A 26-foot 'explosion gift'

Candid Closet

January 25, 1996|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,SUN STAFF

When a gas explosion destroyed Shelley Sarsfield's Westminster home last year, the last thing she thought about was her clothes. But when it came time to rebuild, her husband had grand plans for an "explosion gift": a spacious walk-in closet for her impressive wardrobe, most of which amazingly had been spared.

"I have bad memories about a lot of what happened," says Ms. Sarsfield, 45, who with her husband Neil is a Burger King franchisee. "But this is some place new, fresh and happy."

Is there more to the story of this closet?

We're a blended family with six children. The five oldest have left for college or marriage or jobs. Each time one left, I took over the closet in that room until I had every closet filled. Last year, after the explosion destroyed our house, my husband said, "Guess what? I'm building you a 26-foot long closet."

I now have boot racks and shoe racks, a dressing table and bench in the middle of the room. I spent a fortune on hangers. I have my shirts on gold hangers, sweaters on silver hangers, summer clothes on red hangers and winter clothes on blue.

What was your reaction to his gift?

It's funny because all I wanted was a roof over our heads. But my husband was able to think ahead. He figured we might as well add to what the insurance would cover to make our dream home.

How do you feel about the closet now?

I've turned it into my own little world. I have a phone in there. There's special lighting, cedar lining. It's not just about clothes. The closet has become this peaceful place for me.

What are some of your favorite things in it?

My favorite outfit is a basic black-and-white, houndstooth jacket with rhinestones that I've had for 10 years. I wear it with a white shirt and black pants. I can wear it everywhere. At our house, we get up at 5 a.m. I don't have a lot of time to pick out jewelry and accessories. I need to get dressed and get started.

My mother was in the ladies clothing business. She taught me to get up and put myself together for the day. She's 76, and she's in an outfit every day by 8 a.m., complete with makeup and jewelry.

Do you have other clothes you really like?

I have a St. John white faux-fur bomber jacket and slacks. It's so outrageous. I haven't worn it yet, but I absolutely adore it.

Any purchases you regret?

When silver was really big a year ago, I bought a silver skirt and hooded jacket. My daughter Jennifer wouldn't let me wear it because she said I looked like a Hershey's Kiss. I gave that away. I also have a green velour outfit -- pants and a long-sleeved top. My family decided it makes me look like Kermit the Frog. But I love odd shades of green, and it's comfortable, so I still wear it.

What were you wearing the day of the explosion?

A pair of denim Liz Claiborne pants and a denim shirt.

Have you worn that again?

It took me awhile. I gave away quite a bit of clothes I wore during the four months we were displaced. We were living like nomads, and the clothes had terrible memories for me.

How would you sum up your style?

Unusual. I look for things that are different, things that not everyone will have.

Where do you shop?

I do most of my shopping through Bloomingdale's by Mail. Our UPS man has become a friend. I've been doing that for about five years now, and I even buy shoes by mail.

Shoes are well represented in your closet.

I love shoes with unusual heels. I have some plain black pumps with pearls or a leopard print on the heel. Others are black with a lime green heel. I have many, many pairs -- probably around 100. But I only have one pair of tennis shoes, and they have rhinestones on them.

The explosion has changed your life in many ways, it seems. Has it changed -- or reinforced -- your philosophy about clothes?

I feel it's important no matter what is going on in life to get up and get dressed, to feel that at least that part of your life is together. . . . I won't walk out the door in a jogging suit.

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