WWhat does it say about fashion I’ve been writing about clothes for over 20 years, but my favorite t-shirt has a hole where the collar came off at the seam and I don’t know how mend? That I have a wardrobe full of runway notebooks, but my sewing kit is the kind you find in a hotel room? I’m sure it’s no good, right?
Yet I love my clothes. Throwing away one of them hardly seems less gloomy to me than burning books. Call me an incurable romantic, but I believe I could live happily ever after with the clothes I have now. I don’t rule out odd moments of weakness – I’m just a human being and sometimes lose control of myself around hoops or any other leopard pattern. And sometimes things wear out and need to be replaced. But I would like my wardrobe to live on forever.
So what is the obstacle to eternal life for my clothes? Well, the aforementioned lack of maintenance skills, for starters. Moths. Poor napkin discipline when eating spaghetti arrabbiata. Teenagers who “borrow” things. But the most dangerous enemy of the perfectly beautiful clothes you already own is fashion. I love fashion, always have and always will. Dressing is a celebration of being alive. But fashion as a modern industrial complex has a dark side, which is all about making you fall in love with clothes and then quickly kill them to buy new ones.
Buying fast fashion is like eating Pringles. You start and want to continue. One-click shopping for cute summer dresses online is a slow-motion version of it. It’s not the dress you want, not really; it’s the rush to buy something new.
Nothing personal, Mrs Kondo, but enough already with the clearout fetish. It makes no sense that sending clothes to the landfill could be called “wardrobe detox.” Pulling out good clothes to make room for slightly shinier clothes is a feedback loop that gets you nowhere. Every now and then fashion comes up with something you probably don’t already have (jumpsuits in 2010, say), but when a new look comes along, it’s almost always a matter of how to wear the clothes you have. It changes the silhouette by tying a belt on a blazer, or by switching from bright accessories to match a dress in tone-on-tone colors.
Seeing your wardrobe as a permanent collection rather than a conveyor belt curbs impulse purchases. Being bad at mending clothes prompts me to make sure what I buy isn’t going to fall apart. It’s not just expensive stuff. Look inside a dress before you buy to see if it’s made to last. Details like a hook-and-eye closure double locking to a zipper opening are a sign of a piece made with care; the stray threads that threaten to come undone are the opposite. It’s common sense – albeit tricky if you’re buying online, which I guess is part of the problem. And if you buy second-hand, you are doing more to keep the clothes alive forever.
Clothing repair is a growing wing of the fashion industry. There are chic workshops dedicated to the restoration of shoes and bags, like The Restory. Make Nu has embroidery fairy godmothers that will cover a snag of your favorite sweater with a daisy or a monogram. Want to get in touch with a tailor who can modify your new vintage treasure to fit you like a glove? Sojo has an app for that.
Forget the celebrity personal trainer: the hot restaurateur is the number to have in your contacts. Maybe, just maybe, the fashion industry is on the mend. Even if my favorite T-shirt isn’t.