After being informed that someone has placed a bid on an item of clothing that has been hanging in my wardrobe for the better part of three years I feel a pang of nostalgia, and a bizarre sense of regret. Do I really want to let it go? I haven’t really used it and no, I won’t use it much in future but what will the sale yield? The price of a London cocktail and two inches of space. Maybe I should cancel the sale and just keep it stored away. “What for?” my practically-minded girlfriend would probably ask, utterly perplexed. Posterity, I suppose.
A dear friend once told me that I was far too sentimental. Whereas most only find it difficult to part with heavily-used, much-loved items, my attachment to inanimate objects extends to the unused and the unloved. It is a peculiarity of my character that surprises even me. Whilst there is no doubt that I have inherited the blood of a collector, I have also inherited a sepia-toned nostalgia for a land-of-might-have-been.
Unworn shoes, pristine jackets and perfectly folded jumpers gather dust in the dark and unrewarding netherworld of storage, awaiting a destiny long delayed.
Being sentimental about unused clothing is perfectly silly, particularly as there are far more significant things in the world to mourn. However, it is not really the garment itself to which I become attached but the intangible, irreplaceable remembrance that it provides. An afternoon, a dinner out, laughter, friends, love and disappointment; even when that memory is still vivid, the sale of its souvenirs makes me ponderous and indulgently sentimental.
It is because of this that I am amazed at those who find it so easy to trade-in their wardrobes. I am certainly foolish in clinging to wool and leather in the way that one might cling to a neglected child before their departure for college, but what is it that makes it so easy for people to part with that which they once loved? Where are the memories of hours of searching, the glances in the mirror, the excited waiting in line? Why not cherish the perfume of a dangerous fling, the rain from a summer cloud? What becomes of these words: “I wore this to graduation”; “I fell in love in this suit.”
Personally, I blame fast-fashion. I use the stores which supply it, and benefit from its popularity, but I am aghast at the way in which it has transformed our consumption of clothing to something representing a roadside diner; cheap, perfunctory and lacking in sentiment. My own consumption of things I rarely wear is as much a part of it, but my reluctance to part with something I own feels natural. In many ways, I don’t like buying to replace. It makes me feel dirty and unfaithful; unfaithful not to the object itself but to my own memory. A memory in which that object has had a part.