In and out of Deepika Padukone’s closet

Last Thursday, actress Deepika Padukone had an announcement for her fans. Items from her wardrobe were up for sale to raise funds for The Live Love Laugh Foundation, which works in the area of mental health. Some of us give old clothes away to charity; Padukone opens up a charity closet.

Padukone’s promotional video announcing the sale evoked some strong reactions. There were those who noted that the skirt and blouse that the ad claimed were part of the sale were in fact not among the offerings. Move over PMC Bank depositors, this was a real breach of trust. Others were appalled at the actress’ decision to use the hashtag “World Mental Health Day” as a peg for the sale. Perhaps if Padukone had spent a few seconds outlining the actual work her foundation does, there would have been less outrage. Instead, what we got was one of Hindi cinema’s highest-paid actresses (Padukone reportedly charges ₹8-10 crore per film) asking fans to cough up cash for her used wares while brandishing a hashtag intended to spread awareness about mental health.

Once upon a time, the idea of paying thousands of rupees to buy a used item of clothing that probably won’t fit – most of us don’t have Padukone’s proportions even in our dreams – would have struggled to win over middle-class consumers. You’d sneak a peek at the one-shoulder, satin dress that is probably just about wide enough for you to get one and a half thighs in; note that it costs ₹3,800; has “faint discoloration from natural wear on a fold below the waist”; and you’d promptly head to your trusty tailor masterji to get a replica made at one-third the cost.

Welcome to the new India where within two hours, Padukone’s collection of second-hand clothing was sold out – from the Gucci handbag (₹55,000) to the plain white ganji, sorry, “racerback vest” (₹800)and the anarkali set (₹18,000) whose “shoulder embroidery has natural fray from regular wear” . The accompanying dupatta has “dull marks”, also from natural wear “ (as opposed to unnatural wear?).

It’s worth keeping in mind that the success of sales like Padukone’s sale isn’t just the outcome of a new generation that is not daunted by the prospect of being turned to ashes by the laser of disapproval flashing from aunties’, uncles’ and parents’ eyes. Research has shown compulsive and impulsive shopping – particularly among women – is often triggered by sadness. Like other addictive behaviour, it’s often done in solitude, induces a high and is followed by a low. A study in America found that a significant chunk of those doing late-night, online shopping tend to suffer from low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. The act of buying offers a temporary distraction as well as fleeting sense of accomplishment. It’s a fragile bubble that pops soon after, plunging the buyer in despair as they realise they were actually out of control at the precise moment when they thought they were in control.

Very rarely does retail therapy actually leave you feeling better, but what almost always works is taking stock and letting go of the things that weigh you down. Let’s hope that those who have bought from Padukone’s charity closet feel as happy to own the objects that Padukone is so happy to have let go.

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