'I could see Carrie Johnson wearing this’: tales from my brutal wardrobe detox | Zoe Williams

A friend’s harsh criticisms of my moth-eaten jumpers had me throwing things out faster than she could say: ‘Why don’t you have any normal clothes?’

I had a top that used to be my mother’s, which I gave to my stepdaughter, and after every known spillage and tribulation – this garment survived 30 years being worn by me, and I don’t look after things – it is still in existence. I showed a photograph of it to my mum and she said: “Wow, it wasn’t even new when I bought it.” And she bought it in the 1950s. It should be in a lab, being dissected for the secrets of its longevity: instead, it is on a bedroom floor, under a cup.

To my knowledge, it is the only thing that has come into my wardrobe and left it. Even to think about getting rid of things sets off a cascade of disaster-hypotheticals. What if this thing that doesn’t fit suddenly fits because, I don’t know, I have a wasting disease? What if I need this moth-eaten jumper because I need to paint the entire house, for reasons I can’t even guess at?

Anyway, I told all that to my friend C, who craves order even in other people’s houses, and she came round regardless to “detox my wardrobe”, which is what she calls throwing out all your clothes. I thought her crusade against entropy would be much weaker than my hoarding. But she had a plan, and I didn’t.

She started softly: “Yes, I can picture you in this … in the 90s.” “I wore it last week,” I said. “Shall we make a separate ‘heritage’ section in your wardrobe?” “OK, fine, I’ll get rid of it.” It got so much harsher. “This is the kind of thing a GB News presenter would wear.” Jesus. Burn it. “I can see Carrie Johnson wearing this on a Tuesday.” Stinging. “Don’t these colours make you depressed?” Well, they do now. A load of stuff got earmarked “summer” and put under the stairs, but I’m starting to understand that is just a holding station for when I pass into the acceptance stage of grief.

Finally, surveying what was by now three jumpers, three pairs of jeans and a novelty scarf with dogs on it, she said: “Why don’t you have any normal clothes?” I’m going to have to go back to my mother’s and see if, scoping the Oxfam shop circa 1952, she ever found anything normal.

  • Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist

  • Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a response of up to 300 words by email to be considered for publication in our letters section, please click here.


Zoe Williams

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