first_img“My Mother’s Clothes” by Jeannette Montgomery Barron is a perfect example of the role clothing can play in memory. Barron paid tribute to her mother, who died after a five-year struggle with Alzheimer’s by photographing her mother’s clothes and accessories. The book began as a photo album to help her mother remember things when her mother was still alive, according to Amazon’s website, and ended as a memoir and celebration of her mother’s life.A gold-sequin tube top and leopard-print harem pants marked a milestone in Vancouver resident Jane Cook’s life: New Year’s Eve 1979.“I still remember what I was wearing that night,” said Cook, now 53. “I wondered what the 1980s might be like for me. There was a lot of promise. I was saying goodbye to one decade, finishing high school and going to college. The 1980s was the decade I would finish college and go out there and find my way into the world.”Clothes and memories can be closely linked, especially when the clothes are associated with strong emotions, according to experts. Clothes can trigger memories, harken back to social and political influences of the time, and, in some cases, even stand out in memory above other details. Looking at a garment worn to a significant event in someone’s life may allow someone, such as Cook, to relive those moments.So why are clothes both vividly remembered and a powerful memory stimulant?A memory like Cook’s is classified as an emotional memory, said Dr. Gary Small, a neuroscientist at the University of California Los Angeles and author of several books on memory, aging and Alzheimer’s disease. It also is an episodic memory, a vivid snapshot, which also commonly is associated with strong emotions, said William Meek, lead psychologist at Washington State University Vancouver.“Emotional memories focus on certain details and not others,” Small said. “It could be a first kiss, a child’s first step.”What details someone focuses on often depends on what’s important to the person.When 95-year-old Matilda Baran of Vancouver was asked recently to recount the April 24, 1936, premiere of the Kiggins Theatre for an oral history project, her memories of the night were foggy, with the exception of one detail: what she was wearing. The image of her outfit that night was still vivid in her mind: a long, floral-printed chiffon dress with a jacket, she said.last_img read more