Can a Piece Be Too Iconic to Wear? A Vogue Writer Considers the Struggle

By: LIANA SATENSTEIN | vogue.com
Madonna wears a Gucci by Tom Ford blue silk shirt at the Video Music Awards

Photo: Courtesy of Getty

This weekend, I bought a Gucci shirt. Not just any Gucci shirt, but the blue silk one from Fall 1995, the collection where Tom Ford really “arrived at Gucci.” Kate Moss—as in the peak Kate Moss that comes to mind when we think of “Kate Moss”—wore it on the runway, then Madonna wore it to the MTV Video Music Awards that same year. She sported her hair in a babelicious bouffant and had a slight altercation with Courtney Love. I now own that very same shirt that has been seared into pop-culture history, linked to the good ole days of fashion. Mind you, this silk shirt feels and looks like a million dollars. When I put it on, it’s like I’m being kissed by thousands of angels with virgin lips made of clouds. The color is blue. But not just any basic blue. If I had to describe the hue, it would be like a sexy night swim in the kind of crystal clear tropical ocean that exists only in a 1-800-Sandals commercial.

I acquired this very close-to-my-heart piece at a sale at James Veloria in Chinatown. Their first in-house designer capsule sale just so happened to be focused on Tom Ford during his tenure at Gucci and later at Saint Laurent. (Fun fact: I’m a huge, die-hard fan of Tom Ford–era Gucci.) I had seen the owners post the shirt on Instagram. It was like seeing an animal that was thought to be extinct in the wild. Or maybe it was similar to the feeling those avid bird watchers had when they spotted that Mandarin duck that mysteriously appeared in Central Park a few weeks ago. It was exciting. It made me feel some sort of way. I didn’t just want it, I needed it.

Like any shopper rabidly obsessed with something, I arrived well before the sale started at 1:00 p.m. and simply waited. (I paced back and forth a bit.) When those doors opened, I made a beeline toward the shirt as if I was possessed by 1,000 Black Friday shoppers. I held it close to me the whole time I was there. For one moment, I put it down to comment on a friend trying on a coat and I saw a strange hand curiously fondle it. “Nope,” I said, “This is mine.” I have never so coolly spent $250 on something. I didn’t even bat an eyelash. My upcoming student loan automatic withdrawal? That didn’t exist. In fact, for 48 hours, while I basked in my new shirt, nothing else existed.

Kate Moss walking the Fall 1995 Gucci show by Tom Ford

When Monday rolled around, I could not wait to wear it. I ceremoniously put in on myself, buttoning each button slowly and proudly. Suddenly, there was an issue, and it was seeping through the underarm. Pro tip: Don’t apply that CBD-infused deodorant you got off the free table at work. It’s chock-full of oil. I blotted it carefully, welp-ing and cooing like I was trying to take care of a scraped knee on my newborn child. And then, I realized that wearing this shirt—or rather, owning this shirt—was going to be tough.

See, no one tells you about the hidden price of buying something very precious—so precious, you can’t really even wear it. That sort of purchase comes with its own set of issues. First, it’s expensive. I’ll have to dry-clean that oil stain. (My colleague recommended I send it out to a fancy dry cleaners in the Bronx, a move that will most likely set me back close to a quarter of the price that I paid.) I couldn’t properly eat my lunch. I was scared I’d suddenly dribble mashed potato on it. (Full disclosure: To quell my fears, I wore a makeshift bib out of a sweater.) I felt like I was wearing a really luxurious straitjacket that was being pulled tighter by the fact that I don’t have a shred of disposable income and no, I’m not a celebrity who has a blasé attitude toward clothes.

I’m not the only one who has a difficult relationship with precious pieces. The Vogue office has a running joke that Fashion News Editor Monica Kim will one day open a shop called Monica’s Closet because she has so many pristine archival pieces that she has never worn but, according to her, are worth just owning. “I have so many items I can’t wear because I need to preserve them,” she says. “But I’m an obsessive vintage collector, so a part of me feels fine just knowing they’re happily hanging in my closet. Then again, good clothes are made to be worn . . . .” She quickly backtracked when talking about a white leather Martin Margiela–era Hermès trench coat from Spring 2002 that she had recently acquired. “I guess I should just wear the trench since it’s so beautiful and I spent so much on it,” she says, “But if anything happened to it, I would burn all my possessions and go live in the woods forever.”

Extreme, yes, but I get it. A rare item evokes a special type of feeling. She signed off with a wise word of advice. “Watch out for salad dressing,” she says. “It has oil.” Noted. As for Culture Editor Alessandra Codinha, who I consider a voice of elegant reason, she has a do-or-die attitude. “I inherited a gold-embroidered velvet opera coat from my great-grandmother that I never wore because I was so scared about it being destroyed on my watch and now it’s since really fallen apart in storage, and I regret it all the time,” she says. “The moral here being: If you got it, flaunt it. Always.”

So where do I fall in this, or where does this Gucci shirt fall? Enclosed in plastic, in a vault in my closet while I default on my student loans? Maybe I’ll just be reckless and wear it everywhere I can? I am not sure where I stand. But one thing’s certain: I sure as hell won’t be eating salad dressing as long as I wear it.

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