My personal fall-out with the obsession with the ‘ideal image’.
As a small kid, I never really understood the whole obsession with looks and dressing to impress. I saw dressing as a basic function of looking appropriate and feeling comfortable. It was only in highschool days when I felt this invisible pressure from society to start looking trendier than ever. Not so much a need as it was a self-commitment to blend in with the crowd.
It wasn’t until I met a group of friends (introduced to me by a mutual friend) who splurged excessively on luxury goods. I’m talking not only high street brands (e.g. Supreme, Off-White, Chrome Hearts), but also luxury brands (e.g. Prada, Louis Vuitton, Loewe), of which I jumped right into the latter. And it’s not like we were financially independent adults who could afford to throw money away like that; we were barely coming-of-age school kids who didn’t know how to spend our parents’ money any better. In my case, I used up three-quarters of my lifelong savings – put aside for me by my parents and relatives – on fashionable clothing and accessories that I knew wouldn’t even remain trendy after one or two seasons. Just to sidetrack, in fashion, there are four main seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. The seasons are grouped in pairs as such – Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Each pair lasts for around 6 months, so Spring/Summer would start in January and end in June, while Fall/Winter would start in July and end in December.
Go back in time to the year 2017. It was that fateful day in early November when I sat down in front of my laptop with my resolved mind to purchase my first-ever piece of clothing that would set me down this road of buying addiction for the next few months. I opened my web browser (Safari since I was using a MacBook) and typed ‘fashion clothing’ into the Google search bar. The first search result that appeared was farfetch.com and I almost instinctively – without even knowing what the reputable online fashion multi-label retail stores were – clicked on the link which brought me to this page featuring loads of high fashion brands I had never heard of before.
Then, it was still Fall/Winter collection and all the clothing I saw online was heavily padded and made of wool and thick cotton. For no rhyme or reason, I opened the menu and clicked on ‘Alexander McQueen’. I hovered the cursor over this peacock embroidered bomber jacket that was blanched in leaf-green hues. What happened next was stupefying – I added the item to my shopping cart and checked out thereafter. Without flinching, I whipped out my debit card and keyed in all the details. Total cost: US$2,900.
And that wasn’t a one-time purchase. Subsequently, over the course of the next year or so, I would go on to purchase several other pieces of clothing such as a Haider Ackermann long-sleeved, plaid shirt jacket (US$2,113) and a Riccardo Comi distressed, woollen sweater (US$400). Funny thing was, when I received the clothing and tried it on, I realised that I’d got the sizing all wrong because I had chosen the size based on the European standard and hadn’t bothered to check against the size chart to find out what my corresponding international size was. But anyway, I could wear oversized clothing and pass it off as a fashion statement.
Yes, that was my excuse for wearing not only ill-fitting clothing, but outfits that were generally more outlandish or weren’t considered socially acceptable. I was slowly creating my own definition of ‘fashionable’ as a means of bypassing fashion trends. I eventually transitioned into vintage clothing as it was a cheaper alternative to first-hand luxury goods that were financially unsustainable. I started visiting websites like grailed.com, marketplace.asos.com and vestiairecollective.com for my monthly dose of vintage clothing parcels to be shipped to my home address. It was all fun and games until my wallet went bust. My savings went down the drain and I was left penniless for my daily expenditure. That was when I suddenly got shaken out of my lucid dream of living the ‘high life’ (or so I thought). I soon realised that I was unable to keep up with my uncontrollable spending habits and felt that I was going nowhere with my current group of friends. It was too alluring a dream to wake up from – and an even harder reality to wake up to. I didn’t want to acknowledge that the friends that I was surrounding myself with had subconsciously influenced me into a life of unnecessary wants and illusory necessities.
I’ve gone back to my old way of dressing for the sake of dressing. I still wear my semi-faded Uniqlo jeans and grey, stretched-out Zara t-shirt. I’ve only just begun picking up the little bits and pieces of my fragmented dignity. Nonetheless, I will never be able to reclaim all the money that I lost in the indulgent pursuit of establishing a make-believe facade: one which shielded my naivety in believing that external impressions could drastically elevate my self-confidence (little did I know, it was the reverse).