I am of two minds. One wants everything in my wardrobe to be a treasure that I unearthed with my bare hands, a little shovel and one of those brushes that archeologists and old time-y barbers use. I want originals-only in my drawers so that matching my friends is impossible. If I were a model in a magazine editorial, I’d want my entire credits situation to read “stylist’s own.” I want kind, fashionable strangers on the subway to ask me where I got my “fabulous shoes” so that I can reply without lying, “They’re vintage.” I want everything to be unique and special, just like my parents tell me I am.
My other mind wants me to get the same thing everyone else has, largely because everyone else has it.
Not always. There are plenty of instances where I’ve made decisions to not partake in something “mass,” based on purely on contrarian principle. After its U.S. release, it took me a year to give in and read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone because I thought too many people cared. It took me five years to admit that I like Mumford & Sons, even though I’m still cagey about it. Every time I listen to them, the Starbucks of folk music, I set my Spotify setting to private so no one knows.
Seven times out of 10, however, it’s an inner demon I wrestle — especially when it comes to fashion.
In seventh grade there were these Abercrombie t-shirts that had sparkly oranges on the chest. My best friend from another town told me about them and said all the cool girls at her school had them. Wanting one was my biggest secret. I never gave in and went to Hot Topic instead. Thought about it often.
In high school, thanks to birthdays and babysitting money, I was the worst: I bought the North Face fleece, the Burberry scarf, the Lacoste polos and begged for the Tiffany & Co. charm bracelet. I was a monster.
In college, I kid you not, the coolest thing a girl could own apart from Tory Burch ballet flats was a quilted Vera Bradley duffle bag. I bought two of them.
A few years ago, post-graduation, I longed for Proenza Schouler’s PS1 bag, followed by the PS11. Couldn’t afford either. In retrospect, I’m fine with this.
When everyone went through their shearling-and-suede jacket phase last winter I was furious that I couldn’t participate. Still can’t decide what to do if the trend extends to this winter.
Those Rebecca de Ravenel earrings on every summer lobe this side of Saturn that confuse men and delight women and cats? I have two pairs and I want one thousand.
That Cult Gaia basket that’s all over Instagram? I want it so badly. I want it in my hands. I want to feel its cold plastic shell between my palms and maybe put a snack inside it. But I can’t bring myself to do it. Too many people at weddings have it.
I wanted white Birkenstocks so badly until I saw every girl on the train station to Montauk wearing them. I got the tan ones instead and sometimes, I get sad.
Does this count? I still cannot be in the presence of a metallic flash tattoo, no matter how dated, “basic” and tacky, without needing one put on my body, ASAP.
Remember a few months ago when everyone in the entire world suddenly wanted a pair of yellow 1970’s aviators? Sigh. I do, too. Still don’t own them.
I wrestled with my emotions surrounding the ubiquitous tan Chanel sling-backs for at least nine months. I saved up, couldn’t bring myself to do it in Paris despite the duty-free tax, then got back to America and haven’t stopped thinking about them since.
…Then the Dior kitten heels came out and now I want those, too.
Ditto the Balenciaga knife point toes. And what’s really going to hurt my heart is that I KNOW they’re going to be everywhere this September.
I know this is human nature, and that I’m not special in this desire or complaint. It’s just that fashion really messes with my head. It’s supposed to be a form of self-expression. In a perfect fashion world, every single one of us would look exactly like ourselves, no one else, and all of us would wear one-of-a-kinds. But! Fashion becomes fashionable when it appeals to at least one influential group of people. If something’s “not cool anymore,” it’s because a bunch of those people decided it to be so at the same time. The whole paradox is made even messier when you work in this industry; you want the shoes that everyone has, but also, you want to be the only one who has them.
When I can’t afford something, it’s easy for me to talk my way out of it. When I can, it’s a three-way toss-up: 1) I’m either positive the item in question will look different-in-a-good-way when paired with my personality, 2) I resolve to seal my fate as the identical Instagram twin of my entire feed in the name of a must-own dress, or 3) I give myself a you-know-better-than-to-be-a-fashion-sheep pep talk and slowly back away from my computer.
There’s no practical resolution to it, if you were wondering. No eye-opening revelations. All I’m left with are a list of things I never bought because of ego (or finances), and a secret collection of items I bought because you did.