I confess. I’m addicted to accessories. While I’ve always been drawn to accoutrements of all kinds, my so-called condition truly just came to light thanks to a recent move, when I was forced to take inventory of my countless baubles, and dozens of scarves, hats, and handbags, previously categorized by color and season. In packing for what was undoubtedly an exciting move in an upward direction, my nights were sleepless with worry over storage issues, accessibility and what would become of my collections? My sensitive but nevertheless fashion-challenged boyfriend urged me to take a look at the source of my stress. Could my accessories be taking over my life?
In order to responsibly assess, I had to take a solid step back. The seed for dependence was planted, I’m guessing, in high school, when the ever-changing fashion faux pas of the 1980s were consistently going out (and then farther out) of style, but only to make room for those even more offensive. From Madonna’s rubber bracelets to fluorescent leg warmers, those were the days when there was nowhere to hide from the shifting disasters of the day (let’s face it, you could spot those brazen ‘80s hues a mile away). A keen eye was mandatory to avoid outcast status, and though trends today are much more forgiving, the binge and purge instinct was permanently ingrained in my fashion-conscious psyche.
As an adult, I was never the one who needed to own the newest of the new, but that didn’t mean I didn’t gobble and hoard everything I liked. There’s an impulse for those of my disposition which prevents us from simply admiring something we might find befitting. Ownership is a must. When I recognized the impulse buyer in myself I tried all the recommended remedies—waiting three days before purchasing, limiting buys by the month—only to find myself obsessed day and night with a pair of unique pearl earrings, or fine leather gloves, which, if not still available when I journeyed back to the store, would only cause severe and lasting heartache. Willpower only seemed to create more work and distraction. For sure I had an issue, but still…was collecting fine accessories considered an official problem?
I’ve met plenty of women who have their own dressing rooms, and when I would find them, I’d foam at the mouth with envy and desire. There was also a tendency to affirm my own normalcy in the world, even if that tiny cubby of the universe only belonged to me and a girlfriend. I asked one about her means of boxing and labeling her shoes and she’d hiss “I have to do this,” pointing to the Polaroid pictures affixed to the front, “I have [gasp] sixty pairs of shoes!” That would be the moment I would mouth a silent “wow”, and breathe a sigh of quiet relief that my shoe count nearly tripled hers. I’d ride the cab home that evening remembering the moment in slow motion sepia, with an accompanying swell of pride and a smile.
It’s rare to find ample closet space in a New York City apartment, but before my most recent move, I was blessed with not one, but two wall closets—all to myself—and another walk-in in my bedroom. I’ve spent years constructing the perfect boxed storage bed that rest upon dozens upon dozens of shoes, all arranged by category. But perhaps the most ingenious—and now, telling—decision was when I turned my food pantry into storage for my beloved handbags, the intended stock shelving proving the perfect showcase for each darling little purse, my favorites sitting up front.
Any sensible person would agree that lack of voluminous closets wasn’t a good enough reason to pass up home ownership, which I’d been waiting for as long as I could remember. My new house would be ideal except for that one thing. The closets weren’t just small, they were non-existent. And the open floor plan did not allow for wardrobes on every wall, there were no walls between rooms. This meant that not only was I going to have to find a creative way of storing my clothes, but there was just no getting around it – my accessories, and thus, my addiction, were going to have to come out of the closet.
The weeks following moving day proved to be an all time accessories low. My aforementioned boyfriend, who’s been wearing the same pair of jeans for the last 10 years, was actually angered when boxes of bags and boots lay orphaned around the house. “Can’t you just get rid of this stuff?” he begged, and after much debate, I told him I would try. Thus, I was forced to take a full inventory, and see what I could live without. After a first inventory did not garner any results, a second was deemed necessary. I resolved to only keep those items that served one of three categories: 1. Functionality (the large black power beads I throw on every time I have an important meeting); 2. Necessity (the collection of my best clutch purses, some of which were my grandmother’s), and; 3. Sentimentality (my favorite black pumps). It was hard to do, but anything which had suffered a slight scuff, tear, or fading was passed along to charity; those less fortunate items was thrown in the garbage. I managed to pitch three large garbage bags of handbags, five shopping bags of shoes, and a small but significant bag of trinkets.
My new (relatively) low numbers opened my creative valves for new and improved storage concepts (as the idea of having everything out of sight was simply too much to bear). For my remaining handbags, I designed and built my own storage benches, measuring and picking out the wood to my own liking, and assuring that they would be snug and safe, and still out of sight. (I even built one additional for my winter warming items.) My shoes proved to be the least of my problems, and I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t remember the ones I’ve given away. The jewelry, while considerably less, remains in excess, but is now organized inside my armoire door with neat little hooks, earrings in earring holders not too far away.
Coco Chanel once said, “Fashion is architecture, it’s a matter of proportions.” I’ve learned that by paring down my proportions, I’ve made my daily fashion more accessible. And it’s not just my fashion style that’s considerably more sound, it’s my lifestyle as well. I can’t kid you, I still have more than most. But I’ve decided to hold strong to a personal sustainability. Gone are the cold sweats when I pass a cute bangle, passed are the obsessions with sample sales.
With my accessories addiction now under control, I just have one question: Is it possible for accessories addicts to be enabled by dozens of little black dresses, aligning her closet in eager anticipation of adornment? Just asking.