“Women usually love what they buy, yet hate two-thirds of what is in their closets” – Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960
What’s old is new and what’s new becomes old – fast. In the past few months I have been trying to overhaul and unload my wardrobe and as a result my closets have poured themselves inside out and into collected mole hills on the bedroom floor. I am a self-confessed hoarder, and have never been known to refuse a red tag deal. That’s right, I’m the one at Nordstrom Rack with the giant shopping cart, loading it up and grabbing anything and everything in sight because it’s on sale, not because I necessarily like it, much less need it. I am also a label whore. Just because it says “See by Chloe” I will buy it, even if it’s a lame piss yellow cotton shirt with two inexplicable holes in the middle. I am guilty on all counts as charged.
Over the past 7 years, I’ve lived in 3 countries, and 3 cities and have amassed a heaping collection of clothes, shoes and accessories along the way. The closet didn’t seem to implode quite as much when I lived abroad, but after numerous trips of loading and unloading to finally unload it all in one spot, the realization sinks in that my apparel is wearing me out, and I’m not wearing half of it.
I am burdened by the weight of this, yet find it difficult to break the patterns of acquisition. Through it all, I recently decided to pursue a career in the very fashion industry of which I am currently drowning in its detritus. With two new jobs, I have suddenly landed myself in a fashion hotbed, one belonging to a handbag designer, the other a clothing boutique. Doubly irresistible you might think. Initially it is. It’s also a classic case of gluttony. While being saturated amongst these beautiful things that I would normally lust over, being in their midst, actually satiates all desire to covet them. It’s a strange irony.
In the process of purging and re-evaluating my wardrobe, I have given away old favourites, and consigned the impulse buys I never quite justified when they were unwrapped and untagged. What’s left is still significant, but I can at least see what is in my drawers and closet.
What I am finding is a new appreciation for what is old, and respect for the value of craftsmanship. Working behind the scenes for a handbag designer, I am surrounded in a rare enclave, in which all the leather handbags and accessories are not only locally produced in studio, the materials are either sourced from recycled leather (i.e. vintage leather pants, jackets, and skirts) or an ethical supplier. Once you are privy to the hours of painstaking toil it requires to make one single handbag, you think twice the next time you buy a branded label that slaps its good name on something churned out of a factory from a third world country. The label doesn’t bear half the weight it used to.
I am by no means declaring I am an arbiter of ethical fashion, but it has certainly made me more aware of what I buy and when I buy. Taking a peek into my edited closet, I find that my most beloved items are vintage. They are memories sourced from my travels, and treasured because they are one-of-a-kind. Each holds with it an unforetold story and now a continued legacy as I don it years from its hey day and wonder how many continents it has journeyed before it arrived to hang in my closet.
On that note, I’ll take a cue from Henry David Thoreau, “Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends…. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.” He just might be onto something.…