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This is a story about hubris and heartbreak, just like all the fables about fashion and capitalism worth telling are. It began with the desire to unburden myself of a few symbolically loaded items of clothing: a few pairs of black dress pants suitable mostly for business-casual-to-formal office jobs, several similarly patterned dresses creating predictability in my wardrobe, and some American Apparel separates I hoped to abandon officially in a show of allegiance to Uniqlo. I would surrender these items on the British marketplace app Depop, chosen because I had seen it was the platform of choice for two women I followed on Twitter and Instagram whose aptitude with skincare and makeup made me lose sleep in fits of envy. Once free of these atrophying textiles, I imagined my closet would be not just a storage space but an airy, delicately scented sanctuary for a wardrobe that really felt like me — whoever that is.
To say I was without other motives would be a lie. The motive, of course, was to profit handsomely from the sale of these earthly wares. I had been guaranteed by countless articles in women’s magazines and on sites specializing in the brutal-sounding “life hack” genre that I would find salvation from clutter and easy income through any number of e-commerce apps. Young plebeians like myself had fashioned themselves into self-made entrepreneurs by selling their mountains of wardrobe detritus or the enormous collection of over 1,000 pairs of sneakers they were hoarding. I would soon join their ranks.
I gathered the unwitting garments who would be going up for adoption (to homes I had no way of knowing were any good or not) and plopped the pile down on the floor in my guest room. (It has the best light and the prettiest wallpaper in the house.) I arranged a stack of hardcover books on the bed with an unopened Diet Coke can balanced atop it, then leaned my phone against the Diet Coke can. This is the ideal set-up for taking selfies using the painfully neglected timer function on a smartphone’s camera. Using the timer made it appear that I had a boyfriend, friend, or well-trained raccoon take the photos instead of me, all alone. I snapped 10-15 photos in each garment, ensuring my butt looked like the peach emoji incarnate in shots of fitted pants. I casually bent one leg outward. I smized.
I selected the four best and most versatile photos of each piece and described it in detail on the app. I filtered my age away.
I unleashed my Depop link on Twitter and Facebook and within 24 hours, someone had purchased two cocktail dresses: a cream and glaucous Adam Lippes silk dress and a black Chloé dress with a velvet waist tie and pockets, no less. I sold them for $60 apiece, below their market value but priced that way to maintain that I am, as ever, a woman of the people. I shipped them immediately from my local post office, a sleepy little institution where entrepreneurs like me go undetected by the staff but are treated with kindness nonetheless.
Because of my haste in posting the items, I would learn later that week, the purchaser of the Chloé dress was able to wear it to a wedding that very weekend. I was not just in the business of fashion, but in the business of service. It turned out she was an actual fan of my work and was delighted to have bought my apparel. Can you imagine? Me, a humble literary farmer, tilling my fields and harvesting my memes one week, building a vintage clothing empire the next! We humans are fearfully and wonderfully made. Surely it would be no time before the whole shop was cleared out.
During two halcyon weeks of regular sales and top-notch customer reviews, my little corner of the Depop universe prospered. I bid farewell to J.Crew formal stretch pants, American Apparel button-downs that had always made me sweat like a beaver after a long day building dams, and a once-beloved forest green trench coat from Zara. I made hundreds of dollars and the only effort I had to put in was going to the post office, where I felt quite beloved at this point.
After having sold nearly all my items in that first month, I returned to my closets in search of discardable clothes. There were several, some of which I felt most guilty of parting with because they still had the tags on. But realizing that such items would fetch more money on Depop on account of having never had the decaying matter that is human flesh inside of them for any substantial length of time, I proceeded with the fashion shoot for one.
Time passed. I accumulated likes and follows from fellow users at a respectable clip but had few buyers. These items, though seasonally appropriate and similarly photographed alongside my smize, were not as upscale as the previous batch but were also therefore priced to sell.
Sell, I commanded them, and posted the link on social media again. Seeeeeellll, I wept into the abyss. My tears are still out there, nowhere near the bottom, where they might find rest at last.
In what I now know to be an amateur mistake, instead of doubling down on the flailing Depop business, I decided to expand my empire to a second location and would just keep an eye on when items sold so I could remove them on the other site. I selected Poshmark after reading the seductive article title “I Made $4,000 On Poshmark — and Then Needed an Intervention.” I was transfixed by the clause that came before the em dash, of course, and gave nary a second thought to the danger looming on the other side of it.
I realized quickly that Poshmark is not so much an e-commerce platform for lightly used clothing as it is a social network of hyper-vigilant saleswomen hawking their wares, making connections to consumers and participating in community-enriching activities like the regularly scheduled “parties,” such as the “Men’s Style Party” or the “Casual Friday Party,” or the mouthful of sartorial mediocrity party called “Zara, Steve Madden, Rebecca Minkoff, Sam Edelman, Topshop and Tea n Cup Party.” I’m still not sure of the purpose of these parties because I’m always home sick with devastating inadequacy and have therefore never attended, despite them just requiring you sitting on your phone looking at Poshmark.
Despite my eschewing of these social conventions, in my first 24 hours I sold a brightly colored 3.1 Phillip Lim dress that had been largely neglected on Depop. I looked around at all the hustling, bustling try-hards on the site and pitied these ambitious souls who simply weren’t gifted with an eye for building a wardrobe that spoke for itself.
When I opted in for notifications, I anticipated account updates, alerts to sales, likes of my items: things I needed to be notified of. Those types of notifications made some cameos, but mostly they come from what I can only imagine is a duo consisting of a teen girl stoner and her aunt who doubles as both fortune teller and motivational platitude enthusiast on Instagram. “In pizza we crust,” the notification said on April 18th at 7:15 p.m. Credit: stoner teen. “Stay fierce,” at 2:53 p.m. on May 9th. That had the aunt’s name all over it, except she has no name. “Pancakes are always a good idea” came one on May 7th at 3 p.m. — clearly, the teen was stoned again.
In addition to their being incomprehensible, each notification was like a bell that reminded me how my sales had stagnated, with not a single item sold since Day 1. I considered how I might amp up my sales. I should be more social on the platform, faving stuff and being nice. Maybe improve my photos. Maybe I need to smize less, look a little more sultry in my clothing photos? Do women buy garments from smizing women or sultry women? My clothes are very glamorous. Maybe my clothes are too glamorous. I mean, my clothes are fine. My clothes are garbage and I should have set them on fire instead of this.
This line of thinking continued for days, perhaps weeks. My house fell into chaos as I spent so much time retaking photos and scrounging for goods that might at last appeal to the masses again. Whereas before I had held each garment lovingly, sad that it would soon be gone, I looked at the pile now with scorn, the disgusted look mirroring one given to relatives who overstay their welcome and fart audibly in communal spaces.
My Depop account remained similarly quiet, tumbleweeds likely rushing through my store save for several new followers and one young man who comes into my private messages to alert me that I have a great ass. I KNOW, but do you want these funky floral jeans or what?
I prepared to gather the pile and haul it all to the upstate version of Buffalo Exchange, intending to bag it the next morning. My phone dinged. My Depop was reawakened by a buyer eager to have an American Apparel bodysuit. A few days later, a Poshmark buyer wanted my red Miu Miu patent leather wedges. I put each item in the mail on the same day as the order and then immediately returned to my closet, reinvigorated that perhaps summer sales will bring prosperity.
Ascending to that airy, scented brightness I imagined, my closets grow emptier by the day. I consider introducing a tasteful, distressed oak organizing unit to it but decide against it. The wood apparatus would reduce the volume of vacant spaces and then where would I store all of these wanton, depraved secrets?