Elisi’s Closet

Kari Bale
3 min readJun 2, 2021

(Photo Credit)

My husband and I are very fortunate people. We live with our one son in a four-bedroom house, which means we have a bedroom for us, a bedroom for our son, and still two more left over. One of those we use as a study, and the closet in there is entirely filled with my husband’s things — his books, his papers, his. I-don’t-even-know-what. The only clothes in there are about 15 old sports jerseys and three tie racks literally full of ties. (Still more ties are in our bedroom closet. He has a LOT of ties.)

The other spare bedroom we use as a guest room, and since the only guest we’ve ever had (and continue to have on a regular basis) is my mom, whom my son calls Elisi, we refer to it as Elisi’s room. The closet in this room is mine to use — I basically claimed it after the study’s closet became overly full with my husband’s things. Inside this closet are all the beautiful, beloved things I never wear but cannot be without.

Mostly there are dance costumes — 1920s flapper frocks, 1940s swing dresses, an absolutely gorgeous Victorian ball gown. There are the more modern formal gowns I have from years of chaperoning school dances. And, of course, my wedding gown is in there, zipped up in a fancy bag, basically untouched since the wedding.

Amidst all of these dresses is one that seems noticeably different — a dark gray floral knee-length sheath dress with an empire waist and medium-width straps. Anyone who knows fashion would immediately look at this dress and guess it came from a mid-90s Delia’s catalogue. (For what it’s worth, it didn’t; it came from a mid-90s Charlotte Russe.) If I were to try to put this dress on now, it could probably fit almost perfectly around one of my legs — there is no way this thing would ever get past my hips. Why do I keep it?

It’s the dress I wore to my dad’s funeral as a sixteen-year-old. I am not generally emotional about objects, and I think most people keep way too many things purely out of sentimentality. Usually I’m a “take a picture and then donate it” kind of girl, but this dress is the one item I just can’t let go. It’s moved with me into and out of countless homes, hung in countless closets on countless hangers. Somehow it has become a talisman of sorts, linking me to the moment I really said goodbye to my father. And so now, no matter how much I feel like I should, I cannot say goodbye to the dress.

Fortunately, I have a whole closet to myself in Elisi’s room, so — at least for now — I don’t have to.



Kari Bale

Kari Bale is a writer, editor, and speaker from San Jose, CA. She is a Stanford alum, former teacher, citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and wife and mother.