Friday, September 01, 2006

SUFFOCATING UNDER THE WEIGHT OF MY OWN CONSUMERISM...


What would happen if you found a room where all the clothes you'd ever worn resided? Freak out maybe just a teeny bit? Searching my parents' loft for a box of various jeans I knew I'd stored there years ago I stumbled on pretty much that. At some point - maybe 12 - 15 years ago I had filled multiple bin liners and boxes with clothes and shoes to be taken to the local charity shop. Instead, they'd somehow found their way to the loft where they languished, before jumping out at me like ghosts. I didn't know any of it was there but now it sort of makes sense. I had felt the weight of too much stuff. I already had too much stuff I didn't need without this.

As I opened more and more boxes the only thing I felt was nausea, and surprise at my not very discerning quality control. I was also amazed at how tiny I was. I'm a U.K size 10 now but when I held up a pair of trousers or a skirt (bottle green lycra jodphurs?! White PVC A line miniskirt?!) the waistband was about half the size of my waist. One particular box had been sealed up - obviously to keep for a moment in the future - this moment when I would open it up and be glad I'd kept the carefully selected garments that had meant so much to my teenage self. (Funny actually because lately my teenage years have come back to haunt me once again. You think you're done with it all and then they go and bring back Lisa Bonet pants.)

But my teenage self had no problem with synthetic fabrics. Everything I pulled out made me want to vomit - save for some things I'd made myself at college or bought second hand in the first place. A bin liner contained 25 pairs of shoes which really only summed up about a year of my shoe wearing life. I didn't want to keep a single pair. Oh, feeling sick. Feeling guilty, knowing that since then I've had regular clear outs and got rid of stuff I liked more than this crap.

I learned something though. Vintage is the only thing that stands the test of time, probably because it already has. Keeping jeans (maybe ONE pair you absolutely love) is pointless. They will always be the slightly wrong cut/wash when you put them on again. Just get rid of them! I have to admit I did keep back a pair of Gaultier jeans with (arrgghh) Andy Warhol-ish FACES of famous folk like Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe woven into the denim. These were the coolest thing ever when I was 18, and I'll keep them for comedy value.

I suppose until now I've used my parents' place as a decompression chamber for clothing. I find it really hard to part with shoes and can always think of scenarios when I might want them again, pointy toed shoes will always come back round again etc etc. So I'll sneak them into my old wardrobe for a few years until I can safely say they have to go. I knew I had a lot of clothes, but after the lot from the loft got boxed up and sent off to Sense I made a start on the rest of the cupboards. I've been putting this off even though my father has said when he moves house soon he won't have space for anything of mine. I was thinking of hiring storage space, moving to a bigger flat even. Now I realise I don't need ANY of this stuff. I am going to be overwhelming charity shops and solidly ebaying for the foreseeable future.

My reaction to these blasts from the past was not one of nostalgia, it was very, very strange. I even took my last day at school covered in writing shirt outside and burnt it. I'd been keeping it all this time and suddenly realised I hated school, I can't even remember who most of the people who signed it are, why would I want to hang on to a piece of it? Because that's what everyone does and you're supposed to? Burning it was a strong reaction to have I admit, but that baby went up a treat (polyester...eugh).

But the guilt at the amount of STUFF I have bought over the years is still there. I came home and started putting things I never wear into bags, again for charity and ebay. Offloading all this stuff at the charity shop may make me feel better, and someone will want it, but the waste, oooohhhh the waste. It's not even about the money (although I winced at remembering how much some of these items cost - I was never a High St gal) it's the feeling that with all my recycling of household waste and interest in sustainability, I had completely overlooked the huge impact I was generating with my clothes shopping habits. I have always loved clothes and thought of them as my 'collection' the way people have stamp collections (that was my excuse anyway). I don't shop the way I used to - I rarely buy anything throwaway trendy these days, it has to last.

This year I've really enjoyed reading craft blogs where people make things by reusing vintage fabrics. And this chick certainly has the right idea. I'll be in Paris next week and what was on my agenda? Checking out the Cheap Monday jeans shop in rue de Sevigne and a bit of A.P.C. jeans action. I need new jeans you see 'cos I threw all the others away! What would be better? This is a new path for me, but for the sake of my conscience my next pair of jeans are going to be super stylish but somehow sustainable (but not second hand). Edun? Any ideas?

8 comments:

lottie said...

I'm descended from hoarders and over the years when I've tried to throw stuff away, my father has actually rifled through the bin bags and retrieved things that he somehow felt sentimental about...

But I'm cut from different cloth (so I tell myself) and trips to the charity shop have become a regular thing.

You've hit the nail on the head though with the household recycling/sustainability issue vs the consumerism of clothes purchases.

I mean, I feel pain if so much as a scrap of paper ends up in the wrong bin, but still add to my collection of too many clothes for a small girl who tends to wear the same stuff most of the time anyway... In fact I'm feeling decidedly guilty about having purchased a new coat now... I've decided to operate a 'one in, one out' policy henceforth...

Lola is Beauty said...

that's funny, I saw a nice black coat the other day and promised myself I wouldn't buy it until I'd ebayed my other perfectly good black coat! But you have to have a new coat for winter!

lottie said...

Yes, in the same way that a cat gets a winter coat, so must we!

fiftyRX3 said...

Thanks for mentioning my site. I would recommend Del Forte's Calla Slims (I love mine) or a pair of Loomstate jeans. Edun will also do, but their line is only use about 30% organic, so check the label.

Keep an eye on Katherine over there in the U.K. as well...
or maybe something from howies...

negrito said...

you are in Paris this week end ??? Should we meet ???

anyway KEEP THE PVC miniskirt, this is the next trend !!!!

l'embrouillamini said...

I can totally relate to this post. I like to keep everything I've ever worn:

a)because I might have a daughter
b)because I might need a tatty old Gap t-shirt for when I am painting walls/dying my hair (the frequency of occurence of the former is slim to none)
c)for sentimental purposes...

...basically I will find any excuse to clutter up my wardrobe with dated, cringetastic clothing.

About once a year I have an overwhelming sense of ruthlessness and charge into my cupboards on a mission to get rid of ragged-hem jeans, tops with stitching coming loose and frankly disastrous items. But it's never enough!

Serena said...

I have exactly the opposite problem in some respects. I purge everything periodically. I do have that same sense of guilt at consumerism though. I've pledged to not let it drag me down too much. There is something to be said for having a sense of style. I feel like I've let my guilt beat mine into submission.

Miss Scarlet said...

Yeah, I don't feel bad at all for the massive amount of clothes I have. And I rarely throw them out or give them away. It's like a collection to me.