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Still ambivalent about fashion

Ask anyone with an addiction how they feel about it, and they’ll likely tell you they’re ambivalent. There are, after all, so many good things about smoking, like increased memory function, weight loss and an overall cosmopolitan appearance. But then there’s lung cancer’hellip; I guess what makes an addict an addict is her unwavering tenacity to her addiction. She remains steadfast, proving her loyalty to her addiction as a battered but ever-satiated victim. How can something considered a weakness be such a salient display of strength? Like the ambivalent smoker, I myself, harbor an addiction. It’s filthy and shallow and I hate it, but I can’t shake it, and I don’t want to. My addiction finds me in line at Quality Mart several times a month, standing among the other shamefaced addicts. But while their knuckles blanche, tightly gripping cases of beer, or while they soil their cashmere scarves, allowing them to dangle over the greasy counter of the checkout as they lean hungrily over it to point out their desired cigarettes, I stand preoccupied, digging at the bottom of my purse for my last five dollar bill, cradling the newest Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in the other arm. It’s the kind of strength that makes you sacrifice food for something more substantial.

To love fashion is one thing. But to be obsessed with it — so obsessed that you know the name every model in every designer’s ad, that you actually admitted during a college interview that your favorite nonfiction piece is Andre Leon Talley’s coverage of the Spring 2007 Paris shows in Vogue, and that you find a way to work your lust over Proenza Schouler’s satin bustier dresses into casual lunchtime conversation — is the kind of burden that calls on the strength of an addict. It drains you as a person ‘- you constantly feel weak compared to Lagerfeld, ugly compared to Moss, uninspired compared to Jacobs and boring compared to Galliano. You see the newest Vogue as a challenge, saying to yourself, ‘No, not this time. This time it’s just a magazine’hellip;’ but as soon as you reach the letter to the editor you realize, once again, how hooked you really are. You chastise yourself, ‘Of all the things I could have gotten addicted to, why did it have to be fashion?’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

Because fashion is so untouchable, isn’t it? There’s no instant gratification fashion, although H&M comes pretty close, and there’s no tangibility, no physical fulfillment. If you’re a broke, connectionless person like me ‘- especially if you’re from a stagnant little city in Maine ‘- the culture of fashion seems as close as you can get to a fairy tale. In Vogue, I’ll read about some glamorous socialite going to her designer friend’s summer home in Capri. The two dine on spinach omelets on the terrace in the morning and spend the afternoon traipsing up and down the beach in white gauze dresses while joking about their years at Sorbonne. It’s times like those when I find myself hitting some kind of wall with my addiction ‘- what a stupid, worthless lifestyle! And yet I crave it. I try to quell my desires with other magazines like National Geographic and Rolling Stone, but nothing consumes me the way Vogue does.

My fashion obsession, festering and brooding over my lifetime like a well-dressed virus, has reduced me to an envious, materialistic and shallow creature. Instead of band or movie posters, I paper my walls with editorial photographs because the way the light slams into the dress as it sprawls across the body is more moving to me than Kanye West’s catchiest song. What is it about this kind of impeccable beauty that compels me and millions of fashion addicts the world over to devote ourselves to it each day? Why do we let fashion push us around the way it does? ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

Maybe it’s because once fashion takes you down to your lowest point, it unfailingly fills you up again. Once I throw a finished Vogue in the trash, eager to cleanse myself of that repugnant smell of materialism, I kneel down and take it out again for one more look. It’s all so cyclic, as addiction always is: arousing an appetite, then leaving you with a different kind of hunger, then replenishing you when you give it another try. It’s cathartic in its own, unintentional way. Among all the posturing of other pursuits, fashion actually stands out as something sincere. It doesn’t claim to do anything more important than to beautify the human form. When the answer to ‘Is there any beauty in this world anymore?’ walks by you in the shape of a classic Chanel tweed suit, you begin to realize how satisfied fashion can make you.

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