Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mind the Gap

As a child, adolescent and young collegian, I spent a lot of my time searching the racks at The Gap. With summer at its height of mid-August discomfort, I would enter the store and pet the thin cardigans and bootcut cords while imagining the cool breezes and falling leaves to come. Near the end of college, Gap and I started down the long road to estrangement. H&M, with its cheaper and more fashion forward pieces, had moved to Boston. Second Time Around, with its never worn designer jeans for $60 bucks, was discovered. I grew up and out of a store that seemed to be running in place.

When I think about my closet now, there are still a number of pieces from Gap that I wear with some regularity. I found the only oxford shirt to ever really fit me there. It had darts and just a bit of stretch. Perfection when you usually find the girls straining against buttons. And so I bought a second one in a different color. Last year, during the summer of dress buying, I added three pieces to my closet. The beige pants, long forgotten, are all from Gap. And then there are the two jean skirts (kinda mini and very mini), the skinny jeans that still sit there even though they are far too big now, a pair of Long & Leans, a bluish-green military style jacket and a black pencil skirt that has never failed me. It wasn't until this year that I gave up on the store completely.

The growing apart was gradual, which makes it hard for me to pinpoint what went wrong. In part, I think they've changed too much. So maybe it wasn't running in place that pushed me away as much as a loss of vision and focus. Three different head designers in the last three years have led the brand I had once relied on for versatile staples to wander off the path. In the name of playing catch up with H&M and other similar retailers, it abandoned everything that had made it great before. Simple, classic pieces. Well-made and reasonably priced. Overly ambitious advertising campaigns with Sarah Jessica Parker and stars of the moment couldn't hide the shift. Last year my interest was momentarily piqued by a White Shirt collaboration with some of my favorite young brands including Rodarte. When I tried them on, the shirts were thin. Almost see through. The thread was already pulling. They seemed cheap and thrown together. Not at all like the oxfords I still had at home. If I wanted cheap and thrown together, I could have gone to Forever 21. At least it wouldn't cost me so much.

I think those shirts marked the real end of this rather long affair. They encompassed everything the place had become. They were no longer worth my time. Or my money.

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