Coming to Grips With Who I Am: A Collector

I started this blog (and the Youtube channel and Instagram page of the same name) with the best of intentions – I wanted to convince people that the fashion industry is responsible for a lot of bad stuff in the world from pollution to labor exploitation. I wanted to encourage people to think about the clothes they consume from the material they are made from to the conditions in which they were made. I wanted to encourage people to shop second hand before they ordered a bunch of stuff from Shein or wherever. I still believe that this is an important message to spread and I will continue to spread it. The motto for this project was and is “Say No to Fast Fashion” and I will continue to use that as my motto.

However, looking back I may have made some mistakes trying to get this message across, mostly because I tried to preach a gospel that I did not and have not practiced. This is the gospel of capsule wardrobing. I had COVID last summer and when I came out of it (for reasons I still can’t quite explain) I went through a pretty manic episode – I wanted to change everything about my life and live more of a minimalist life. I wanted to get rid of everything and start fresh.

When it came to my clothes, I wanted to clean out my closet and start over with a minimalist wardrobe that contained a set number of pieces. I wanted to convince myself to only buy things as replacements for pieces that are already in my wardrobe. I moved a bunch of my clothes to the downstairs auxiliary closet (or the “Poshmark” closet as I call it) and started fresh with a very limited capsule wardrobe. I made a video and blog and Instagram posts all about my newfound faith in capsule wardrobing as the best way to solve the fast fashion problem. I even made up rules about capsule wardrobing that I fully intended to follow.

It didn’t last very long. I found it very difficult to follow the rules I had made for myself and put on the internet for everyone to see. Part of the problem is that I never really took into account a fundamental aspect of my personality – I am now and have pretty much always been a collector of things.

As a kid I collected G.I. Joe and Transformer toys, limited only by the fact that I did not have any money of my own (probably a good thing) and depended on getting them as gifts from family and friends. As a teenager, when I was able to work part time and do extra chores for money, it was baseball and other sports and collectible cards. I still have boxes of the stuff in my closet even though most of these cards are worthless. As a young adult it was video games, CDs and then eventually books and DVDs. I’ve collected other silly things like magnets and patches from places I’ve visited – but I think you get the picture. I like collecting stuff. I know I’m not alone – there are lots of collectors out there who collect all kinds of things related to their own individual personality quirks.

For the last few years my latest collecting obsession was clothes. I’m not sure when or why or how it happened. If I were to give myself an amateur psychological analysis I think it comes down to this – I spent the bulk of my 20s and early 30s in grad school, then floating from place to place in temporary employment while I tried to find a permanent tenure-track job (since this isn’t a blog about academic life I won’t bore you with the details), and then as a father of two young children. So long story short up until my 40s I was broke, did not have secure employment, and I was an exhausted dad of two. I had also gained a lot of weight in those years and got up to nearly 300 lbs. Clothes were the last thing on my mind from the time I was in my early 20s until my early 40s.

Something changed in my early 40s though – I started to care a bit more about how I looked (maybe this was a way of dealing with depression I don’t know). So I started getting interested in clothes and also in diet and exercise. Professors (especially ones employed at state universities in states that don’t like to pay their employees well) don’t get paid a lot of money so I shopped sales and then I eventually discovered Poshmark. I also got interested in diet and exercise and I lost 80 lbs (I’ve gained some back since then). But losing all that weight meant I had to buy new clothes that fit me better.

What this meant was that I started spending a lot more time thinking about and researching style and fashion. I spent a lot of time reading and watching youtube and it developed into a sort of hobby. It’s a hobby that I enjoy a lot. I love learning about different types of clothes – how they originated, what they are made out of, and how to style them. I like thinking about color and fit and all of those things. I like clothes. I never thought I would, but here I am.

So maybe my brief flirtation with capsule wardrobing and minimalism was an attempt to come to grips with some of my fashion failures – I had bought a lot of stuff when I was just learning about fashion that I did not really like anymore and I just wanted to start over. The truth is I went too far the other direction trying to set a standard of minimalism for myself that I could never reach. I’ve recently discovered that I still like a lot of stuff that I put in my auxiliary closet and I’ve enjoyed “shopping” in my own closet. Turns out I don’t want to get rid of everything. It also turns out that I like to collect new pieces as well. It’s just too much fun honestly.

Now that I’ve realized that I can never live by the rules of minimal capsule wardrobing that I set for myself, what can I do? I’ve sold a lot of stuff on Poshmark that I knew I wouldn’t wear anymore or that I knew I wouldn’t miss. I’m going to continue to do that as I grow tired of things or I realize that I don’t like the fit or the color of them or whatever. But I have to be truthful about who I am – limiting myself to 30 pieces in a wardrobe is probably never going to work for me, I just like to collect things too much. But I will continue to avoid fast fashion, buy second hand whenever I can, buy things that are durable and will last a long time, choose things that are made out of materials that are better for the environment, and always consider the working conditions in which my clothes are made.

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