How To Be a Sister

When she teaches you how to be beautiful, it is a lesson in resilience. When she tells you to buy a dress, she means, “prepare.”

Together you curate wardrobes, with method and purpose in mentally categorized racks:

Obviously Made for You,

Novelty (buy on sale),

Potentially Amazing On (but questionable on the hanger),

Unflattering Even on the Mannequin, Slightly Outside the Comfort Zone/Worth a Try (rarely not horrifying), and


Investment pieces are special, she says, simultaneously classic and unique, and almost always accidentally found. Their quality and timeless tailoring feel made just for you, and last decades.

Her style blends effortlessly with yoursher wide cuffed black trousers, your navy blue pencil skirt, cashmere crewnecks, iconic printed accessories. Your favorite is a gray suiting dress. It has a drop waist and a single inverted pleat. You wear it to an interview, New York, London, to her funeral and then your father’s and then another, to your best friend’s second wedding, the Union League, to family court. You build a wardrobe around a life that disappears. Who were you when you bought that wool crepe dress with her?

In a dressing room alone somewhere, you remind yourself of her lessons: Choose carefully and invest in clothing that lasts. You’ll need a dress for starting over, and more than once. You slip on a long silk cardigan that should have been hers and is yours now, by default, and you pray: If I am pain, may I also be grace.

Nichole Cordin is a Chicago writer and contributing editor of Dead Housekeeping. When not actively mourning, she enjoys taking photos of her geriatric Boston Terrier and can be found at @NicholeCordin.