Let’s call it a wrap

Hannah Betts is hooked on the insouciance of a vast scarf


This article is taken from the April 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

I was talking to m’learned friend, A.N. Other Fashion Bitch, of late, lamenting that writing about matters style may prove life-enhancing, but is a sure-fire way to end up destitute. “God, I don’t buy all that tat,” she eye rolled. “I mean, no one buys clothes any more. We’ve got to save the planet.” “Oh, God, yeah, same,” I replied.

This is a lie. I buy all the tat. As you read this, I will be buying more tat. I’m not just toying with this shit, or endeavouring to offload it onto you. I want this stuff, crave it, have received psychological treatment for my obsession with it. As a former alcoholic, I am aware that no one is ever a former alcoholic, and that addiction will invariably whack-a-mole up elsewhere.

I buy all the tat. As you read this, I will be buying more tat

Pity poor David Smallwood, former manager of the Priory’s addiction unit, and author of Who Says I’m an Addict? (er, he does), whom I consulted in relation to my Zara habit. Now it would be the second-hand delights of Vestiaire Collective so — you know — planet saved. I record every purchase, take responsibility for them, but on they roll.

My appetite is no less about eroticism, fetishisation, the thrill of the chase. Rationally, I know that my wardrobe (OK, three wardrobes, a beneath-the-bed holding area, and sundry drawer arrangements) should be officially closed for business.

Or, as the cops put it in US police dramas: “Show’s over. Nothing to see. Move it along.” Last month, I purchased a corsage, before realising that I didn’t even have the capacity for an 8cm brooch. I wake Zen-like chanting, “There is nothing I want or need,” believing this for some minutes before plunged back into the Sturm und Drang of lust, gambling, desire; sartorial sobriety lost for another day.

Back when I was single, I would go to bed thinking about some fleeting object of my affections (term used necessarily loosely). These days, I will be obsessing over a garment, an accessory, a jewel; gazing at it on websites, sourcing vintage options, cross-referencing it against fixations past. Witness the recent 24 hours in which my pash on a gigantic blue scarf escalated into full do-me-now-bitch mania.

My first sighting occurred on 10 January, when I ripped its image out of a colour supplement, despite its price tag being a punchily unobtainable £325. Still, said comforter was operatically huge (“super-massive over-sized!” according to one enthusiast), the most electric of blues, utterly cheering, its model super-cool, and did I mention that we’re bored out of our tiny minds?

Plus its brand — it had a brand — is called Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, C-Jeff being an avant-garde 2015 St Martin’s alumnus financed by a weekly night-club slot beloved of drag queens, and into “craftsmanship with a couture sensibility”. I mean, COME ON. My scarf — it was already my scarf — was also sold out the world over, only exacerbating my hard-on.

Full disclosure: even as I fantasised, I was aware that it might not even be that nice. The “chunky stockinette stitch” and floor-pooling dimensions may scream “Celtic revival,” but veered equally close to “Grandma’s got crap maths”.

Still, I love a vast scarf for its fuck-you insouciance. Style references: Bob Cratchit; former J. Crew designer Jenna Lyons’s Noughties big scarf, mannish jacket, cut-off trews and heels vibe; and Lenny Kravitz, savagely memed since being consumed by a copious knitted number back in 2012.

Besides, what could be more late-Covid than wandering about in a security blanket, having finally ditched one’s coat for spring? It’s just that I already boast several thousand of them: in wool, silk, fur, cape/scarf hybrids, and doubtless other sub-genres I am forgetting. It would be fair to say that I like a scarf.

And so I did what any addict worth their salt would do. I hunted for tolerable alternatives, failed to unearth any that weren’t drab or costing triple figures, then located The Last Remaining Purchasing Option on a site called Grailed (think: chaps flogging streetwear). A Moscow collector (!) was offering my scarf — not yet my scarf — for $275, reduced from an original $420.

This not being my first rodeo, I offered $195. They came back with $225, and we settled on $215, plus $25 postage: a tumescence-shrinking £172.35. I did this, needless to say, during the nation’s greatest financial crisis since 1709, having failed to earn for weeks because of illness followed by a costly computer crisis. Still, it would complete my look and thus my so-called life.

Three days later: it arrives. I love it, am living for it, must Insta it and have my style choices endorsed. Ten minutes after that: I’m over it. I hate myself. I’ve dislocated my left shoulder. But, I am kind of into this bag …

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