'My fashion acquisition is driven by lust, by want rather than need'
'My fashion acquisition is driven by lust, by want rather than need'

Why a good wardrobe can be an art form: The appeal of archive couture

There's something wonderful about having a wardrobe curated as carefully as a museum

Alexander Fury
Monday 21 March 2016 19:59

Here's a dreadful confession – or one on which many people will judge me, and will judge to be dreadful.

I spend a lot of money on clothes (incidentally, nobody in my family has any special interest in fashion – so I have no idea where this obsession comes from). A spurious justification for my interest has often been the concept of wardrobe as a collection, of buying Gallianos the same way other people buy Gainsboroughs (or something slightly more realistic). Which isn't so spurious, when you do the mathematics – not just of how much I've spent, but of the resale value of clothes lying unworn in the attic.

I think there's something wonderful about having a wardrobe curated as carefully as a museum, one that winds up as a testament to its own time – or rather, your time. That's the thing with most of the world's great costume collections – they were seldom originally curated as such. Rather, they're formed from the multiple wardrobes of multiple people, shovelled together. Even – or perhaps especially – the grand, unreal ball gowns that so impressively fill vitrine space and pander to many a Cinderella fantasy.

Today, they're swelled by donations from fashion houses – cementing their own place in the annals of history by writing off a hefty chunk of couture as a tax-deductible – and perhaps specific purchases of key items at auction.

But even those purchases normally start somewhere, on someone's back. The vintage auctioneer Kerry Taylor has told me many a tale of digging through suitcases of cast-offs to find archive couture – say, a mint-condition, barely worn embroidered Schiaparelli jacket – that subsequently sell for hundreds of thousands.

I don't buy clothes in the hope of either myself or future generations flogging them for a king's ransom. As with most people, my fashion acquisition is driven by lust, by want rather than need.

Nevertheless, there is something seductive about the big idea of my wardrobe being for posterity, not just for the season; that one day a museum will wind up with my historical cast-offs. Possibly immortalised with plaques and portraits and other commemorative ephemera. Maybe in a wing.

I really do mean historical – there are “fashion moments” worth investing in, and collecting. They may be moments you have no intention of wearing. I bought one of Junya Watanabe's concertina-pleat capes – it's a wonderful thing to have, but I've no delusion of dressing to resemble a folded paper-cocktail decoration.

Ten years from now? I think I'll crack it out and marvel at it. Maybe next to a Gainsborough. Because although fashion isn't art, it can still end up in a museum. So why not invest it as such

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