My Animal Crossing Closet Is the Fashion Outlet I Didn’t Know I Needed
I haven’t left my apartment for two months. Within that stretch I’ve put on clothing I’d actually wear outside the confines of my building on exactly one occasion: To do laundry. My Zoom call uniform has taken the figurative form of a mullet — business in the front (a non-message-bearing top with a *gasp* bra), party in the back (polar bear-print pajama bottoms most days). My Animal Crossing: New Horizons alter-ego, however … She’s been rotating through vintage Yves Saint Laurent dresses, Marc Jacobs separates, and yes, even Jennifer Lopez's Versace Grammys gown.
I’m the type of person who long ago decided she wasn’t allowed to play video games. My lifestyle is already peak lazy (see above paragraph), and fused with my extreme competitive streak and comfort with sitting on the couch for hours without interruption, gaming presents a real problem. But, ah, my boyfriend’s Nintendo Switch called, and I was the perfect combination of bored and curious about this magical land of smiling raccoon-dogs and turnip investments that I answered.
And so, a rock-hitting, tree-shaking monster was born. I now wake up an hour before I sign on for work to play, and promptly return to my island the moment I sign off. And while the entire ACNH realm thrills me to no end, there’s one particular component I relish: The clothes.
The virtual me has options. She lives mere feet away from a boutique that introduces new designs daily (Everlane could never). She gets new pieces when she talks to the villagers on her Island. Like, imagine if your neighbors greeted you with a new pair of shoes in your size when you ran into them instead of just ignoring you in the elevator and then screaming at the top of their lungs at all hours of the night (Oh, just me?). Sometimes she even finds wardrobe pieces in balloons that float overhead. It’s a charmed life she leads.
And when she tires of the island’s sartorial offerings, she (with the help of her human vessel) scours the internet for codes for custom duds modeled after pieces from her favorite IRL designers.
Virtual me, though egg-shaped and possessing spherical mounds where her hands should be, looks adorable in everything. She’s never experienced the deflation that comes after entering a dressing room with 12 items and realizing you hate how every single one looks on you. She’s never had to carve out a special section in her closet for clothes she hopes will fit her again someday. Yes, I’m aware she’s not real, but there’s something truly aspirational about the way she goes through life, and not just as it pertains to her wardrobe. I mean, who else would repeatedly get stung (ON. THE. FACE.) by a swarm of wasps and continue to shake trees and chop wood as though disfigurement and pain were not an option? She is an inspiration to us all.
From my post, on the couch (or the bed, if I’m feeling bold), dressing my avatar in the Able Sisters’ finest is kind of … exciting? Yeah, I’ll own it — EXCITING! It takes me back to one of my first retail experiences, when I was 8 or 9 in small town Oregon and my best friend’s mom took me and her to an Old Navy in Portland. Most of my clothes came from the yard sales my bargain-shopper mother would frequent, so visiting an actual store was a true treat. I had $50 of my hard-earned money to spend (an amount that felt, at the time, like a Julia Roberts payday) and the possibilities seemed infinite: Glittery jeans? Knee-length denim skirt? Puppy T-shirt? (This was the very early 2000s, mind you.) Each item attached itself to a fantasy of who I could be — the confidence I could possess in a skirt with heart-shaped pockets and a pink zip-up hoodie; the unaffected “cool” of a simple t-shirt and jeans. Quickly, I learned that $50 doesn’t go far, even at Old Navy, but I’ll never forget the excitement of that realization, that clothes could help communicate who you were. There’s pleasure in that still, but it can be hard to remember when you’re struggling to just find something that both fits and will complement a forecast that includes both snow showers and a sunny high of 75.
If there’s anything I’ve found remotely enjoyable throughout this upsetting and uncertain time, it’s the mental and emotional (and financial) freedom from real-life fashion. I’m no longer stressed that I don’t look cool enough to work at a fashion outlet or worried that investing in a pair of jeans that doesn’t leave red marks around my waist will lower my credit score. And yes, the financial concerns will no doubt still remain once we’ve all returned to the office and the world, but the cynical part of me that began to view clothing as nothing but a practicality is fading away. I want to rediscover the excitement of my third grade self rifling through Old Navy peasant blouses — and though I’m not quite there in real life, the feeling returns every time I open my Animal Crossing closet.