Monday, 18 January 2016

The Magical Power of The Clothes You Just Can't Get Rid Of

I’ve slipped into a strange ritual whenever I go home for the holidays. I enter my bedroom and spend about half an hour joyfully reacquainting myself with all the books and clothes I’ve missed for the last few months. I revel in the space. I make elaborate plans for creative schemes. Then I feel an itch. A rather small but ever so insistent one. It’s the itch to sift and clear and get rid of stuff. This has happened several times now. By the evening, that recently immaculate carpet will be a sprawl of junk, boxes, bags, and whatever I’ve decided needs to be sorted that time. First I did my bookshelves and paperwork. Next time it was arts materials and magazines (I now have a HUGE vanity case stuffed with clippings and pages ripped from old issues of Harper’s Bazaar).

Over Christmas I faced down the most unwieldy challenge of them all: my clothes. And by clothes, I don’t just mean a handful of items being set aside for a charity shop. I mean a thorough decluttering of everything from vintage dresses to much-too-tiny gloves to broken jewellery that hadn’t seen the light of day since I was 15. I’ve done this before, getting rid of things bit by bit. But this was by far the most comprehensive purge. If it didn’t fit, was never worn, or wasn’t stunningly extraordinary enough to hold onto for the sheer merit of one-of-a-kind design, then it was going. I’ve already alluded to the growing number of suitcases stacked with treasures to sell on at some point (probably next summer, when my degree is done). Well, I added at least another two or three cases’ worth this time. It was ruthless. It was wildly gratifying.

Not gratifying in a Marie Kondo ‘the right way of tidying will change your life, your mindset, your future and make your hair glossier into the bargain’ kind of way though. I am such a huge lover of stuff: the stories, the satisfaction, the tactility, the material pleasure of junk. It’s more to do with streamlining that junk – and making it (slightly) easier to close my wardrobe door.

I hit a few stumbling points though. Having set out those loose parameters, I kept unearthing items that, despite being highly uncomfortable and hardly ever worn, just had to stay. I couldn’t bear to part with them. Case in point: this fifties tweed wool hacking jacket above. It is exquisitely cut, immediately makes me feel like some kind of delightful parody of ‘rural dressing’, and, to top it all off, has the best turquoise satin lining you ever did see. The downside? That tweed is bloody itchy. (Even with a layer underneath). The moment I slip it on, I’m pulling at the collar like a fidgety child. Despite fitting in all the right places, I can feel my irritation levels rising rapidly in the first few minutes of wearing. Yet every time I’ve pulled it off my coat rack and thought about parting ways, I’ve been impelled to return it. Look at my colour, my shape, my wonderfully retro label, it whispers – or would, if clothes had the capacity for speech. (I reckon this jacket would have a seductive and sassy tone). Back it goes, happily nestling once more among the yellow cape, two satin evening coats, and a small army of blazers – all of which get worn. Promise.

Second case in point: these vintage velvet trousers. Again, a great fit. But the high, tight waistband scuppers all plans of airily floating around in black velvet and a silk white shirt. I’m too busy making a scrunched face at everything suddenly being much too constricted for my liking (can you tell yet that I don’t like uncomfortable things?) Yet, as with the jacket, it's impossible to throw them onto the pile of ‘clothes to go’. Neither is one of a kind. Neither has any great narratives attached, or memories that mean they're worth holding onto for sentimental reasons. They’re nicely designed, but not gasp-inducing. Both should, for practical reasons, be jettisoned. Yet they have this strange, inexplicable staying power. They demand to remain in my room. 

I’m kind of glad though. Much as I enjoy the odd bout of ruthless elimination, I’m pleased that some things have proved themselves exceptions to any kind of rule. Maybe I’ll hold onto these two items for years. Maybe they will, finally, have to leave during the next round of sorting. But either way, they’re staying put for now – and they made a fine pairing for a blustery, ankle-chilling, pond-side shoot in the winter sun. 

No explanation required for the main garments here, as I’ve already spent a frivolous amount of time dwelling on them. The shoes are another long-ago-charity-shop purchase that nearly went – but those pointy toes were the saving grace. That, and the quality of the Italian leather. I’m also wearing my mum’s vintage belt and a H&M Conscious blouse.


Closet Fashionista said...

I have pieces like that too! I just can't seem to get rid of them. That blazer is so beautiful, I wonder if there's a way to remove the itch, haha.


There are several pieces in my wardrobe that are very similar to your jacket and trousers... a semi-faded coloured vintage jacket comes to mind, in a simple silhouette. It's one that I occasionally wear because of the impractical amount of closures and buttons to fasten. It literally feels as if it takes fifteen minutes to get on, but I love it. I recently did a decluttering of fabrics and notions. What marvellous images! x

Melanie said...

Some pieces refuse to go. Who knows why? Maybe to capture more photos like these? Partly I don't like not knowing where the clothes that I donate will end up, most often in a shredder or a dump I suspect, which is a very depressing thought. Clothes that I put in the public bins often end up strewn across the pavement I've found out. So upsetting. I like to give them to friends if I can but that's not easy too. So I hang on and hang on. Great photos and piece.

Ivana Split said...

So true! Some items we just fall in love with and despite all logic, we simply cannot part with them. I can imagine that tweet jacket must fall into that category...I can almost see it before own described it so well! I think there are things we're just not meant to part with, no matter how good the old cleaning of the closet can feel.

What a fabulous outfit you've got on! I especially like that look mersmerizing. Visually stunning photography!!!! You make me want to visit England even more.

Izzy DM said...

We're kindred spirits indeed! I was literally just cleaning out my own closet before giving up and just trying to make everything look neat for now. I'm still twenty pounds away from fitting into everything, so that's my excuse for putting off this monumental task for another few months. Or... er... six months at the outset! I tried to accomplish the task before we moved to Philadelphia since it seems ridiculous to constantly cart truckloads of unworn clothes from one location to another, but I attach so many memories to clothes, have so many special items from years of thrifting in New York-- shelves full of Frye boots and silk scarves and a big bag of unworn belts-- it's just too hard to say yay or nay if I can't fit into them first and see how they make me feel.

Anyway, I really love that jacket! It reminds me of an outfit Sira might wear in The Time Between (I think it's called in English?) or El Tiempo Entre Costuras. If you haven't seen it, you have to watch it for the fashion alone! You'll go crazy; she's a seamstress in the 30s and 40s in Morocco and Spain (and a spy, but that's in the Netflix description so no spoiler there). Anyway, the clothes alone make it worthwhile watching it, but the acting and story are also great.