On Wednesday, Lena Dunham was at home in New York’s Brooklyn with her memories. The time she wept through Hillary Clinton’s defeat at what she had thought would be her victory party at the Javits Center, on November 8. The time she found herself embroiled in a controversy over a detail in her memoir. The first time she had her picture taken with her boyfriend of five years, musician and producer Jack Antonoff. The time she became the first woman to win the Directors Guild of America award for directing a TV comedy.
For Dunham, all of these memories have an outfit. She is keeping the memories, but the outfits are for sale.
On Monday, 169 pieces from her wardrobe will arrive on the RealReal, a website for fashion consignment. She will donate the entirety of her 70 per cent commission from the sales to US sexual health service the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, one of her favourite organisations.
Dunham has been lying low since the end of Girls in April, and while her future slate looks full – her first book of short stories comes out next year, her Lenny imprint with Random House will publish its first title in August and she is working with her Girls partner Jenni Konner on television and film projects – the time felt right to disencumber herself.
“I realised I had been carrying around a lot of crap, both internally and externally,” she said. “I always thought I was going to hoard all my clothes for my future daughter, and now I understand, especially being a woman with a reproductive illness, I may end up with an adopted son, I may end up with a daughter who doesn’t identify with her gender at birth. You can’t live for the future that does not yet exist. I have to take all this good fashion fortune I’ve had and spread it.” (She has been recovering from operations related to her endometriosis.)
As her toy poodles, Susan and Karen, napped around her, Dunham reminisced about some of the pieces: gowns from award shows and the Met Gala, the Kenzo x H&M dress she wore to the Javits Center, T-shirts for days off in Brooklyn and items from the closet of Hannah Horvath, her character on Girls.
“The clothes for me brought back a lot,” she said. “I was like, ‘There’s a paparazzi picture of me eating a quesadilla in that!’ I don’t want to remember, but there it is.”
Each one will come with a letter from Dunham (and in some cases, from the item’s designer) explaining its provenance. (Buy the Zac Posen gown she wore to the 2013 Golden Globes and you will hear about how she hyperventilated while wearing it, and had to be removed from it by Glenn Close and a pair of nail scissors.)
The pieces range in size from a 4 to a 12 and up. “I like being a woman who’s not typical Hollywood size putting beautiful designer things out into the world,” she said. Prices begin at $35 (for a pair of ASOS suede pumps) and top out at $4,000 (for the Elizabeth Kennedy gown Dunham wore to this year’s Met Gala). Eighty of the pieces cost less than $100.
She admitted that her style is not for everyone, and that she has never been universally appreciated as an icon. “I’ve gotten this reputation as someone with notoriously bad style,” she said. “I would say the fashion blogs enjoy a bit of a roast of me. I don’t mind; I’ve always thought the worst dressed were the best dressed.”
Dunham has been an advocate for Planned Parenthood for years, connecting with the organisation while filming the first season of Girls. The cause is particularly urgent now, she said, as Congress considers legislation that will have a direct impact on women’s health.
“If you had told me six years ago that we would be in the place we are now, I would have said that you were crazy,” she said. “And now, The Handmaid’s Tale just seems too real. It’s a very, very challenging moment to be a woman in America. Planned Parenthood’s never been more essential. The work that I’ve done with them has really become front and centre to my life, really as important to me as my art in a lot of ways.”
As Dunham prepared for the sale, she found herself embroiled in a controversy, not exactly new territory for a long-standing lightning rod. On Thursday, dispute about her re-homing of her rescue dog, Lamby, lit up social media. Aside from a statement on her Instagram page, she has declined to address the matter. But she had earlier acknowledged her complicated position as both beloved and disliked.
“Probably some people will buy the clothes because they hate me and burn them,” she said. “And I bless them, too. The money’s still going to Planned Parenthood.”
It’s come to my attention that the staff at the shelter where I adopted Lamby have a very different account of his early life and behavioral issues than I do. While I’m sorry to have disappointed them, I can’t apologize. Lamby was and is one of the great loves of my life. When I met him I knew we’d have an amazing journey. But his aggression – which was unpredictable- and his particular issues, which remain myriad, weren’t manageable, at least not by me. I did what I thought the best mother would do, which was to give him a life that provided for his specific needs. He’d been with me for nearly four years and I was his mom- I was in the best position to discern what those needs were. After countless hours of training, endless financial support and a lot of tears he was given access to a better life. I still support him financially and I’ll always be there for him in every way but he’s notably happier in his new surroundings. Why should this story be subject to scrutiny and anger? It is willfully misunderstanding the truth. I hope those judging can imagine the incredible pain of letting go of your favorite creature on EARTH because you know you can’t help them be healthy and happy. I would never say an unkind word about the staff of BARC, what they do is amazing and life saving for these animals- but we have different accounts of Lamby’s behavior and they were not present in my home nor did they live with him for an extended period. They did not witness the consistent and responsible care I provided. I have weathered a lot of micro-scandals but this one hurts MOST, because of the vulnerability of letting people know Lamby and my story, and because I miss him so damn much. This is the painting that greets me every day when I walk into my home. This is the animal who taught me about loving and letting go. I know I’m a lot of fun to place your issues on, but I won’t let anyone hang their hat on this peg. Not this time.
The New York Times