Last week, while sheltering in place at my Brooklyn apartment, I decided it was time to give my closet a colonic and fully cleanse the fashions at the deepest, darkest crevices of my wardrobe. I would be unrelenting! I would be cruel! I would get rid of clothing from high school that I thought I still loved but hadn’t worn. Sweaters from my mother that I thought I’d keep forever and forever.
While it was easy to sort the things I was absolutely sure I wanted to keep from the ones I absolutely didn’t, many clothes fell somewhere in between. I put those in what I call the expiration pile. An item that ends up here has a time limit of sorts. If I don’t wear it within 30 days, it’s kaput, a goner. Sealed up and sent off to The RealReal or ThredUp.
Naturally, going through the expiration pile is a lot more doable when you’re at home and have plenty of time to kill. Equipped with a full-length mirror, albeit one I bought at the dollar store, my room has become the ideal testing ground for more experimental styling tricks. It was for sure the perfect place to unpack the trove of weird and wonderful pieces I had bought on my travels through Eastern Europe five years ago. Inspired by the then new craze for Vetements, I had trawled the bazaars of Kyiv, Ukraine, and Tbilisi, Georgia, scooping up whatever gaudy bootleg designer labels I could find. While sifting through my expiration pile, I rediscovered a white mock turtleneck with the Chanel logo stamped across the chest—a Tbilisi special! I also found a black T-shirt emblazoned with a version of Versace’s gold Medusa emblem that resembled a raised, infected tattoo. The turtleneck in particular had a lot of sentimental value. I had written a story about bootlegging and bazaars in Tbilisi and had worn the top regularly for at least a year after. But the question was: How did said shirt fit in with my look, now a steady stream of funeral black, today? In the past, I had worn it with a pair of low-slung Moschino cargo pants. To refresh that idea, I took a chance and paired the tight, flagrantly fake piece with a pair of striped J.Crew pants. The mash-up of good taste and bad taste kind of worked, in a saucy secretary way. As for that cursed faux Versace shirt? Clearly some impulse buys are just too wild to be tamed.
Though sorting through the expiration pile has been emotionally taxing, it has also been a transformative experience. I have been able to reexamine myself through the clothes that have played a major role in my life. Were the three identical pairs of black Dickies pants I owned a failed attempt at fitting into a world of women who live on a diet of macro bowls and kombucha and plant monsteras in every corner of their sun-drenched downtown apartments? Was I holding on to the vintage Courrèges T-shirt given to me by an old flame because I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the relationship? (I wore it, well, never!) What’s more, half the things that I had once considered precious no longer fit me. Ultimately, these are the kind of questions that rise to the surface as we clear a pathway through our wardrobes and, hopefully, our inner lives. A closet cleanse is undeniably cathartic for the soul.
One of the most surprising pieces that I have decided to keep is a bright red sweater by the Kyiv-based label Bevza. Wearing it, I always imagined that I resembled some sort of walking suprematist art advertisement—the fire-engine-red hue was far too conspicuous. It was one of my first purchases from the designer whose black square-toe boots have now become a staple in my wardrobe. Was I keeping it for overly sentimental reasons? Sure, most likely. (That is enough reason in my book to toss something.) But after wearing it for a few days in the comfort of my own home with a pair of my black Wranglers and pinstripe trousers, I realized that it actually looked great. The color a visual mood booster, even. All it took was a second glance and, yes, a few days of being very, very alone.
Originally Appeared on Vogue