American Apparel ceased trading in Australia on Sunday. Here, Madeleine Ryan struggles to say goodbye.
If my twenties could wear an outfit, they would alternate between American Apparel Disco Shorts and American Apparel Disco Pants. And back again, in different colours. Red, black, blue. Red, black, blue.
Oh, American Apparel. How I’ll miss you.
Or maybe I won’t. Our relationship wasn’t always smooth sailing. Buying garments from you was like trying on different pieces of myself to see what fit and, often, nothing did.
Nevertheless, I worked hard at getting the different fragments to coagulate – very hard indeed. There were times when I wore nothing but your clothes. I’m an extremely loyal beast. Friends would text me pictures of themselves shopping in your store because they knew I’d appreciate it; you’ve been my rather awkward home away from home. I suspect, much like the chicken and the egg, a piece of myself became you – not the other way around.
At one point I even applied for a job in your Chapel Street store and enthusiastically jumped through all the elaborate hoops to fit the bill: full body shots in your clothes, a bio, a quirky cover letter, a CV, an interview, another interview, references. I desperately shape-shifted into what I thought you would want me to be but, alas, there was one part of me that wouldn’t change: anaphylaxis when exposed to full-time hours.
Though this wasn’t personal, it was our downfall. It led me into the arms of an acting studio, which just as readily messed with my sense of identity and vortex-like need for validation. Either way, I had it coming. If it wasn’t you, it was going to be Strasberg.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I don’t begrudge a moment of our time together. When I travelled to New York I recall taking photographs of your posters alongside the Hendricks Gin ads in SOHO. I shopped with you on Broadway and enjoyed the weight of foreign exchange rates lift from my shoulders with each swipe of the Travel Credit Card. It was Summer, it was joyous, I wore chambray.
Not to mention the times I chose to don your almighty Disco short in public. Oh, what a way to learn about being a woman in the modern world. Show some flesh until you’re enlightened. “You’re brave!” “I wish I could pull those off!” “What a slut!” “Can I touch your butt please?” “Short enough?” “Why don’t you just wear pants?”
Then there were the unspoken moments: arse-grabs, winks, scowls and salivating smiles. I threw myself in the deep end with you and I absolutely got what I deserved. Those magical shorts still hang in my wardrobe because I can’t let the thrill of them go. The climax of our relationship had to be the night I wore the shorts and met a man who subsequently broke my heart into a zillion tiny sparkles like the ones sprinkled across your over-the-knee Winter socks.
We were chatting for ages before he registered that I wasn’t wearing pants. Once he realised, he claimed it didn’t bother him. Needless to say, I should’ve known our love was doomed when I heard myself say, “I’m a walking a contradiction. I mean…. You must wonder. Is she smart? Is she a slut? What’s going on there?”
I continue to ask myself those questions to this day.
But, now, the real question is: where will I go without you? Who will I become without you? You’ve been my go-to, my wardrobe staple, my crutch. Our relationship was co-dependent in the worst possible way and I loved every minute of it. One of the small victories of my life was those rare moments when I thought I looked attractive in the inherently insulting fluorescent white lights of your change rooms. I mean, what are the odds? What a triumph! The angels sang.
Wherever you go, whatever you do, know that I love you and that you’ll always have a place in my heart, and in my life. You defined my twenties - a one-size-fits-all garment that’s hard to hate.
Madeleine Ryan is a writer and actor living in Castlemaine, Victoria.