Why I Stopped Letting My Friends Go Through My Closet

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
We all have friends who are gifted when it comes to getting dressed day after day. Some of them have a sense of style we literally want to steal from. And, let’s face it — there’s nothing like that feeling of camaraderie with your most fashionable gal pal when you share each other's clothes.

Don't be fooled, though. It can also be a slippery slope, especially if your closet is the one that’s being raided. On one hand, you’re flattered that your friend admires your style enough to want to don your stuff, but on the other, you wonder when — and if — you’ll ever get to rock the universally flattering jumpsuit that took you ages to find again.

While at dinner with some friends recently, the conversation turned to this now-controversial topic. One of my friends mentioned that she was annoyed at another friend who, on the rare occasion they speak, never fails to ask her about a Forever 21 cardigan she borrowed years ago on a chilly night.

Needless to say, that cardigan has long been lost in the abyss of her circle of communal closets. Truthfully, so has their friendship. Our other dinner pal chimed in to agree, “Well, if you lend something to a friend, you have to accept the fact that you probably won’t ever get it back.”

Their observations got me thinking: Is borrowing clothes from a friend just a disguised way of getting a five-finger discount? This is something I started calling “soft stealing.” When did we become so careless with the belongings of our friends and take on such a lackadaisical attitude towards returning what we've taken?

I sought opinions from various folks I know, and the consensus remained the same — we aren’t actually lending and borrowing; we’re usually just giving and taking.
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I can’t remember the last time a friend gave back something I lent them. Although I had become increasingly mindful about returning the things my former roommate had freely lent me, I realized I still had several pieces from her wardrobe hanging in the closet of my new apartment — four hours away in D.C.!

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
So, what’s a girl to do? Come to terms with the idea that you may not see that TopShop dress your BFF has been dying to borrow? Or risk committing the ultimate faux pas of holding a friend accountable for even the most easily replaced piece in your closet? Of course, there’s a middle ground — some friends are more reliable than others, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with forming an emotional attachment to an inexpensive component of your wardrobe if it's cute!

There has to be a solution to this cycle of wheeling and dealing between friends, and I refuse to believe that letting your buddies borrow your stuff without knowing if it'll ever be returned is just the hidden cost of a fashion-loving friendship. The countless lost dresses, pairs of jeans, and even a rogue undergarment inspired me to put a policy in place. It was a bold one, especially coming from someone who has always been very generous with her fashion finds, and one that would result in a consistently stocked closet and intact friendships.

My solution is quite simple: boycott the whole thing. I no longer part with any of my fashion loves, and I don't expect my friends to either. I am just not willing to accept the concept of lending as giving, and I will not continue to partake in this semi-acceptable form of clothing theft, even if it’s done unintentionally. Going forward, my new rules will prevent more lost-but-not-forgotten pieces from being added to the list of things gone missing — like that perfect little black dress, the best pair of bejeweled flats, and the most versatile silk scarf.

You know what I think is an even better idea? Going shopping with friends whose style you admire. If your level of funds won’t allow for that on the regular, stage a clothing swap. That way, all parties involved are consenting to part with their duds forever. But, until “soft stealing” from friends is no longer standard practice, I’m sticking to the program. My closet and the closets of my friends will one day thank me.
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