The year I threw away most of my clothes

The Year in Personal Style is a week of articles on how 2021 will change our relationship with dressing.

I am vulnerable to ads. I am an open-mouthed, glass-eyed consumer of commercials. I guess the popups when you tell me I’m a lucky winner. I stare at perfume ads as if they are portals to a better world. Daydreams calm me down. calms me down. I know that’s what capitalism wants. I haven’t spent a lot of money on clothes, but when I do, I buy them based on fantasies – fueled by ads and other places, like detailed photos and little stories. I didn’t really evaluate this habit until the pandemic.

Clothing has always been one way for me to daydream about the future—a future that I must think I can secure, or at least control by being a consumer. But when the pandemic started, the daydreaming stopped. The monotonous days, the likeness of the hours, the feeling that I was living in a suspended state—all temporarily erased the future, along with any fantasies about how things might be different.

Outside of hand sanitizer and toilet paper, I haven’t used anything for most of 2020. Almost everyone seems to have bought fewer things during the lockdown. Even if one had the means, in practice, there was nothing to wear for it. In the past, lockdowns were a reprieve from the imagination. My wardrobe was starting to feel impersonal and impractical, like a neat lookbook or a shelf of stage clothes. Many of them have never been worn. None of that made me really happy.

I found clothes I had bought in the hope of some absurd and unexpected situation: a solid suede dress for a grueling ride on horseback that somehow ended in a lavish seaside wedding; A sweet pink jumpsuit for the rave that was also the baby’s first birthday; Figure skating shirts. Tomb Raider – esque jacket, just in case you were the first reporter to arrive in an ancient ruin and later asked to give a speech to the United Nations on national security. Many of them looked as if an eight-year-old was buying her older sister.

Even more than the clothes we wear every day, the clothes we buy and don’t wear reveal who we are.

Even more than the clothes we wear every day, the clothes we buy and never wear reveal who we are, just as our dreams reveal about ourselves that we hide from our waking lives. Browsing through my wardrobe, I began to see how a part of me had always practiced some kind of escape from reality through fashion that reflected a deeper unwillingness to find grace in the present.

Something about the constant resemblance to an epidemic has given me a new appreciation for how I feel about clothes at the moment. With life returning to normal this year, I could feel fantasies of the future beginning to boil over again, but I was ditching them one by one. I focus more on living in the present, not just the future of myself.

I cleaned out my closet, kept some of the things I love, and donated the rest. I still haven’t bought much of anything.

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