Is Paul Brockman, a 78-year-old from Los Angeles, the ideal husband or a fashion fanatic? Over the course of five decades of marriage, the now retired contractor has purchased a warehouse of dresses for his wife Margot.
The habit started before they emigrated from Germany to America in the 1950s, when — as a young dock worker — Paul was allowed to pick out 10 dresses from a shipment for Margot, who was his girlfriend at the time.
"I was fascinated by the dresses from the '50s. The petticoats and the wide skirts made a woman look real feminine,” Paul told LA Weekly. “And that is what I really liked. When I seen a gal with a dress like that," he says, "I wanted to get her on the dance floor."
The couple married and carried a love of ballroom dancing over to Ohio, where Paul insisted that Margot wear a different gown to each weekly party. By the time they landed in Los Angeles in 1988, by way of Arizona, the family had collected nearly 25,000 dresses.
Paul’s borderline obsession may have drawn its psychological roots from growing up in inflation-stricken, post-WWII Germany, where a shipping container of cash probably couldn’t have purchased six months’ worth of bread.
Is this some mild form of vogue, fashion-centric posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that manifested into a shopping addiction? Although the research is limited, ‘oniomania’ — compulsive shopping — does share some hallmarks with other types of addiction, which in turn can be brought on by PTSD.
Even though his wife asked him to stop, Paul kept buying the cocktail dresses and began storing them in shipping containers. Over the next couple of decades, he eventually filled six of these giant containers with an estimated 55,000 dresses worth about $1.5 million.
This is according to his daughter Louise, who, rather than inherit the dresses, has moved the dresses into a warehouse and started selling them with her father. The makeshift shop, equipped with its own Facebook page, is trading about three per month, but Louise and Paul hope that a large investor will arrive to buy the vintage clothes en masse.