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The unworn closet: women and hoarding

Vintage collection reveals unworn delights

Ahlya Fateh

Published: Updated:

I have been writing this column now for almost six months and the question I am asked most of the time is “how do you think of things to write about every week?” Easy as falling off a log, I would reply airily. However, this week I was a little stuck for inspiration – was there anything going on that would provide that spark that set my fingers tapping out an outline to tempt my editor with? It was looking bleak and then BAM! My muse hit me right between the eyes with the blisteringly expensive Birkin bag that she is carrying at the moment.

On Dec 7, an entire collection of vintage clothing owned by one Vervia Todd collected over seventy years will go on sale at her former home in County Durham, England. Vintage clothing sales are nothing new but this particular auction is of clothes that were never worn...ever! Reporters are comparing the war widow who never remarried after her fiancé was killed during the war to Dickens’ famous Miss Havisham.

Stylish hoard

Such was the extent of Vervia’s hoarding that it has taken one whole year to collate and catalogue all her belongings ranging from designer dresses to pristine lingerie, cosmetics and toiletries, all bought in large quantities and never used! My first thought was how fast can I get to County Durham? Then sanity and the sight of my own bulging closets reined me back.

Instead, I spent some time thinking of the late Vervia as she travelled the world, buying dresses that she would never get to wear, perfumes that she would never scent her skin with and hats and shoes that would remain wrapped in tissue waiting for an outing and I felt overwhelming sadness - sadness for a young woman who lost her love and then created a monument to all the outings and events she would never get the chance to accompany him to..

I spent some time thinking of the late Vervia as she travelled the world, buying dresses that she would never get to wear, perfumes that she would never scent her skin with and hats and shoes that would remain wrapped in tissue waiting for an outing

Ahlya Fateh

As the collection of unmade memories grew, Vervia simply stashed them in empty rooms that she closed off to the world and so they remained until they were discovered after her death. What prompted her to hoard in this extreme manner and what drives us all to shop for clothes we will never wear?

Recently fashion designer/Spice girl Victoria Beckham had a massive closet clear out and donated boxes of shoes, clothes and accessories from herself and footballer hubby David to the British Red Cross in aid of the Phillipines.

Thousands of people queued for hours to get a shot at buying Posh’s barely worn, size 4 Jimmy Choos or David’s hand tailored tuxedos – all at crazy prices. While the Beckhams deserve our admiration for their charitable efforts, I would like to draw your attention to some of the buyers, who once they had waited and queued and fought for their purchase, immediately listed it on Ebay for three times the price!

Worthy of Beckham

One would have thought that getting a custom-made tux for £100 would be enough of an enticement but obviously not for that customer. He immediately had to put it up for sale for another punter who might consider himself worthy of wearing David Beckham’s clothes. I bet money that in ten years time all the items bought at the sale will remain unworn, preserved as relics to the celebrity that donated them in the first place.

I have written openly about my own issues with keeping stuff, mostly hidden away from prying eyes, worn only once...maybe twice and then kept...I admit I won’t wear them again but my memories of how I was when I wore them, keep them tucked away in my closet.

But unlike Miss Vervia Todd, all my stash has been worn at some point or another, to have and not to use, or take pleasure in, goes against my grain. I believe you should eat off your Herend china, drink out of your Baccarat glasses and sleep on your Porthault sheets yourself or you risk atrophying in the same way Miss Havisham did. If you don’t see yourself as worthy of your purchases then perhaps you have no business buying them in the first place.

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Ahlya Fateh knows all about fashion and publishing. As the former managing editor of Tatler magazine and the managing director of fashion brand, Tata Naka, she has combined a strong creative vision with an understanding of strategy and management. Ahlya lives in London and is a mother of two.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.