Before quarantine, my enjoyment of going out was heightened by the promise in anticipation. If there was a party I planned to attend, the way I prepared for it always started with choosing an outfit. Placing myself in a considered look featuring an array of playful colours and outlandish silhouettes – vintage Pucci or Moschino, perhaps – helped me understand how I could move through a room and be myself, no matter what came my way, with ease.
As I got older, this process often became an exercise to quell social anxiety, and eventually, with practice, I could overcome any obvious nerves. Only in the isolation of COVID-19 did I realize that this ritual was integral to my love of clothes. The journey started with the thrill of coming across certain pieces, imagining all the possibilities of wearing them and then finally living in them. For me, that was the joy of fashion.
When there was suddenly nowhere to go, my relationship with clothing had to adapt to new circumstances. Though I have considered myself a collector for many years, my obsession reached a fever pitch during isolation.
My experience with resale websites goes back to my early days of thrifting; it is an expertise that includes knowledge about textiles and fashion history and understanding the difference between how much something is worth and what you’re willing to pay for it.
When there was suddenly nowhere to go, my relationship with clothing had to adapt to new circumstances
As time passes, sourcing items that meet certain standards of quality craftsmanship becomes more and more difficult – those with a discerning eye notice that some luxury houses are not manufacturing their clothes like they used to.
In the unsettled moments before bed, I opened the apps: Poshmark, eBay, The RealReal and Depop. With the possibility of physically going to stores largely out of the question, these platforms were my only outlet. The search, often like dating, was held up by the hope that something might come along that I wouldn’t want to miss. I scoured for hours, with a vague idea of what I wanted and the certainty that it must exist somewhere.
A few weeks into quarantine, I stumbled across a dress from the infamous Jean Paul Gaultier Fall 1995 Cyber collection, which is easily recognized by optical illusion-style dots that echo the curves of a woman’s body. Thanks to luxury vintage sellers like Pechuga Vintage, pieces from the collection have resurfaced; Gaultier’s dots have recently been seen on the likes of Kim Kardashian and Cardi B. I purchased the dress for $30, and the rush of serotonin that resulted from the thrill was the only vice I had left.
What started as a way to fill hours while isolating at home suddenly became filled with purpose.
My knack for describing garments has been honed by the eBay search bar, and my various watchlists are filled with items that are attainable, fantastical and, of course, so novel that one can only find pleasure knowing they exist. I’ll look for Bakelite handbags that resemble giant rounds of butterscotch or for archival pieces like the original Paco Rabanne disc bag from the ’60s (now re-released). I can scroll through countless pages to find specific pieces from collections that hold historical and cultural significance to me – my very own Criterion Collection of clothes. A $6,000 museum-quality set – consisting of a corset, a bustle skirt and a balloon-sleeved top – from Vivienne Westwood’s Spring 1996 show has been sitting at the top of my eBay list for over a year. Westwood’s designs that season mimicked the rococo style, with Watteau gowns and corsetry interpreted with her signature playful twist.
What started as a way to fill hours while isolating at home suddenly became filled with purpose. I bought floor-length dresses, bustiers and large ornate hats. As I showed my wares to friends over FaceTime, they would say “But where are you going?” It did not matter. I was preserving remnants of my former life through my wardrobe – a life that may no longer be possible in a post-COVID-19 world. I snapped up pieces from specific collections, always with the presumption that I could sell them if I wanted to; but the bliss I derive from having them in my closet is almost better.
As I showed my wares to friends over FaceTime, they would say “But where are you going?” It did not matter.
It’s not that I may one day have a place to wear them – it’s their association with the past that feels like a fantasy. What used to be an object filled with possibility is now a relic from an era long gone.
Away from other people, this obsession feels intimate and personal. Whether I am curating a digital museum or dreaming through my closet, I can surround myself with objects I find beautiful, and this gives me comfort in times of uncertainty.
When it’s possible, I will wear these clothes into the future to commemorate the beauty of the past.
Read more: fashionmagazine.com