Clothes make the woman (and her heroines)

Mar 25, 2016 | 6 comments |

I’ve never owned a pair of Jimmy Choo sneakers. At prices topping US$500.00 I’m not likely to either. I’m also not likely to own an exquisite Chanel handbag of the kind I saw a white-gloved sales assistant sell in bulk to a trio of Chinese businessmen at Hong Kong’s international airport.

As an author, though, I can give such items to my heroines to show who they are, and how they, and what they value, changes through the course of a story.

As a little girl, dressing my dolls and giving them imaginary lives and adventures, were some of my first forays into storytelling. I also can’t remember a time when I didn’t love clothes and wasn’t particular about what I wore. 

When I got older, I earned money at part-time jobs and used some of it to try out new looks and identities. After English Rose came along, dressing her was like dressing a real-live doll…until she turned two and developed her own, clearly-defined fashion sensibilities!

As some of you know, I was in England last week to visit Tech Guy and, at the same time, help him sort through items in our English home.

Some of those items were my clothes. As I have both a Midwest practicality (if it still fits it must be kept), and innate reluctance to discard cherished items, there was not only half a wardrobe full of garments, but several storage boxes too.

There were clothes I’d worn during my years in the corporate world, a phalanx of dark suits clustered on the end of the rail like lonely ghosts. There were clothes in delicate lace, sequins and shimmering fabrics I’d worn to cocktail parties, weddings and other events. And clothes I’d worn on holiday across Europe.

Few were clothes I’d wear in my new life in a small Canadian town, as a working-from-home author and mum.

So out went the suits and some of the dresses, although I kept those which could transition into my author life for future writing events. And out went the clothes which I either didn’t feel good in, or which sparked unhappy memories.

When I looked at the empty hangers, I had a fleeting pang of loss. However, packing those bags for charity reminded me of the different women I’ve been, and the experiences that have made me happy with who and where I am now, and influenced the writer I’ve become.

And on my second last day in England, I went to one of my favourite shops and bought a few new clothes for my new life and adventures that await.

As for the shoes that went with those old clothes? I couldn’t part with them quite yet, so Tech Guy is bringing several pairs with him on his next trip to Canada. We’re going to a wedding this summer, and my four-inch purple heels will go perfectly with the cute little fascinator I also didn’t have space to bring.

For Tech Guy’s sake, I hope his suitcase isn’t opened at customs!

Snapshots from my life in clothes…

As a Romance Writers of America, Golden Heart® finalist, New York City, July 2015

RWA Nationals July 2015

And when I was almost four, wearing my new spring coat. Accessories were clearly important to me even then.Jen at almost four


  1. Jean Bull

    Clothes are so important! I find it so hard to throw anything away unless they’re really worn out. So I can understand your slight pang as you filled up your charity bags.
    I agree that clothes have so many memories and new ones are made each time you wear them!
    I hope that the new clothes you bought will bring you many happy new memories in your new life!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Jean. My new clothes are summer clothes so I can’t wear them just yet but hopefully in May when the weather is warmer. I bought them at Next so they’ll be a reminder of England, too.

  2. Tara Sheets

    Oh, the picture of you as a child is adorable! You looked just like a little doll. :). And of course I remember the beautiful blue gown you wore to our Golden Heart awards ceremony. Gorgeous! I have spent the last few months slowly cleaning out my closet and I must say that it is not for the faint of heart! I was laughing because most of my clothes are either ratty old teeshirts, or formal dresses and gowns I’ve worn to events over the years. It made me realize that I was in dire need of some “every day” outfits. Because really, how often do I need a beaded gown? Not as often as I wish, unfortunately. Haha! I am so glad you kept the four-inch purple heels. I hope you get to wear them again very soon. :). Fun!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks for commenting and supporting my blog, Tara. Like you, I wish I had more occasions to wear beaded gowns! I’m looking forward to seeing you at RWA in San Diego. I know you’ll look beautiful and elegant at the awards ceremony. Have fun filling the now clear space in your closet!

  3. Sue Bavin

    Clothes are such an important part of our lives. They reflect not just our personal taste and choices, but also the kind of lives we lead. Changes in lifestyle can cause favourite outfits to fall into disuse, which is such a shame. Your blog has reminded me that I really ought to sort out my own wardrobe. Clothes and shoes that I used to delight in haven’t been worn since we left our old lives and opted for a relaxed life-style by the sea.

    PS Love the photo of you as a little girl. So cute!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks, Sue, and wishing you all the best with your own wardrobe sorting. It’s a difficult task, I know.


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