Essay: Stitched to Kill

Oct 21, 2016

Whether you usually shop at The Gap, or Target or Nordstrom or a small boutique, chances are good that there’s probably at least one item of clothing in your wardrobe that was once worn by someone else.

That was the case for an unusual dress in Pamela Nettleton’s closet. When she found out who the original owner of the dress was, it stunned her, and then led her to write an essay about it, which appears in this month’s Milwaukee Magazine and excerpted here:

I own a murderer’s dress.

I have it right here, in the way-back of the spare closet, haunting its murky depths where only mismatched shoes and too-small pants go to hang. Perhaps the murderer went somewhere to hang, too, only I don’t remember her name so I can’t pursue that line of inquiry. It’s an incredibly ugly thing, this dress. That’s why I bought it. About 18 years ago, I was throwing a Nerd Prom for friends at which the point was to be unfashionable, outré, lacking in je ne sais quoi. Grotesque, even.

In a rarely visited stall at an antique shop that specialized in limp doilies and oversized armoires with pocky mirrors, I found a handful of vintage wardrobe aberrations hanging on puffy silk hangers, was drawn to this particular creepy thing, and snagged it. Very Stephen King. I should have sensed a stirring in the dark matter, even then.

Pam Nettleton’s essay on her notorious dress is in the October issue of Milwaukee Magazine. Nettleton is an assistant professor of journalism at Marquette University.