Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Wear and tear: London's appetite for my wardrobe

When I moved to London I anticipated I might have to make some sacrifices.  There would be no more driving around in my beloved car, no more living rent-free in my parents' large, comfortable house with its lovely, green garden.  Work hours would probably be longer and places I wanted to visit would be busier.  I would have to give up fresh air and clear skin, and make my peace with a string of colds (ooh and Swine Flu) caught on unhygienic public transport.  What I had not been prepared to sacrifice were my clothes.  

London is quite literally destroying my wardrobe.  Since I have lived in this city my poor clothes are being damaged, eaten up and worn out at a surprising speed.  No items are safe - tights, coats, jackets, jumpers, skirts.  This city, aided by some of its inhabitants, is slowly devouring them all. London's streets, buses and tubes, even bars and clubs, are site of sartorial sabotage. I know that one should expect a little wear and tear over time but it is not unknown for a brand new item of clothing to not even pass a single day unscathed in this city.
Hosiery has been my most vulnerable clothing category, and buses have been their Waterloo. Random screws sticking out of seats, the zips of other commuters' jackets, and worse of all exposed velcro have all claimed fresh deniers mere minutes after they had been worn out the front door. Wet, dripping, unfurled umbrellas are my poor leg-cladding's nemesis; so many spikey spokes.

Jackets and coats too have been similarly harassed by other people's errant accessories. I recently seethed for an entire afternoon, cursing the woman who could not be bothered to do up the flapping metal buckle on her handbag that caught my beloved boucle jacket, and pulled out a large woolly knot. I have stared down mothers of flailing children, cringeing away from their sticky fingers and carelessly flamboyant colouring-in (felt-tip pens have no place on a bus!) to protect my beloved black wool coat, purchased at mind-bending expense from Ted Baker with the express purpose of making me look well-groomed and sophisticated, not well-thumbed by jammy-fingered sprogs.

I cannot count the pairs of shoes which have succumbed to the city, soles worn through by the harsh, abrasive pavements. I have become intimately acquainted with an excellent cobbler who patiently repairs worn heels and scuffed toes. He is a resurrecting shoe-doctor, coaxing a few extra weeks or months of life out of my dying footwear.

Even at home, where due to my ongoing flat decoration scheme (current end-date expected: 2020), most of my clothes reside on a large, ugly metal frame rack, they are not safe. Lepidoptera are out to get my wardrobe too. A gorgeous Diane von Furstenburg jumper I picked up for a song at Bloomingdale's in New York was the one thing in my chest of drawers that moths munched their way through.  Expensive tastes, these moths.  Actually that's not quite true; they also seem to like the taste of my tea towels, but as I don't tend to wear those out and about very often this bothers me less.

Somedays - on the rare days I leave the house feeling rather well-dressed as opposed to not caring what I look like as I am late, late, late - I wish I could travel through the streets of the city in a protective bubble, bouncing away those people and items of street furniture which threaten my look.  A simple, private chaufer-driven car would be bliss...

Should I give in and succumb to a wardrobe of stains, tears and holes in beautiful clothing, or should I begin to shop with an eye for the functional and damage-proof?  Heart-breaking though it is to witness one's much loved items become eaten up by the city, I still cannot bring myself to give in and buy clothes that are so sensible and ugly that I don't even care whether they are destroyed or not.  But I must not to get too sentimental.  Clothes are of course just material things.  These days, with fast fashion, eBay and chain stores everywhere, even if a much-loved item is damaged you can usually find a replacement somewhere.  And that means an excuse to go shopping - every cloud has a silver lining! 


  1. What a nice post! I totally understand the problem here. That said, I am also quite surprised: most young people (Just to clarify : your generation, as you know I am slightly older) has absolutely no problems in wearing jumper with huge holes and ripped tights (apparently it is cool). Are you sure you are not French? I sometimes wonder...

  2. Maybe I do have an inner French-person when it comes to my wardrobe, MuMuGB. I have a loathing for holey clothing...as a result I've become an expert mender since I've moved to London!


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