FEBRUARY 08, 2020

Closet case

BY FIEL ESTRELLA
ILLUSTRATION BY RAII LE BOHN

It’s never too late to discover your inner fashion maven.

I don’t tend to think of myself as a late bloomer. Puberty arrived early for me, and I stopped hoping to grow any taller in high school. I’ve had the same favorite book since I was 18. I’ve always been the type to have what I liked and who I was figured out, even as I changed and shifted with the times.

Thinking back on it now, though, there were definitely moments where I had to play catch-up. I’ve only recently discovered that I love sushi. I saw my first Star Wars movie at 21 years old. And until very recently, I wasn’t interested in shopping for clothes at all. To me, the new year — and the Christmas money that always came with it — always meant new books, a new planner or two, maybe new CDs and a new bag to lug them all around in. I never understood my cousins who could spend hours trying on items at Zara and Mango while I wandered off to the bookstore then sat around and thumbed through my new paperbacks.

For some perspective, one major wardrobe overhaul I had was at the very beginning of my stint in university, and all my parents and I shopped for were pairs of jeans and shirts. That was it. My favorite was a white Switch Nation tee with David Bowie’s mugshot on it, which I thought and still think was cool because it looked like it belonged in Alexa Chung’s closet (and which I once spilled strawberry juice on, the artificial red making it look bloodstained and somehow even cooler), but that’s the farthest I ever got when thinking about sartorial matters.

It’s funny to me, too, because I once dreamt of being a fashion designer — the only instance of it ever coming true being the one time I attended prom, when I tore out Louis Vuitton ads from Teen Vogue for inspiration and it resulted in the prettiest lace midnight blue dress with sleeves up to my elbows and a straight neckline.

Lately, it’s becoming more and more common for me to take a day for myself and buy new clothes; browsing the racks, trying on piece by piece, paying for everything myself, and all. I made it my mission as soon the holidays were over to go to the mall and get myself a new wardrobe. My favorite Christmas gift was from me to me: a P50 cardigan that looks and feels like I stole it from BTS leader Kim Namjoon, a.k.a. RM.

Dressing rooms used to be boring and tedious, but now they’re safe havens for experimentation and maybe overstaying so I can take a nice couple of self-portraits in the mirrors. (Done Alexa Chung-style, of course, with only one eye peeking behind my phone.)

I started putting way more thought into what I wore, not in a self-absorbed way. It was about my job in the beginning — how I had to attend events thrown by the biggest fashion magazines and felt a little like Andy Sachs in my oversize button-down and the pinstriped pants I just got at the thrift store the other day, or how I would go to cover shoots in my same old Strokes tee and jeans distressed by time and wear. But I kept doing it because it was fun and I actually enjoyed it. 

It was a gradual growth, brought about by both necessity and a changed perspective. I’m figuring out what I like, and right now it’s casual knitwear, fun jackets, shirts that end right at my waist, and lots of olive greens. I can’t wait until the next time I get to update my closet — but I’m also fine where I’m at, because it’s getting colder and I can finally wear all those jackets I’ve been hoarding.