There are two doom & gloom themes you can’t escape reading about these days: the ruination of New York City and the death of fashion. How clichéd! I’m not buying any of it. Yes, these are dire times. Everything has changed, but this won’t last forever. The most recent article which alludes to fashion’s demise, “There’s No Going Back To The Way It Was: Sarah Rutson Is Cleaning Out Her Closet for a Post-Lockdown Moment” is written by Emily Farra and appears on vogue.com.
Last week, Rutson announced to her approximately 68.9K Instagram followers that she is saying “goodbye” to most of the vast, enviable designer wardrobe culled over the last 30 years as a buyer for Lane Crawford and Net-a-Porter and selling it on The RealReal.
Rutson is a longtime fashion industry veteran and a favorite of Street Style bloggers. A move to L.A. three years ago precipitated a new dressed down lifestyle. The recent pandemic proved to be the catalyst that sparked her desire to purge. Impossibly chic and model tall, Rutson was once known for her proclivity for very high heels. She is now grounded in Birkenstocks and apparently loving every minute of it.
“I’m done with keeping things. It’s about living life and not hanging onto ghosts of clothes. COVID has totally made me decide that my old life and the way I wore clothes are done and gone” says Rutson. I’ll bet Lynn Yaeger, an obsessive lifelong collector, has a different take on this. In fact, I’m waiting to see Lynn’s rebuttal on vogue.com!
As a lifelong collector who is attached to my clothing, the article left me with mixed feelings. Yes, it’s essential to periodically reassess, take stock of one’s life, and be realistic about one’s fashion needs. Times and tastes do change. Nobody can or should hold on to all their clothes. Certainly, nobody needs 500 pairs of high heels.
That being said, Rutson’s ambitious venture seems a bit extreme if not defeatist. It’s akin to Karl Lagerfeld’s assessment that buying sweatpants is a “sign of defeat”. “You lost control of your life, so you bought some sweatpants.” I actually found it depressing to read about this stylish young woman still in her prime, who is purging herself of “much” of her entire wardrobe.
Rutson is far too young to throw in the towel (Hermes or otherwise). She can reinvent herself many times. Look at Iris Apfel. To say that you know at the age of 52 exactly what your entire life will look like, and what your needs will be, is impossible. What if Sarah moves? What if her life takes a different path? What if she begins to crave some variety or simply wants to get dressed again? It’s all about variety, and everything gets old at some point. Sure, one can always buy new clothes, but it’s impossible to replace items from a painstakingly well-curated collection like Rutson’s.
Also, Rutson’s statements and her actions are a bit contradictory. In the article, Rutson emphasizes how important it is for women to reuse, repurpose, utilize their wardrobes more, and experiment with what they have. Even though Rutson says she doesn’t need a jacket and pencil skirt to walk around her California home, why not throw one of her sharply tailored Dries Van Noten, Sacai, Haider Ackerman, or Givenchy iterations over a pair of cargo pants and Birkenstocks? Surely, Rutson can figure out how to casualize her beloved pieces and work for her L.A. lifestyle.
Rutson is a skilled fashion mixologist. She has spent her professional career proving to her customers that you can wear virtually anything if you know how to put it together. Mixing it all up and pairing seemingly disparate elements is not only the fun part of fashion; it makes fashion look relevant and modern.
I just hope she doesn’t have any regrets. Rutson told Vogue.com that she won’t have any. Obviously, some of us are more attached to our clothing than others In a way, I am a bit envious of Rutson. I have a hard time parting with anything. Like everyone else, I am tapping into a small part of my wardrobe now. I have many great pieces. Even though I am not wearing them, it gives me pleasure just to know they are there. I’m holding onto the hope that one day, the occasion will arise. It is not worth my time or effort to sell them for a fraction of what I paid for them.
If anyone knows about clothing “separation anxiety”, Sandy Schreier is a pioneering collector of high fashion since the age of 2 1/2. “Something inside me told me it was too rare and too beautiful and should be saved for future generations”, observes Sandy.
Throughout a lifetime, Ms. Schreier has assembled one of the finest private fashion collections in the United States. Sandy’s exhibition at the Anna Wintour Costume Center, “The Sandy Schreier Collection: In Pursuit of Fashion,” runs through September 28. The Metropolitan Museum of Art reopens on August 29.
The 80 pieces on display represent part of a promised gift to the museum of 165 garments or accessories from Schreier’s legendary collection, which numbers several thousand pieces. I asked Sandy how she feels about sending her “babies” (as she calls them) off to the museum.
“I feel like I have thousands of children rather than just 4,” says Schreier. “My collection has also been my children, and they’ve been better than children because they don’t talk back” she joked. Her collection had been in storage for decades, so Sandy says it was great fun seeing them when the movers came to take it away. Sandy says she really thought it through and never had second thoughts, but at the same time, Sandy admits that she felt sick, as though she was sending her children off to summer camp knowing they would never return.
Cathy Horyn once told Sandy, “You are the collection, and the collection is you” and Sandy agrees that she felt as though she was losing a part of her body and soul. Sandy also admits that not a day goes by that something doesn’t trigger a memory of one of those pieces, and it does not get better with time.
When Sandy is on tour, her two most asked questions are: “How old are you?” and “Have you ever worn any of the pieces in the collection?” “I never equated my wearables with what I was collecting, but sometimes there was a crossover” notes Sandy. The only objects she bought to wear that became part of the collection was the Christian Francis Roth Breakfast suit, a Perry Ellis ensemble from 1981, Chanel shoes and matching pantyhose from 2000, and a Zandra Rhodes dress.
The only one that is actually on display as part of this exhibition is the Roth Egg suit made for Sandy. While Sandy says she did not feel bad about giving that up because she had worn it several times, she did feel sad about giving away a beautiful gold ensemble that Zandra Rhodes made for her. Schreier wore it on Oprah Winfrey’s Christmas T.V. show and says it has great sentimental value.
While Sandy never wore the Madeline & Madeline Egyptian gown that is on display at the foot of the stairs, she felt sad about parting with that. “I was a little girl when Matilda Dodge, a client of my father’s at Russek’s Fur Salon, gave this to me. The dress brought back my childhood and my memory of being so excited when I saw that dress as a child. But, I am glad that they gave it the number 1 place of honor. Everyone oohs and ahhs when they walk downstairs and see it. I’m glad that I brought a lot of joy to many people seeing it, and that made me happy”.
FYI, Sandy is continually being told by the Costume Institute staff (the security guards hear and see everything) that hers is their favorite Costume Institute exhibition and a favorite of the attendees because it is relatable yet is also a fairy tale. And everyone wants to live a fairy tale.
“Fashion is in my brain, my heart, and my whole body,” says Schreier, who is starting to enjoy her beautiful clothes and admits to getting “really dressed” again. Sandy is shopping for new things, and she is also shopping in her closets. Sandy’s many Instagram followers have sent her stylish face masks, which she wears with her Dries Van Noten pantsuits and good shoes. Some of them have even copied pictures from her Met exhibition and put them on the masks.