Created by Jenji Kohan, Worn Stories is based on a book by Emily Spivack. It’s about people and their relationship with clothing items in their closet. The docuseries has every episode dedicated to a theme; Community, Lost and Found, Chance, and Growing.
The format of the documentary series is quite unique - you have four core interview backed by supplementary interview that are utilized as interstitials. The center of all conversations are cloths and the connection people have with particular items in their closets.
The show starts with the shot of a bucolic community in Florida where two couple are playing tennis and are bottomless. As you can tell, the first episode is dedicated to a nudist community - they speak to a couple in their 50s who enjoy being nude all the time. And interestingly, the only piece of clothing they adorn on their body is a pair of Croc or sandal. You get to see another member of the community named Niecey who is comparatively younger and is one of the few Black individuals. She can be seen in a mesh top that allow her to “free the nipple”.
But that’s not it - the episode extends and you meet a woman in Queens who is obsessed with a yellow sweater which was given to her by a monk. She spoke candidly about her struggle - how her migration from South Korea to New York has been a challenge and how she liked to dance her heart out in the local community center.
Another person talked about the perfect white dress that they discovered on their grandmother’s funeral and how she couldn’t afford it initially.
Worn stories works on a simple analogy - what does it remind you of? The docuseries is about people and their stories and how they’re fondly related to a piece of clothing in their closet. It’s about the item they most cherish and how it has been there for them in their struggles and triumphs.
Since the show is available on Netflix, we suggest you don’t follow the episodes in order - in fact, try and skip the first episode altogether. It was nice but it’s wasn’t the best of the lot. It’s just a bit strange to start a series about clothes with a bunch of nudists. Like, are we trying to endorse clothes here or the fact that you don’t need to wear them at all?
Yes, some of the nudist speak about their attachment to sandals and mesh tops but to base an entire episode on just that was honestly a waste of time and resources. The connection with clothes becomes stronger with the episode “Lost and Found” - you meet a saxophonist who talked about his codpiece, you meet a woman who spoke about her favorite coat, a man emotionally attached to the ties made by his grandmother and an air brusher obsessed with memorial shirts.
We all have clothes in our cupboards that are just hanging there - not being utilized as per say. They hold emotional and sentimental value. The show is about those pieces hanging in our closet - the ones that have been there in the toughest of times and evoke feelings of reminiscent. They might feel soft and live-in, and sometimes, they might even know how to make us look our best. At the end of the day, these clothes have stories which make the connection stronger.
Documentary vs. Book
The book Worn Stories was published in 2014 and in New York it got released in 2017. The maker of the series spoke about the process of making this documentary in a candid interview. She said that the decision to turn this book into a documentary was a deliberate one. She said that when you look at clothes, you contemplate a story and fill the gaps. When you look at a piece of cloth, you try and formulate a story and character of the person wearing it.
She said: “Ah, I wish there was a visual component. I wish you could see the person. I wish we could actually create fantastical recreations of what they’re telling me.” So, I started thinking about that once the second book came out. I was like, “Yeah, there’s more here.
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