To All The Clothes I’ve Bought Before, But Haven’t Worn

… yet

There’s an active and an inactive side to every woman's closet. There are those clothes and accessories that are in weekly rotation and others that still have the tags on them. My mom has boxes of hats she hasn’t worn, vintage Coach bags she’s never carried, color-coordinated suits she’s never put on. Some items she holds on to for sentimental value (so she says—hoarding sort of runs in my family!), while others are the emergency items; the pieces you might not need in the moment, but that will come in handy should and if a more appropriate time or event arises.

I have those items, too. Dresses I’ve bought for the impromptu weddings I might have to attend (both fall and summer; casual and black tie). Necklaces I purchased during trips that are draped on the corners of my mirrors and rarely around my chest. But most of the stagnant pieces in my closet can be categorized as aspirational; the pieces I keep around for the “someday” days.

I started shopping this way a couple of years ago. It was the summer after college. I was balancing trying to find a job while also figuring out what it is I wanted to do, and I'd just discovered eBay. I was caught up in a bidding war with another user over a pair of tan, platform, lace-up Loeffler Randall booties I’d seen a fashion editor wear in a street style picture once. They were impractical and not exactly my style at the time, but that didn’t matter. I needed them. They, I’d convinced myself, would be what I wore when I was in that editor’s (literal) shoes one day. They would come to make up the wardrobe of my future self.

I read a story recently that explains most people approach shopping in a similar manner, purchasing for fantasy rather than reality. “That’s why so many people love to shop—it’s an exercise in preparation,” the article states. “Shopping stimulates our imaginations. As we consider different items we imagine how others will respond to us, how we’ll feel wearing it, and so forth.” The story refers to this occurrence though as an act of “self-deception” and “misperception of ourselves.” I don’t see it as that. I see it as an act of manifestation. What is fashion good for if not to help us fantasize a better, refined, bolder self? Clothes merely help us turn those visuals into something more tangible.  

My future-self-wardrobe has expanded over the years to include a pair of monster truck Burberry heels, a green faux fur coat, a pair of pink wide-legged satin pants, amongst other things. These items have never left the confines of my apartment, but the tan Loeffler Randall shoes have. I wore them during New York Fashion Week this past season, and they were just as impractical as I imagined, but wearing them felt like stepping into the shoes of the self I pictured all those years ago. If I had gotten rid of them any earlier, it would’ve almost been like getting rid of that image altogether.   

I’m not saying to never purge your closet of things you don’t wear. You should—especially if the items in it don’t serve your present or future self anymore. But I’m also saying that sometimes those “someday” purchases end up being the best kind. You just might not know it yet.