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.