Coco considers a pillbox purge

Steam and cedar

How to moth-proof your carefully curated personal V&A


This article is taken from the April 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

On 1 March, eight weeks fast-fashion clean, I smugly concluded that 2022 would be my first Zara-free year. “I’m just not feeling it,” I breezed. “That thrill-seeking, irresponsible part of me is dead.” I went online to confirm this and was instantly mainlining £59.99 bouclé like the crack whore we know me to be.

“You’re better than that,” my proper fashion editor pal decreed. Am I though? Am I really? I tried it on — a double-breasted blazer, sharp-shouldered, in grassy emerald — and it was so jolly, such a riposte to the Prevailing Drabness, that I kept it. 

Besides, Zara had taken the trouble of green-washing it for me with phrases such as “Join Life”, “At least 25 per cent recycled cotton” and something about an “outer shell”. Small consolation for the children who made it, what with buildings forever collapsing on them, but at least they may continue to boast a planet for their sweatshop.

Every time you shift, you hold a clear-out — dem’s de rules

Besides, all fashion becomes slow if one is tight enough: I’m still wearing things I purchased aged 14 that were already vintage then. The key is to cherish one’s purchases, store them with love, and devote the time one might have spent obsessively caning new stuff into preserving what one has. 

One must be forever curating, editing and restoring as if in possession of one’s own mini V&A. Then, as with AA’s solution for alcohol addiction, this energy put into sartorial “service work” will prove a distraction that keeps one sober. The best time to make a start is obviously during the shift. 

You know, the shift: that moment when you pack up your winter wool and unbox your cotton for the bare-legged season; followed by a second shift when you store away your summer togs for autumn about ten days later. Every time you shift, you hold a clear-out — dem’s de rules.

A style purge always entails the question: “Who am I now?” — never more so than post-pandemic. Life has not yet quite begun again, leaving whole genres in question (see: office wear, pulling pants, cocktail hats). Hormones may be useful — the nuclear variety attendant on the third trimester of pregnancy, say, or PMT. 

Start with low-hanging fruit such as the more jaded hosiery for that vital opening fillip. Do away with anything that doesn’t fit you, doesn’t suit you, or is actively depressing, even if the cause is inexplicable.

Style mavens steam their “pieces”

Should you own several versions of the same thing, rid yourself of the least satisfying handful. And keep your eyes peeled for expensive mistakes that some other bitch can make use of while you kerching. 

Bear in mind that, just because something is great, doesn’t mean it should be yours, à la my McQueen scarf that is objectively outstanding, while never quite moi. Sell any designer goods on Hewi and give the rest to charity/your nieces. 

While engaged in your shift-cum-shedding, remove all clothing, vacuum your drawers and wardrobe (Amazon’s handheld devices can be had from £22.99), then wipe everything down with (bleach-free) anti-bac. Anything that deters and/or eradicates food sources for our flitting enemy is a plus, although I can’t stomach the acrid reek of traditional moth balls. 

Instead, I deploy cedar oil in assorted guises, soap, and chichi Santa Maria Novella pot pourri (from £22, I’m also considering forsaking heterosexuality, my partner’s mandrobe comprising an emotional time capsule of the food- and sweat-ridden, living-history kind.

Style mavens steam their “pieces”, as this not only wipes out wrinkles but bacteria, proves perfect for items that are dry-clean only, and brilliant at preventing moths. Today’s steamers are small, gun-like and ecologically-friendly. 

Top of the crop is the Stockholm Steamery Cirrus No 2 (£110, The brand also sells debobblers (£40), and material-preserving detergents (£15), albeit my posh wash of choice is Kair (from £16,, with its sublime cedarwood, amber and iris aroma.

As you sort, establish what requires rescuing by way of shoulder pads, or a trip to Liberty’s button department. It is a source of wonder what can be achieved with mass tat via a tenner discharged in the latter. I take any vaguely troubling rig-outs to the eponymous heroine of Covent Garden’s Carmen’s Tailoring Studio to have them expertly fitted (from £15, 

Carmen is not only the genius the world’s fashionistas trust to restyle their most exorbitant concoctions, she will even be frank when something requires no adjustment whatsoever. She also provides sewing lessons at £50 an hour. But, alas, I myself am beyond redemption

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