Emily began collecting what became Worn Stories, after a series of other projects confirmed Emily’s belief in how important clothing can be. Worn Stories is a collection of tales about how a piece of clothing can be become much more meaningful than just covering. Published in 2014 by Princeton Architectural Press, Worn Stories is a New York Times Best Seller and a compelling look at the items we put on every day. Emily Spivack will be visiting Museum for our Tenement Talks Wednesday, March 11th joined by Brain Pickings creator Maria Popova and two of the book’s contributors,  artist Andrew Kuo and designer Debbie Millman.

Emily has allowed us to share a scrap of Worn Stories here on the blog :

Greta Gerwig

Young love: understood. The shirt that became very special to Greta Gerwig. Photo by Ally Lindsay, photo courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Twelve years ago I was working as a stage manager at a theater company in Vermont for the summer. I was the worst stage manager of all time. Around this time, I figured out that I could fall in love with people and that I could be in love.  I was already in love with one person, and I started falling in love with lots of people. I felt very guilty about it, but it also felt like an appropriate response to figuring out you can be in love. I was in love with love. In high school I would have these horrible crushes on people but they were never reciprocated or the people were gay. Then, in college, I had the experience of looking into someone’s eyes and saying, “I love you” and he said, “I love you” back.  I had this crush, or love, for this actor at the theater in Vermont. His name was David, and I thought he was so beautiful. He had this very soft button-down shirt. When I hugged him, and I would always invent reasons to do so, I would touch his shirt. It was very chaste, and nothing ever happened. I was in love with him, but he was twenty-six-years old and I was eighteen, and when you’re eighteen, twenty-six seems really old.

David left that summer before I did. We took him to the bus station, and I cried because I was eighteen and dramatic. I watched him go and I felt bereft. My friends and I returned to the falling-apart cabin in the woods that had been our home that summer. I went to the room where

I had a bunk bed. Hanging on my bunk was that button-down shirt, his shirt! Tucked inside the shirt pocket was a note. He told me I was beautiful and a creature of light. Doesn’t it just kill you? Can you imagine an eighteen-year-old girl coming back from the bus station to her room and seeing that the guy she loved had left his shirt for her? He knew. He just knew it, and it was beautiful. I always write in the shirt because it makes me feel like I have a secret. When you  write, it’s good to have a secret because in a way you do. You have to nurture the secret until other people know about it. Maybe wearing this shirt connects me with a part of my younger self that was incredibly emotional and vivid, and those feelings, combined with that sense of having a secret, is how I like to feel when I write.

–As told to Emily Spivack


Greta Gerwig is an actress and filmmaker known for her roles
in Frances Ha, Greenberg, and Damsels in Distress.