The Fashion Magpie Collections

Collections.

Growing up, one of my sisters collected dog figurines.  She saved every dollar she earned to procure new ones from Sullivan’s Toy Store on Connecticut Avenue.  She would play with them, yes, but the principal joy of owning them was lining them up along the shelves of her expansive white desk in highly particular arrangements.  My mother collects Lladro porcelain, stored tidily in a glass-front cabinet, and — it must be said, mom — shoes; she is the Imelda Marcos of our family.  One of my best friends collected elephants — stuffed animals, toys, knick-knacks — throughout her childhood, and her bedroom is a pachyderm menagerie.  My mother-in-law is a polyglot collector, with an impressive array of vintage oyster plates (Majolicas are a big deal), of Hungarian pysanky, of Ingeglas Christmas ornaments.  Mr. Magpie had an extensive set of baseball cards as a boy, and so did my brother, who kept his organized in plastic sleeves stored within binders, organized by team and league.  I have been an intermittent collector — as a child, I collected stickers, trolls, My Little Ponies, Barbies, beanie babies (ugh).  For a time, I collected Louboutin shoes: I stalked eBay regularly for gently used pairs no longer purchasable online.  And I have been a lifelong collector of books.  Even as a kid, I loved lining up all of my Elizabeth Coda Callen books on my shelves, my glossy red Bobbsey twins, my pastel Baby Sitter Clubs, my garish banana yellow Nancy Drews.  Nowadays, one of the most common comments when someone visits my apartment is “Did you buy these books exclusively for the color of their spines?”, as I have organized all of the books on one of my shelves by spine color: at the bottom, Penguin Classics in neat stacks with their staid black spines crackled through with use.  The next few shelves are aquamarine and pale blue.  And the top shelf is cream: Oxfords, Scribners, and Little Browns.

Why do we collect things?  Stamps, seashells, vintage cars, charms for charm bracelets, Steiff stuffed animals, vintage Herend china?  Why do we feel the deepest reaches of satisfaction arranging those curiosities on shelves, on sticker pages, in binders, in bins?  

As a young child, collecting was about ownership.  “These are mine,” I would assert, elbows out, keeping my Barbies out of the clutches of my nosy little sisters.  I wasn’t this way about all of my belongings; there was something grandiose and defense-worthy about having multiples of something — of anything — that made me particularly possessive of them.

A little later in my childhood, collectibles formed a sort of early economy.  We traded stickers, baseball cards, beanie babies.  I can’t tell you how many questionable swindles I took part in at the hands of my brother: “Here, take this brand new pack of cards — all of them!  even the piece of stale gum! — and give me that dumb old card in exchange for it.”  I’d skeptically hand over a Cal Ripken.  Our collections were a currency at a time when we were illiquid.

As I aged, I noticed that collectibles were more about habit, sort of similar to the way we all had “favorite colors” as kids.  For years, I would automatically reach for the blue one of anything.  “And a blue one for Jennifer,” my mom would say instinctively.  Even in college, my friend would gravitate towards anything with an elephant on it, more out of tradition than anything else.

And now?  Some collectibles are status symbols, externalized wealth, members of an actual asset class (versus the false economies of my youth).  Others are shorthand for personal passion: a wall of Audubon prints in various shapes and sizes and stage of decay, a glass bowl of wine corks, an unwieldy bundle of yellowing road maps, a bookcase of old Vogues.  But nowadays, I mainly think that collecting is more about remembering.  These curiosities we gather and organize are artifacts not from cultural history, but from personal memory, signifiers of adventures or relationships or versions of ourselves we worry we might otherwise forget.  The seashell from a honeymoon, the fraying Andres Galaraga card from a summer spent in Colorado that year that the Rockies were really good, the miniature cocker spaniel figurine from a special trip to the toy store with mom–all of them insurance against the lapse of time, the threat of oblivion.

What do you collect?  Why?

Post-Script: A Collection of Things I Absolutely Love Today.

A truly random smattering of items with no legible relationship to one another except for the fact that I love them.  See my notes at bottom for the why…

+Banjanan Dress — The collar!  The color!  The sleeves!  The print!  I must own this dress.

+Cocofloss — It was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to luxify floss.  What epic branding!  Opening my medicine cabinet to this would make me legitimately excited to floss.

+Sam McKnight Lazy Girl Dry Shampoo — People LOVE this stuff, and it apparently smells ridiculous (in a good way — highly floral).  And I love the packaging!

+We Might Be Tiny Snack Tray — I mean…adorable.

+Veronica Beard Blouse — On super duper sale for under $100 and such a flashy statement.

+The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand — I’m in the mood for a mental vacay.

+Hunter Toddler Rainboot — For some reason I’m very excited for mini to wear her first pair of rainboots this fall.

+Mrs. Meyers Rosemary Laundry Detergent — I love Mrs. Meyers’ detergent and feel like rosemary, which I’ve never tried before, would be the perfect scent for this upcoming fall!

+Prep Solutions Brown Sugar Keeper — Why I get so excited about kitchen/pantry storage and organization is beyond me.  But I do.  It me.

+Jamin Puech Personalized Tote — This is just flat out epic.  How many straw bags does a girl need, you might be asking?  Don’t answer that question.

+Frida Toddler Toothbrush — This gets good reviews.

+Angela Caglia Quartz Roller — Purports to “drain fluid, boost circulation, improve elasticity, and promote cell turnover for a brighter, healthier glow.”  Looks pretty while doing so.

+Alepel Monogrammed Mules — A less expensive, more personalized way to get that Gucci Princetown look.

+Gap Midi Dress — Get that SZ Blockprint look for a lot less.

+Hippeas — I could not stop eating these while at my friend’s place the other night.

P.S.  Speaking of powerful memories, I was just thinking about the bris I attended last year and enjoyed re-reading my reflections on roots.

P.P.S.  Slices of joy.

P.P.P.S.  CUTE.  And, separately, a great gift for a new mom you don’t know too well.  I LOVE this stuff.

7 Comments

  1. that brown sugar keeper is amazing! it works really well. And toddlers in rain boots are so fun. We have the LL Bean yellow boots and they have little pull hooks which makes it easy for the kiddos to pull on themselves! Sometimes we even get the feet on right. And that Elin Hilderbrand book was fun, but not as good as some of her others in my opinion.

    On collections–my mom has so many (hummel and swarovski in particular) that I have pretty much refused collections of any sort. I just can’t see the purpose. She claims the display brings her joy. By the way, I still have all my BSC books, but at least they can be read again!

  2. Love this post. As someone else commented, I also have slight hoarder tendencies while (these days) aspiring to minimalism. As a child I collected Absolut ads (!!! — it was the 90s, though) and saved them in clear plastic sleeves inside a binder. I had probably close to 100! Crazy. I also went through a Beanie Babies phase (don’t feel bad). As a teen and into my early twenties, I collected magazines, and then when I moved apartments when I was 27, I got rid of probably 80% of my collection. I still have a bunch of NYLON issues from the late 90s/early 00s, and some copies of Lula and Lucky Peach that I hold dear to my heart.

    These days, I don’t collect too many things. I went through an enamel pin phase in my late 20s, and I would have to say that my main collection — now and since I was little — is made up of books. I don’t have enough room in my apartment to store my collection, even though we have relatively ample space … my parents generously let me keep a good portion of my collection in the bookcases in one of their guest rooms. Books do furnish a room! xo

  3. I think I have borderline hoarder tendencies, ha. When I was in junior high it was postage stamps and foreign coins, then in high school I collected tea cups. For awhile there it was brass animals and now it’s opaline glass which is luckily hard to find and expensive so I don’t get much of it – we don’t have room for all this stuff!!! When I travel, I like to pick up a piece of art to display and a ring if I can find one I like (easy to transport and SMALL). I save some currency and keep all the different coins and bills in a bowl – so much fun to lead through every once in awhile. And if I see a little turtle on my travels I’ll pick it up – I don’t know how that collection even got started, but I must have some 20 turtles now, if not more.

    I dream of being a minimalist some days, but like my little treasures too much! I have wanted to start collecting oyster plates but we don’t have the room (and I have enough collections going on right now). My husband encourages the collecting (he also collected baseball cards when younger) but hasn’t found anything recently he’s been interested in enough to amass, so he just helps me with my collections, for better or worse.

    1. I just read the comment below – I did matchbooks for awhile too, and still keep hotel room keys when they’re interesting (rarer and rarer these days). And I forgot Christmas ornaments – also look for those when traveling. Used to be glass balls, but broke too many of those, so now brass or silver flat ones that are MUCH easier to store. I need an intervention!

  4. Oh I love this topic so much! Like you, I collected so many little things as a child–most notably pins! I had them pinned on a thick ribbon and kept them neatly folded in a drawer. Now, I collect matchbooks…they’re a pretty, easy way to commemorate meals + travel (two of my favorite ways to make memories!) My boyfriend and I just decided to start keeping room keys as well…my friend Katie does this and they’re so easy to store and fun to think back on. Our go-to travel souvenir is a Christmas ornament. I have dreams of us having a tree entirely dedicated to places we’ve been!

    1. Wow – I’d never even thought of saving room keys, or pins for that matter! Such cute keepsakes of different times in your life. Do you still have all the pins?!

      xo

    2. Unsure if I have the pins! I think I saved some but have also tried to Konmari my childhood belongings, so who knows! I hope they’re somewhere…my parents collect souvenir spoons from the travels, which I’ve also always loved. They’re on display in the dining room 🙂

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