Inside my closet, there exists only a handful of pieces that the outside world might consider valuable, like this one designer purse my husband splurged on because he thought it was really cool that a bag came inside another bag (hello, dust bags!). And then there are the objects that I consider irreplaceable, like the ring my husband used to propose to me when, as a postgraduate student, he was jobless, penniless and somewhat directionless. There are also the sentimental pieces, including the paperweight with the outline of Vietnam painted on it that my aunt brought back after visiting her home country – the first time she’s returned since fleeing during its civil war – that will never be more than a football field’s distance away from me.
And then there’s the next-level objects that tick all three boxes, pieces that are high in quality and also in feel and emotion. To be honest, I have very few objects that I can vault to that tier, but the ones I do have add so much value to my life. I recently purchased a cropped ostrich feather jacket made by a designer friend of mine. It’s a ridiculously unnecessary purchase for someone who lives in the sunny and warm state of Florida. But you know what? -- it makes me feel good when I wear it. And I have it on good authority that it was made with love and talent, intangible qualities that are reflected whenever I slip it on during the handful of cold weeks we do have.
I remember when the era of fast fashion overtook the world's closets. Friends couldn’t wait to share their latest mall find – beyond-stylish clothes and shoes that were friendly to our limited budgets, but whose ability to not end up in a trash bin within a few wears was in question. I had nothing to contribute to their conversations. Here I was, scrounging every dime I had to save up for a blouse (that was hopefully on sale, mind you) at the same price that my friends could have purchased three cute outfits. Me wearing the same two pairs of jeans every week; them finding a new pair at the mall during their lunch breaks. Truth is, I couldn’t subscribe to the alternative.
Since I was a kid saving up for that one special Scholastic book at the book fair, I felt more in tune with having one or two really nice, special things rather than several dozen lo-fi imitations. Once, in a particularly weak moment after hanging out with friends, I drove myself to the mall to buy a graphic tee that sadly saw just one wear before the washing machine pilled, ripped and savaged it. To this day, the vision of that shirt slowly -- very slowly -- withering away in a dumpster, among legions of other fast-fashion fixes, still gives me guilt.
Lately, I’ve been going on lots of shopping expeditions with my 5-year-old daughter. Be it at the grocery story or local boutique, something invariably catches her eye. And with most kid-centric products, they are generally not purposed for the constant tumble-cycle that a child puts it through. On our last trip to the local farmer’s market, she became obsessed with a small stuffed animal unicorn, among other props hanging at one vendor’s stall. It couldn’t have cost more than $4, the fast-fashion version of the toy world. I could envision its future: landing in our trash can in a few weeks, having met its demise after being pulled and twisted at the hands of a preschooler and her younger brother. Just another short-term product that gave us moments of happiness, but whose longevity was limited at best.
So in the middle of the market, we discussed the unicorn’s necessity within her stuffed animal-filled closet. Like most conversations with my 5-year-old, parts of the conversation were met with blank stares or shrieks of disgust (I mean, was I really setting myself up for success?) Still, I felt a small bit of satisfaction that the sustainability seeds had been planted. So instead of buying that short-fix stuffed unicorn, we shared a $6 chocolate croissant from the French baker. And it was glorious.
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