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My Favorite Fashion Pieces Of 2023 Came From My Grandfather’s Closet

So timeless.

Angela Melero
grandfather clothes
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“I miss him,” I say to my mother as I gently move my fingers along the rack of nearly identical button-down mens shirts. I’m at my maternal grandmother’s home in early 2023, raiding my late grandfather’s closet. It’s a task I’ve put off for months, despite her blessing — and encouragement — to take whatever I want. It’s been two years since we lost him, but his presence lingers: in the kitchen where he sat every morning with a cup of coffee, in his favorite rocking chair where he spent hours watching Dodger games and drama-filled telenovelas, and, of course, in his aforementioned wardrobe of essentials that he never strayed from. Seriously, never.

See, my grandfather’s humble upbringing in Mexico made him want for little as an adult, especially when it came to material things like clothing. Even after establishing a comfortable life for himself and his family in Los Angeles, he never was one to splurge on something frivolous like a designer suit or watch. He valued timeless, durable items like sturdy sneakers or simple black dress loafers, classic Docker trousers, basic white tees, and his signature oversized aviator glasses. His go-to tops rotated between flannel shirts for brisk Southern California winters, and lighter cotton-blend varieties for every other time of the year. His style was unwavering, just like him.

This is why I struggled with the thought of moving anything of my grandfather’s from its original placement: It would mean he was really gone, this person who was a formative part of my childhood (he picked me up from school without fail every day until I got my driver’s license). The man who, to the outside world was a stoic — gruff, even — individual of few words. But to his family, and grandchildren in particular, he was a loving, loyal, dependable rock of a human who could be counted on for anything. How could I pillage his treasured belongings so casually?

But after multiple pleading phone calls from my grandmother that bordered on nagging, I finally relented. (I understand, for her, clearing out some of his things, while difficult, was essential to her moving forward.) I reasoned that it would be nice to have items of his that would serve as a sweet mementos.

An hour or so into sorting, I had a robust stack of shirts and outerwear ready to load into my little green Mini Cooper. I gravitated mostly to my grandfather’s extensive aforementioned collection of button-downs, which spanned short and long sleeve silhouettes, plaid and striped patterns, and embroidered linen. My prized pick was the oversized chocolate brown leather bomber that had that wear and tear finish that typically takes years to achieve.

I came to a sudden realization: I had more than just memories on my hands this was a full year’s wardrobe. Forget keeping these pieces locked away in the back of my closet like precious artifacts. These items needed to live. And, ever the practical and resourceful man, my grandfather would have wanted it that way — he would’ve encouraged prolonging the shelf life of his clothes and really getting his money’s worth.

And prolong I did ... and have. In just a few short months, my grandfather’s clothing has become my own staples. Whether for a daytime work lunch in West Hollywood or music festivals in the desert, I’ve had these items on heavy rotation. In addition to the cool, androgynous flair of the pieces, I also feel like I’m bringing him along with me when I wear them. I’ll often snap photos of an outfit and send them to my mom and siblings with notes like, “I’m taking Papa to dinner in Beverly Hills tonight!” or “Papa is gonna explore Milan with me!” I understand this may be morbid or strange for some, but I find it comforting, healing even.

Ahead, a few of my favorite outfits of 2023, all built around my grandfather’s signature style staples.

Bali Babe

Angela Melero

On a recent yoga retreat to Bali, I packed several of my grandfather’s short-sleeved button-down shirts. I wore these easy basics over jeans for casual dinners and paired with a baseball cap as a bathing suit coverup for lazy spa days. These tops proved to be the ultimate jungle-chic staples.

City Girl Chic

Angela Melero

I like to have a go-to uniform each season that I can reach for in a pinch. This summer, I love my grandfather’s light blue cotton button-down tucked in or layered over pleated denim trousers, topped off with a thin belt and pointed black flats. The look is at once laid back and sophisticated, so it’s perfect for work lunches and daytime events.

Festival Cool

Angela Melero

As mentioned above, my grandfather’s leather bomber has become one of the most precious pieces in my closet. It has all the things you could want in outerwear: boxy, oversized fit, cool, distressed texture, and a rich, faded chestnut shade. While I’m not sure how old the vintage item is, I’m guessing it dates back a few decades. Although it’s a bit heavy for warm L.A. weather, it proved perfect for the crisp spring desert nights in Indio, California, where I headed for the first weekend of Coachella. For the evening party circuit, I paired my bomber with a sequined mini skirt, bodysuit, and combat boots. The bulky, oversized shape of the jacket made it stand out even amongst the sparkles and served as a nice juxtaposition.