Many of my outfits came from vintage and charity shops as a child. The pressure to have certain clothes at school escaped me as I sported items no one else could have - pink needle cord dungarees with embellishments, a hand-painted Sex Pistols jumper – I didn’t understand why everyone wasn’t trawling for treasures. As I grew older and pored over Sunday supplements, fashion magazines and Sex and The City, I became fixated on fashion and beauty and promised myself as soon as I had my first pay packet I’d buy a designer suit – I was desperate for Vivienne Westwood.
Twenty years later, I wake up, 34 years old in a room in a house-share I can’t move-in, packed to the rafters with suction packed clothes I can’t fit in to, stuffed rails buckling under the weight of outfits I’d once coveted and a floor to ceiling shoe holder squeezed next to my bed I’m certain will crush me in my sleep.
When I moved to London seven years ago I already had a healthy interest in shopping but it was the discovery of sample sales that took my interest to obsession. Often quiet and in weird and wonderful parts of London, they offer a glamorous sanctuary from the world, sometimes a glass of prosecco, a chat with the designer, and tons of bargains. The only way I could afford to own such possessions.
When I decided to go freelance it was much easier to attend these sales, but what started as fun soon turned into necessity for me, I convinced myself if I missed a sale I’d lose out on something wonderful, something that would make my life better - which of course was often not the case.
I would buy garments and imbue them with meaning so one day, when they would fit me, everything would fall into place. Until I was slim enough I wouldn’t be worthy to wear them, to enjoy a successful writing career or relationship. My unhappiness fed into comfort eating and it was a vicious cycle, buying and eating for short-lived contentment, then needing to do it all over again for that hit of pleasure.
My self-esteem took a pounding over those years. I understand now that I’d fallen down the rabbit-hole of believing you had to look a certain way in order enjoy fashion.
So when I woke up on that particularly bleak morning and looked around, I realised that I’d been hiding from the world. Creating fantasies about these clothes: a beautiful McQueen evening dress I would wear on the arm of a partner to a gala, a playful Mary Katranzou dress I’d wear to the opening night of my first play, bright corduroy Kenzo trousers I’d take to New York for a work trip – all fantasy because the reality was I wasn’t allowing any of these things to be a possibility.
As someone with no dependents and unable to buy in London, I’ve got some spare income, I save, but I also ‘treated’ myself as a way to feel I was allowed to have some luxury. Shopping in Lidl with a Stella McCartney sample sale dress in my handbag.
So after many years of collecting and storing an array of clothes, shoes and accessories I’ve decided it’s time to commit to cleansing my wardrobe and creating space for myself. I’ve started selling online and in my local community. I’m also setting up my living room for a weekend sale, creating an atmosphere I love from sample sales with the support of my wonderful housemates. I’ll keep my favourites, and already in a happier place I have lost excess weight so I can wear the things I love, but I know the weight and the clothes aren’t the key to unlocking the perfect version of me. There’s no waiting around for that person anymore – this is it.