Sunday, 3 April 2016

The Magpie Wardrobe

My great, big, clear-out is almost at an end. It's taken almost four years. Honestly. Four years of my life shifting and sorting through the piles of crap I had accumulated, hoarded, convinced myself I needed. I'm in the final stages now; listening to all my CDs to decide which ones I want to keep, replacing the films I won't watch again with new delights (discovering my taste), trying to persuade myself to actually part with books. And procrastinating on approaching the last bit of my closet.

The end is in sight.

I noticed, yesterday, something that I think might be important to my own sense of identity. I realised that everything I was wearing had a story of some kind. T-shirt: belonged to my best friend. Jeans: secondhand, worn until literally disintegrating. Earrings: a gift from my penpal in Nepal. Bracelet: bought at the beach, on holiday with my partner. Bag: acquired whilst passing through Burley in the New Forest.

The items in my wardrobe that I am keeping are not, in general, items I have purchased on shopping trips. They have been accumulated from all over - bought on trips, on dates, on RedBubble after falling in love with this or that artist or comic or film, from gigs, from secondhand shops, even, sometimes, found when someone else threw them away (two of my pairs of New Rocks were found in a skip. Have I had flack before for this method of acquiring items? Sure. But I'd rather be the person recycling the £150 boots than the person who threw them away).

So I came to realise two things:

  1. I will do my best not to go on any more shopping trips. Not that I'm not going to go to the mall with my friends, if invited, but I'm going to go for coffee, for cakes, for bookstores, for spending time with a favourite person, and if I stumble across something that's right for me, then cool. But no more running riot through shopping centres waving my debit card in a frenzy of desperation, hoping that better clothes will somehow make me a better person.
  2. I am, by nature, a magpie.
I love this quote from Laini Taylor: "Like a magpie, I am a scavenger of shiny things: fairy tales, dead languages, weird folk beliefs, fascinating religions and more." Yet somehow it never occurred to me to apply the magpie philosophy to my wardrobe. 

I have always been something of a scavenger; for example, my beautiful acoustic guitar was found at the local tip. It had a string missing and needed a good clean, but the site manager said I could take it for £5 if I played him a tune. So I did. My laptop, also, came out of a skip. I took it to some computer geniuses of my acquaintance who fixed it up and put a shiny new hard drive in it. I've had it about ten years now, and the fact it's held together with electrical tape is irrelevant, because it is my baby. (In fact, I like its hodgepodge appearance. It makes me feel like I'm in some sort of post-apocalyptic-meets-90s-hacker movie.) 

I've always bought clothes from charity shops and bootsales and so on, but more for the purpose of collecting rather than curating; spending for the sake of it, rather than finding the individual item that speaks to me in that moment, that's good-looking and practical and will stand the test of time (and not get caught up when my boyfriend and I climb trees).

So now, I'm going to try hard to harness my thrifty, scavenger side. Because acquiring things as I go rather than specifically going out to shop means I collect memories as well as things; it's more environmentally friendly; it means I think more about what I'm using my money on and whether its worth it (very important when saving to go on a trip); and frankly I feel it's more interesting (artsy! punk rock! select your adjective!) than just going out to the high street to consume. I have set myself some vague-ish guidelines:
  • You only need as much as you need. (Twenty pairs of jeans? Really?)
  • Substance over style.
  • If you don't buy expensive shit that you didn't really need (but you thought it might help shore up your ego), you can spend the money on books or put it towards the trip of a lifetime or buy some soup. (Soup is good.) I reiterate this point a lot, I guess, but I know what it's like to be saving up for something important and then shoot yourself in the foot because you couldn't stop yourself buying X item of clothing in the hope of it somehow changing your life. Just me?
  • Hooray for DIY. Can you 'make do and mend' with something you already have rather than go out and buy new?
Is anyone else out there a magpie?

12 comments:

  1. I am absolutely a magpie when it comes to collecting and acquiring certain things - there's nothing I love more than a rummage sale, where I can buy 25 pounds of clothing for $.99 a pound. But it's just me acquiring more junk I'll eventually have to get rid of.

    And I'm in those stages now too, although for rather different reasons. I have to pare down all my belongings because my partner and I are going to be living out of his pickup truck for the next few months and so it's a matter of "where will it fit" and "do I REALLY need it to survive?"

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    1. That's a bugger :( best of luck to you. I have been downsizing my possessions to move into a camper van but it's somewhat different when it's not of your own choosing. Please do let the rest of us know in the FB group that you are doing OK, when you have the opportunity.

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  2. Soup IS good.
    I have magpie phases. Most of the time I just don't want to spend and neither do I want more clutter. And then randomly, MUST BUY ALL THE THINGS! Withouth thinking about poor, reasonnable future-me who's gonna be stuck with random crap (and less money for soup!).
    For older pieces that are damaged or just not me anymore, but have a sentimental value, I've learned to let go by taking a picture of the item before. The memory stays, is all that matters.
    Now if someone has tips on how to give away pieces that were gifts without gut-wrenching guilt..! :P

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    1. The photo thing is such a great idea! I have a hard time parting with gifts and sentimental items as well, I have to repeatedly tell myself that the person who gave it to me didn't expect it to fit me forever. Just as when I give a gift, I don't give it in the expectation of the person carrying it around for their entire life (like the packrats in Labyrinth!). But it's still hard!

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  3. I'm a magpie and while I'm trying to give away the stuff I don't use or like anymore, I sometimes end up buying new stuff (mainly for the sake of refashioning, but still...). Life is a contradiction...

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    1. Haha totally agree! I panicked this week because I realised I've been wearing the same six or seven T-shirts over and over so I decided that just one more wouldn't hurt... sometimes I will take any excuse to buy something new just for the buyer's high! Must stop that >.<

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  4. I thought I was a secondhand champion but your skip bin and tip finds are amazing! There's definitely some magpie spirit animal in you!

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    1. Thanks so much! *high fives* Actually when I was writing this post, I had to stop and think really hard about which of my possessions were NOT secondhand... most of my stuff is acquired rather than bought, up to and including my bed (a friend's auction house), desk (tip), my bike (ditto), both my guitars and my amp...

      There's a book I've been trying to get hold of called Free: Adventures on the Margins of a Wasteful Society by Katharine Hibbert that I think is probably quite apropos... she takes our magpie-ing to a whole new level.

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  5. I've read your Gothic style blog about 2 years ago or so and found your new blog. Really cool to see how much you've changed and loving the book reviews and inspirations.

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    1. Thank you so much! :) Really glad to hear that. Thanks for dropping by!

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  6. DIY all the way, currently spending too much on clothing - i know... but all my diy energy is spent on my cave... hoping i will be done by the end of the year to get back into sewing, painting, do whatever clothing and accessories come to my mind :-D

    i always am amazed by people who find pretty stuff second hand, maybe the stores i know simply are not good for that kind of hunting?

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    1. I rarely have the energy for DIY, I consider it a huge achievement if I actually complete a project. I have all these old T-shirts and fabric scraps lying around to do something with... one day. I will be lurking around your blog for inspiration ;)

      Maybe! I think it's the luck of the draw to be honest. My town got hit hard by the recession so it's about 70% second hand shops here now because they get a reduced rental rate on the space. Hard NOT to find anything secondhand when it's basically your main option.

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