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:
- 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.
- 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?