Fashion's Dirty Secrets

Charity Case

We all have Skeletons in our Closets and Dirty Fashion Secrets: If Stacey Dooley investigated yours what would she find?

This is my confession.

It’s not dredged from a younger, more foolish Eva. It’s not an unworn lavish purchase I’ve been hiding for years, in fact it’s not a purchase at all. It’s not a single item I’m lusting after whose materials disagree with any moral or ethical values. It’s not a crumpled old band t-shirt I stole from a friend or a present I never liked but kept anyway. It’s not even the tartan suit that hangs up in my wardrobe for the day I magically become a size 8.

My confession is a feeling.

A regret and a sadness and a guilt.

It’s all those things and it happened just a few days ago.

In the spirit of supporting a circular fashion system, Mindless Mag had decided to set up a stand at a community table sale. Selling our pre-loved clothes and seeing them off to better homes while hopefully spreading our message a little further was exactly the kind of thing this pair of wardrobe warriors were going to be GREAT at. The Rodney and Delboy of the sustainable fashion world!

So I set my alarm and got up at an ungodly hour (OK, ten past six), packed up the car and set off with hot flasks of coffee and a sense of smug satisfaction that, for once, I was hangover-free on a Saturday morning.

We arrived at the sports centre even before they’d pulled up the shutters. Already there was a queue of fellow pedlars and pushers – our competition – whose first rodeo this definitely wasn’t! You could tell by the way their eyes locked onto their chosen table and despite being weighed down with 8000 bags of bric-a-brac, curios and knickknacks, they hurtled towards their ‘spot’ for the day to lay claim. After an hour’s setting up time I thought our little stall looked pretty enticing and I’d just got used to that sickly sweet sweaty feet smell of the hall. I was ready to do business. I was Kris Jenner, I was Alan Sugar, I was…..

And then an unexpected ripple of panic came over me.

I wasn’t ready to do any kind of business, because I wasn’t even ready to say goodbye.

As shoppers came and went and glanced over the clothes that I had thought I could live without I was thinking about where I’d found them and where they’d been with me. ASOS sale bargains that I’d managed to score – the last in my size! Depop treasures that I’d haggled over, and eBay wins where I’d swooped in at the 7th second – always the 7th – with my highest bid and took it for way less than my highest bid. Zara dresses I’d worn when my legs were browner and slimmer and sprinkled with sand. The white wide leg jumpsuit I wore at that party and managed not to spill red wine down. And the yellow corduroy jacket that had sold out everywhere but I’d got hold of by ringing every store in the country.

I remember the prices, the sizes, the fit and the feel, the outings we’d had and the way they’d made me feel, and even the places where they usually hang up in, or lie crumpled next to, my wardrobe. Co-ords and playsuits and pantsuits. And polyester and rayon and nylon.

My confession is that despite an awareness and a desire to do better, I still didn’t want to part with my things. My lovely, pointless things.

I told myself that I was doing something good, remembering all the quotes I’d been so inspired by: If one million women bought their next item of clothing second hand we’d save 6 million kilos of carbon pollution….. But still those ripples of panic spread.

How it tore me apart to see them leave. The men I’ve had relationships with will never compare to the love affairs I’ve had with fashion. And the worst part is I didn’t even love these clothes. That is the point. I wanted them to go to a home where they might be loved instead of ending up on a landfill site.

I even felt a nostalgia for that feeling when you’ve had an outfit planned for weeks and the day you go to try it on it’s all wrong. So you try everything else you own, the pile of cheap fabrics growing bigger by the minute while the exertion flushes your cheeks and the spiky sweat starts to creep up your back. I would miss that if I was going to strip back my wardrobe to only contain things I loved. That’s how irrational I was becoming.

One woman at our stall was eying up a pair of black fur leather mules which I’d paid £65 for and was selling for a very reasonable fiver. I had the gall as she tried them on to tell her, ‘they’re really uncomfortable actually, they’ll rub’!

And this is my real confession. She told us that she comes to these sales to buy things which she takes to charity shops. She’d already given them everything she no longer needed from her own house and now she hands over her pension to people like me in exchange for things which she gives away for free.

And here I was trying to put her off. I was ashamed that for everything I’d campaigned for I was still believing the fashion industry’s spin that we must consume and buy and want and acquire in ever increasing amounts for the rest of time.

My dirty fashion secret is that for all I say and write, doing is something altogether different, and I must admit that I’ve found it hard. So this is my resolve. I will buy only what I need, I will love what I own, and I will never lie to old ladies ever again.

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