April 9, 2012
Mariah Carey’s Closet (source)
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1976 (source)


When Imelda Marcos fled the Philippines for Hawaii in 1986 she left behind a collection of two to three thousand shoes (no exact number has ever been agreed upon) in her closet at the presidential palace. The story was immediately seized upon by popular media around the world as a symbol of the extravagances of the Marcos regime. When Marcos returned to the Philippines in 2001 and opened a public museum to house her collection there was only enough room to display eight hundred pairs, begging the question, if a museum can’t contain such a massive collection, then exactly how large was Marcos’ closet?


Perhaps it’s not so difficult to believe the story today as it was in the 1980s. The public has since borne witness to Mariah Carey’s palatial closet space housing, among other garments, the singer’s collection of hundreds of identical white tank tops. This architecture of extravagance is unlikely to raise eyebrows in a post-Cribs, post-HGTV culture. But it is likely to invigorate the average consumer in their quest to conquer and reshape their own closet space. As wardrobes expand—Americans purchase 75% more clothes today than they did a decade ago—it seems that the question of how everything fits has become both practical and aesthetic.


Trade organizations like the National Closets Group are at the forefront of a multi-million dollar organizational industry dedicated to packing it in. And how could business be anything but booming with accumulation on the rise and the average American master closet space stuck at a paltry six feet by eight feet. It is a miniscule footprint in which to house our burgeoning collections; certainly smaller than the collective footprint of three thousand pairs of shoes.


David Knowles


As a loosely-slung adjective—especially in the dialect of British English—‘fit’ implies a particular aesthetic surface, typically in relation to the human body. Across the Atlantic, and especially in the state of California, the American turn of phrase accrues a sub-structure, deepening epidermis into underlying musculature. The fit body naturally required a fit architecture, which embraced openess through curtain-walls and distributed building plans at times scattered along cliffs with an ocean view; in the style of villas overlooking Largo Como or the small chalets constituting an entire enclave in the upper Swiss Alps. In other words, Modernism’s ideal home for an ideal body implicitly treated health and fitness as domestic or leisure-time activities (especially for the wealthy). This was a direct result of the mechanization of production processes, the backbone of service industry growth and the Great American sedentary lifestyle.


Today, the trickled-down suburban middle class landscape is punctuated by short trips to various strip malls and drive-thru joints via Sports Utility Vehicle. A walk to the nearest Raley’s in a residential pocket of NorCal’s Central Valley invites raised eyebrows and glances of disbelief from those traveling at a swift 35 mph. One regrets the lack of corner bodegas which thrive despite corporate retail outlets in urban centers; and unwittingly runs out of curb into weed-and-gravel-strewn patches or asphalt already wide enough to accommodate an armored tank or two. An irrigation canal which might prove picturesque is hemmed in by chain-link fences and hung with signage alluding to the possibilities of electric shock. Choosing to maintain a prime parking spot at Trader Joe’s while hastily marching past Kaiser Permanente to Cost Plus World Market up the road is not a question of real estate, or simply overfeeding the meter, but a deliberate act of agency against the extant fabric of well-oiled flow. Though once a point of origin (spiritual and familial) there is something about the place, and my adult body, which no longer fit together. Once a sunny dream, now exile.


Kari Rittenbach


Edited by Erandi de Silva




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