If my relationship with fashion were one of those old-school Facebook-profile status updates, I think “It’s complicated” would just about sum it up. There is no doubt that fashion and I have got a thing going on, but we are in a rough patch right about now. It used to be so easy. But now I’m thinking we probably need to sign up for some heavy-duty couples therapy.
And it’s not like the Covid helped the situation. I spent a good part of the past few years basically toggling between my pyjamas and my leggings. And whatever people say, that’s not fashion — that’s giving up on life (just as Kaiser Karl declared about humble tracksuit bottoms). I would wake up in the morning with the best of intentions, knowing that relationships take work. But somewhere between my bed and my cupboard I would lose all hope and reach for the old sports bra and pair of shorts that saw me through the tough times. It was just easier that way — I knew they could spark endorphins, in the same way that a pair of Louboutins used to do.
Now the shoes only spark curiosity and a vague questioning as to what it all could possibly mean. The kind of curiosity an ancient artefact in a museum elicits. And so, by extension, a questioning of time and space starts to form, and, consequently, a questioning of your very identity. “Who was I when I bought into this idea of myself? What was I thinking? What could I have seen in these heels?”
I have been through this kind of thing before. With running. I was the kind of runner who signed up for marathons every year. Admittedly, they had to take place in exotic locations, preferably in large, flat cities such as Paris and Vienna, but marathons nonetheless. And then, just after I ran the Athens marathon (the original, I might add), my love for the entire enterprise dried up like an old olive.
I consulted an expert. As one does. In this instance, coach Peteni Kuzwayo, a Nike Pro who trains a lot of runners. “You have to remember why you started running in the first place,” he said. And he was right. I remembered that the reason I started running was so I could get to the coffee shop. Faster. And suddenly it was all back, plus an excellent excuse to caffeinate.
But what about fashion? Could I rekindle the spark? Let me just put this out there. Fashion, I see you. You are a toxic narcissist. Take your seasonal love-bombing. Every time my attention wanders, Fashion goes into full-scale invasion mode. Like Putin trying to take out the Ukraine.The lights, the cameras, the action… showing me all the things. And by “things”, I mean the heady promise of eternal love, and youth, and beauty. The allure of the new, the glamour of the sparkly things that twinkle and winkle into my magpie heart.
We used to be great together. It can be that way again. I just have to remember why I started dating you in the first place.
The campaigns are intense, full on, and happen every few months. But, lately, as my attention wavers, Fashion, you just ratchet up the assault on my sensibilities. Now there are new lures. TikToks and award shows. Pinterest, Instagram. You are everywhere. And your payoff line is simple — “This time, things will be different. Let’s just give this one more chance.” Because what Fashion wants from me is complete adoration. And every time I fall for it. Your spiel is just so hard to resist.
Okay. I confess. I am complicit in this dance. I want to echo your light. I too can reflect beautifully in the mirror Fashion holds up for me. Today, I want to look competent, tomorrow, sexy. On Thursday, it’s loveable. On the weekend, I am super fun. But Fashion — you are gaslighting me. There I am, all warm and fuzzy and caught up in the magic. Like I have a front-row seat to the rest of my life. It’s going to be great. But, like all selfish lovers, Fashion, you extract a price. I’m paying before I can even say, “Can I tap my card for that?” And before I know it, all those promises are hanging like old rags in the walk-in closet of my life. And I think, “God, I have nothing to wear.”
The second-guessing starts almost the moment I’ve left the store. Can I even remember why I liked you so much in the first place? Fashion, you were fun. We made magic. I played dress-up with you — you were incandescent. We used to be great together. It can be that way again. I just have to remember why I started dating you in the first place.
Let’s take it slow. Pop into the consignment store and find a little vintage number that kindles the flame without the crazy churn of the next thing. Or page through that delicious book about you I ordered online — The Glass of Fashion. Penned by Cecil Beaton, one of your bright young things. I could sign up for that. It could be really lovely.
• From the April edition of Wanted, 2022.