Confessions of a reformed fashionista
One of my beloved Medium readers penned me a comment,which I got her permission to use. Diana Perez Glass responded to a piece I did this week on my HomeGoods shopping with a few well-placed and likely smarter-than-she-might-have-realized observations
.Here’s what she wrote:
… I am gazing right now at my clothes, of which there are an embarrassing surplus. I have weaned myself of my Home Goods addiction because my house is too small to pack anything else in, but clothes…they are my performance art.
And I am totally unsure of my identity now that I actually have to go back to work in person after more than a year working remotely. Do I still wear suits? Lord knows I haven’t bought pantyhose in awhile. Can I wear my yoga pants and a nice tee shirt? My Keens with the decent arch support?
But I digress. What if our homes, as well as our clothes, are our attempts at a life that at least appears well-tended…the life we would like to live. Will this forced and delayed gratification brought about by shipping containers and truck driver shortages force us to come to terms with the reality of our lives, with the gauzy scarf of cheap products ripped away?
Might do us some good. But are there enough therapists???
I bolded what stood out for me. They were neon lights of truth, as so very often happens from Dear Reader.
A good friend of mine, who knows my history and used to know my house back in Denver, commented to me on my recent trip to Denver that I might want to give myself credit for what I’ve been able to do. I once had eight wardrobes, EIGHT, so full of designer clothing that you couldn’t insert a toothpick between the hangers.
I had 250 pairs of shoes and boots. Untold numbers of scarves and accessories, very little of which I ever wore. I was as compulsive about clothing as I ever was about my eating disorder; they went hand-in-hand. To Diana’s point, I bought for an imaginary lifestyle. I had gowns and cocktail dresses and unbelievably beautiful things for events I never attended.
At one point I had three, no really, THREE wedding dresses.
I can’t believe I just wrote that. You have got to be kidding. But I did. Needless to say, they were…..ah….repurposed.
It was a life I wish I had. Didn’t have. And no amount of purchasing gorgeous clothing would make it happen.
My buddy pointed out, accurately, that bit by bit, piece by piece, I dumped, sold, consigned, donated or otherwise cleared out all that stuff until I no longer had more than what would fill the small walk-in that is in my bedroom now.
The closets I do have, and the dressers, are filled with gear. Wetsuits and riding breeches and equipment which can and has saved my raggedy ass in the remote places for which they were designed. Gear for the life I DO live, the work I will do, and the adventures I have been taking. That was not an easy process.
I hardly wear those kinds of high-end things any more, now that I no longer speak for a living, nor do I consult much. I’ve got the clothing that would be appropriate, but as Diana points out above, my clothing performance art (and that is precisely how I saw it) is quietly tabled, possibly forever.
They say clothing makes the man, or in this case wo/man, but in my case it simply made me both broke and tired of carrying that shit around.
Anyone who has ever suffered an obsessive compulsive disorder, and I swear to god I’ve had more than my share this life, can tell you how hard it is to redirect that energy. What I might have spent shopping, I now spend writing.
That makes me money, gives me pleasure, allows me to build a reputation, and leave a legacy. That writing helps me pay for what I am also compulsive about: adventure travel. I redirected, and in doing so, rebuilt my life to the one I now live. I don’t need trappings of clothing and accessories, for my life is, for me, my work of art. If I need to dissipate energy, I write. And work out, because I can’t do what I do without being in superb shape. For me, that’s a win-win-win.
While I love my Stella Jean, and I feel like a billion when I do dress up, my real life is lived on horseback, rubbing down elephants, skimming the waves or hiking up huge mountains. That is my performance art. It took me bloody well forever to create that. Worth every bit of what I spent, lost and learned along the way.
So. When I am, on rare occasion, tempted to buy a new jacket, or skirt, or whatever, I pose the following questions:
- Where and when am I gonna wear this?
- How often am I gonna wear it? (there is a notion in fashion of cost per wear, which is important if you care about your money)
- Can I justify the price based on 1 and 2?
- Is this for a lifestyle I live, or a lifestyle I no longer live, never lived and will never live, but rather is in la-la land?
- The kicker. What would the price of this piece get me: a horse ride in Albania? A kayaking trip in Iceland? A flight back to Africa?
- And finally, am I willing to have that item peek out at me from my closet, or would I prefer to have a slew of stories, adventures and experiences which will transform my life which…..
- This piece of overpriced clothing will never do?
You get it. So if you’re like Diana, for whom clothing is performance art, and you’re not alone, you may be at a post-pandemic crossroads. When I had all those wardrobes, my closet owned me. I had to buy a house big enough, and to move all that took some 25 wardrobes. All for stuff I never wore.
Shall I say that again? But for perhaps one to three percent of all my clothing, I never wore it.
The dry cleaning and maintenance? Don’t ask.
My local Goodwill was Designer Central for folks who likely had no clue who the designers were, thanks to my closet. Impressed my friends but not my accountant.
I used to write a fashion column. I know my stuff. And I also know that there is little made today worth the price tag. Nor is it worth the price tag of cultural appropriation, slave labor and environmental impacts that designers heap on our world, all in the name of fashion. I have a few key, magnificent pieces made by fabulous designers, all picked up on resale sites like https://us.vestiairecollective.com/ or similar. If I ever step out onto a stage again, I’ll be ready.
Clothing does not make me who I am, nor does it change the body I have sculpted. It’s an accent aigu on a life being well-lived, at long last.
I am too busy living my art to be worried about finding the Next Gorgeous Jacket from Armani at GASP, seventy-five percent off. I’m putting that down on a return trip to Tanzania.
For that, it’ll be hiking boots, riding breeches, zip-off hiking pants, a Goretex jacket and a hunting knife.
And just to show that I am not the only one here, after I published this, a fellow writer put this out, rather timely, I might add:
We’re in good company. But the company that I am going to put my money into will not be Dior or Armani. It’ll be Delta or American, or United Arab Emirates.
That’s quite the fashion statement. My therapist, to Diana’s point, is get on an airplane for the farthest reaches of the world. Blend in, learn what I can, push out my comfort level and boundaries, grow, then write about it. That’s living art, but that’s just me.
What’s yours going to be?