Closet 101 Style

Reader Question: Wearing “Popular” Items

This week’s reader question is from the very stylish “ZZ”:

Dear Katherine: I was wondering what your thoughts were on those very trendy items that seem to come up all the same time when celebrities, bloggers, reality stars wearing them, like with Celine totes or Kenzo sweaters. Through 2006, I wore my Birkins everywhere. Though I have quite a collection, I haven’t taken any out this year because I see them so much. It’s a shame because I adore the style. It just doesn’t seem like it’s special anymore? My husband says that I’ve been wearing them for years, and spent so much that I should just use them.  I can’t help but not want to match with every other woman on the escalator at Bergdorf (I live in NY).  What do you think? 

I much preferred it when it was Victoria Beckham...

Kim Kardashian…move onto a new brand, please!

I thought this was an interesting question, and after reflecting deep down into my little soul I have to admit that I would be lying if the ubiquity of certain fashion items I also own didn’t bug me at times. After all, aren’t we all unique snowflakes, with different personalities? Why am I carrying the same bag as at least 5 other women at the Hong Kong airport?

Luxury throughout the years was a unique, specific shopping experience – often with items customized for each customer’s needs. These days, the act of buying a luxury good can still feel very special (although there are a litany of Pretty Woman snobby salesperson stories out there) – but the reality is, the major luxury houses are sometimes producing thousands and thousands of the same exact items at a time. If you’re buying one of the “icon” items of a major brand – chances are, you’ll end up having the same item as thousands of other women.

Even though I’ve accepted this reality, I still realized that for some items the idea of matching with everyone else bothered me, and for some others, I couldn’t care less. For me, it’s really related to the specific sentimentality of an item. Longchamp Le Pliage? I happily tote mine on my travels, knowing that I’ll be matching with at least 20% of women at the airport. A bracelet that say, my husband bought for me? I’d want it to be special, a little more individual. Doesn’t have to be an entirely unique piece that nobody has, but I would prefer not to see it on multiple members of the Real Housewives cast.

Except for the ones that Mr. Feather specifically chose for me, I’m not too sentimental about many of my clothes and accessories…so I don’t mind having “popular” items too much, as long as I genuinely like them myself. But if it’s a special item, or if it has a very nice memory attached? Then, I care more. That’s just me!

Oh, and my specific answer to ZZ? I would keep the Birkins for now…store them away for a few months, and wear something new. And at a later date, come back to them….maybe they’ll feel more fresh. And by that time, perhaps the Kardashians will have moved onto something new!

How do you all feel about wearing very trendy, or “popular” items? 

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  • Groupthink7
    October 6, 2014 at 8:13 am

    I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately. When it comes to the Birkenstock shoes; I have numerous pairs for years because they are comfortable. They look really nice with well pedicured feet. The same would go for the Celine Luggage tote. I had that bag back in 2010 and have since sold it. I will get rid of things that seem to be too trendy. I think that luxury items are not so special anymore. I ask myself why should I spend $$$$ on a handbag to see 10 other women with it on. If you look at the different resale sites, you see numerous Birkins, Celines, and Chanels up for sale. When you see so many people flooding the market with these items; it makes you wonder if they are losing their luster.

    I sell a lot of items to YOOGIS Closet and I noticed that don’t give you much for your bags anymore like in the past. I say wear what you like. I like a lot of under the radar brands now. I am into the minimalist look. This look tends to stand the test of time. Just my two cents.

    • Katherine
      October 6, 2014 at 10:13 pm

      That’s really interesting about your experience with YG. Thanks for sharing.

  • diane
    October 6, 2014 at 9:09 am

    First, I need to clarify that I am most likely a lot older than most reading here (64). When I first carried LV, no one gave it any notice, as it was not well known outside of the fashion industry, at that time. Then, it suddenly started to take off and I saw it, and it’s counterfeits, everywhere. That was in the mid 70’s. I had maybe 6-8 pieces, including a couple of pieces of luggage and I put it into a closet. One day, around 2001, I was decluttering and, since I knew I’d never use it again, I emailed a dealer in LA and sold the lot to her wholesale for slightly more than it had cost. I knew I could get more money on ebay but chose to just get it out of my life in one fell swoop.

    Now I carry Bottega Veneta bags. I love the leather and they fulfill my preference of no logo’s, which I think is one reason they remain under the radar, except for the knot clutch. Those are everywhere. I try to limit my myself to a small personal inventory….right now that’s six bags. I edit my closet several times a year and anything not earning its space, designer or not, goes on to someone else, sometimes to a friend or donated to Salvation Army. Yes…..I have given BV bags to SA. (If you are familiar enneagram personality types, I am pretty clearly a number 4, so that I think explains a lot.)

    • Groupthink7
      October 6, 2014 at 9:18 am

      I like Bottega Veneta as well; however, I don’t like the fact that the woven can come undone or tear. I have sold two bags because of this issue. I had a large belly in flame; and a large metallic Veneta in Baltic. I am left with the Maxi in black. This bag has been sent away twice because of tears. I don’t wear this bag all the time. I am kind of on the fence with BV.

      • diane
        October 6, 2014 at 10:19 am

        Considering your history with BV, it’s no wonder that you are put off. I have been carrying only BV for several years and so far, so good. Guess I’ve been lucky.

    • Belen
      October 6, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      I stopped wearing my LV Monogram Papillon for this same reason. Now it’s been so long I might reconsider using it. Not ready to part with it yet.
      I don’t like the Kardashians, their values, what they stand for, etc. There are several brands they abusively wear that have sort of become a synonym of their last name that I have admired in the past. Now I wouldn’t want to wear/carry them because:
      1) They’ve lost their charm for me
      2) I don’t to dress or be identified with people I don’t respect.

      I do agree with putting clothing or bags away for some time and then taking them out again. That works for me when I get tired of a piece of clothing that is still in good condition.

    • Katherine
      October 6, 2014 at 10:14 pm

      I love how you are constantly editing and keeping your items down. I remember what you said about your LV luggage in the past…I would probably do the same thing, get rid of everything at once 🙂

  • laura
    October 6, 2014 at 9:59 am

    personally.. i’d keep the birkin. it’s timeless, and don’t let someone like kim k ruin what you like. i agree 100% with groupthink7 – wear and carry what you like. 😉

  • Anna
    October 6, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    I don’t really care if my luxury items are popular or not. I bought them for the aesthetic and that’s that.

    What ultimately makes an item truly unique is the way in which you style it. Let’s take that Birkin everyone’s so fond of waving about. I’ve seen it on the arms of countless women wearing skinny ripped jeans, a shoe-of-the-moment, and an oversized blouse/sweater. I couldn’t tell them apart if my life depended on it.

    Then take the woman I saw walking the streets of Chicago, wearing a gorgeously structured black dress with architectural details, black wide waist belt, and black kid leather pointed pumps. She also had a bold red lip and oversized sunglasses, like she came off the pages of an editorial.

    Everyone says that the bag makes the look. I disagree. A look is equally dependent on all elements of the outfit, no matter how small.

    • Katherine
      October 6, 2014 at 10:13 pm

      That woman sounds very chic. I agree that all elements make the look – not just a recognizable bag 🙂

  • Maria
    October 6, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Ditto the Birkenstocks. I’ve worn them for so long yet now I feel conspicuously trendy when I do.

    I had two Birkins and, truthfully, the tackiness of the Kardashians and the general overexposure of the bag killed it for me. I felt conspicuous every time I carried it. When my working class extended family recognized it (and knew what it cost), I was done.They sat unused in my closet for a couple of years until I sold one of them. I don’t miss it at all. The other was a weathered heavy patina Vache Naturale 35. Very organic. Very Jane Birkin. Almost unrecognizable. I’m keeping that one for now but I don’t carry it much ATM.

    I still adore Hermes but I prefer under the radar or vintage H now.

    • Katherine
      October 6, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      A VN is forever! I can see why you’re keeping that one 🙂

  • AD
    October 6, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    If ZZ still finds her birkins beautiful I would recommend keeping them. As long as she takes them out every once in awhile and enjoys their beauty even if they don’t go out of the house. I have a couple items I won’t take out but love to pieces (too flashy for real life) and in a past life I more than got my moneys worth out of them. This helps me not feel like I should sell them to recoup the cost.

  • ahhhsoneo
    October 6, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    I don’t own a Birkin, I’m not quite in that demographic. But years ago I started saving for one, only now the money is there, and I have NO desire to own one. Simply because I would never wear it, I liked it when it was a bit more under the radar. Quite frankly, I feel like one can barely wear a Chanel purse these days without getting looks/comments etc, and I hate to have my items unused in the closet.

    If I had one I would on occassion use it, but probably when travelling not likely to get comments from people I know etc. I’m planning on buying a Picotin or Lindy, I feel like those are, for most people, not recognizable as Hermes items.

  • Frecca
    October 7, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    This is an interesting thread. I think the issue in this case is that something that was for a long while exclusive and rather hard to come by is now mainstream. That is a hard pill to swallow especially at this price point. What makes it worse, is that when items like this become popular with the masses you’re subject to the “fake” factor (so to speak), meaning when you wear/carry such an item and there are numerous others with the same or similar item it’s hard to tell which is authentic and which is not…that is yet another hard pill to swallow at this particular price point.

    I agree that you should wear what you like regardless of what’s “popular”. If you love it, you’ll end up carrying yourself in a different way. I struggled with this in the past few years when it came to my Celine luggage tote collection but the fact is I loved them then and I love them just as much now.

  • Anonymous
    October 7, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Honestly, having 2 kids under 5 has made me re-examined how comfortable am I at spending their could be future whatever fund on a piece of leather, especially by the explosion of social media, a piece of leather that everybody seems had to have. I also find the price hike hard to swallow, I think my flap bag is being sold for double the price I bought it for 10 yrs ago. So I am currently enjoying what I have. I usually think whether if I would wear what I buy 5 years later, hence my bags tend to be non it bags but well suited for my lifestyle. I tend to like what I liked, for example my damier lv pieces. I still like them and take them out, they’re light and coated canvas means toddler proof. I have a tod’s bag which I bought almost 10 yrs ago and still use it in rotation simply because I still think it’s a well made bag.

  • Petiteish
    October 7, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    This is a bit of a tangent, but I was really turned off by the hordes of Asian tourists in the major French department store. I was on my honeymoon and thinking about buying my first Chanel bag in Paris. My first luxury handbag, a souvenir from my first trip to the city of love, on my honeymoon. What could be more romantic? Well, when I stopped by the Chanel boutique in Galleries Lafayette, the romance of the scenario quickly turned sour. There was a HUGE line of Asian tourists, yelling many languages none of which were French, practically waving their cash around. I was horrified. I walked away quickly and didn’t look back. I ended up purchasing a Givenchy Antigona on my trip. A bit of a sell out, yes, but the experience was a little bit closer to what I imagined, and my souvenir just a little bit less omni-present. A little bit more special which does count for something.

    • Sarah
      October 8, 2014 at 3:11 am

      Exactly! I also went to hermes and it was like a madhouse. There was a very angry Australian woman there, shouting because they did not have something she wanted. Honestly – she was whining at the top of her lungs for a good forty minutes. Her poor husband in the corner was getting smaller and smaller. The hermes stuff were finding it harder and harder to remain smiling & sympathetic. I walked out and she was still there. What is that all about?

    • Diane Mitchell
      October 13, 2014 at 12:04 am

      Can’t help but find your comment rather racist, Petiteish! And therefore quite offensive. We’re you speaking French, par chance??? The aesthetics of a piece are what govern my purchases – and in the case of luxury brands the skill and care of those who have created them

  • Ammu
    October 10, 2014 at 2:14 am

    Fascinating discussion here. A lot of beautifully-made bags, like the Birkin, seem to work as status symbols these days – whether on the arm of Kim Kardashian or toted by wealthy women in Shanghai, Dubai or London. Personally, I don’t want my bag or my dress to scream to the world – “look how much I spend/earn” – and I think a lot of designers realise the appeal of the discreet, well-made bag/dress/etc. I prefer a low-profile wardrobe – it’s also a good test of whether I really like something or am just drawn to the hype around the label – the smaller the brand, the more likely I am to be drawn to design over hype.

  • Patti
    October 17, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    Interesting topic
    For me I just customized everything to look special, monogramming for louis Vuitton, Fendi, Goyard and Bottega and special orders from Hermes. Also I’ve moved into some smaller French designer House such as Moynat and Fauré Le Page. Also seasonal and limited edition are good ideas. However, if you like something that everyone already used, just buy it if you really like. After all it the handbags compliment the ladies lol.

    • Katherine
      October 18, 2014 at 10:24 am

      Ah, such wise words! Love that line about handbags complimenting the ladies. You have wonderful taste.