One of my style resolutions this year, well every year actually, is to wear what I own. And if I don’t, to make the ultimate decision to get rid of what I’m not wearing.
Even though I have a small closet, wearing what I own is harder than it sounds. Especially if I’ve hit upon a kind of seasonal uniform. A formula that I find myself repeating over and over, reaching for the same kinds of pieces, if not the exact same pieces, because I like them, they look good together, and it’s easier than dreaming up something new to wear. This year I seem to have fallen into a jeans, cashmere turtleneck, Uniqlo down jacket, and scarf rut. Which is okay, I know. There’s nothing wrong with a formula, or a self-styled uniform. It’s just that in my style lethargy I’m ignoring other pieces that don’t conform to the formula, pieces that I paid good money for, and which are languishing in my closet unworn.
So… these unworn pieces… should they go or should they stay? And how do I decide? How does one decide when it’s time to say good-bye to one’s clothes?
|Not ready to say good-bye to these Stuart Weitzman boots. No sirree.
I’ve been thinking about that question ever since I wrote a post back in December assessing my wardrobe acquisitions for 2018, and Ann in Missouri commented that her “biggest challenge is ever letting go of anything.” When it comes to those pieces which still speak to us, but which we seldom wear, “How does one say good-bye?” Ann asked.
I know that the Marie Kondo preferred method is to dump all your clothes in a huge pile and then tackle the problem. But for me it’s easiest to split up those decisions, making a few at a time. Taking one’s medicine in small doses, so to speak. I do my main closet purge seasonally. When the spring and summer (or fall and winter) clothes come out from hiding, I try everything on and make some decisions. Which pieces will get to have pride of place in my small closet and dresser that season?
First the garment has to still fit me. And fit my retired lifestyle. And I have to still love it. If it fits, and I still love it, and am excited to wear it this year, it goes in the “keep” pile. If it fits, and I’d love to wear it, if I had an occasion to wear it, it goes in the “maybe” or the “just in case” pile. I do not believe in the rule: “if you haven’t worn it for a year, you’ll never wear it again.” That’s way too hasty for me. There’s always that one piece that I can’t bear to part with, and which I just know in a couple of seasons I’ll be happy to have hung onto. Like my navy Max Mara pant suit.
I keep my “maybe” pieces in a couple of garment bags in Hubby’s closet. “Maybe” or “just in case” pieces have to be good quality, and still fit. Like a certain party dress that I stored because I knew I would wear it again. I bought my Lida Baday dress to wear to the summer wedding of my former student, and now good friend, Erica. It languished for a couple of years, and then last summer I wore it to the wedding of Hubby’s cousin’s daughter. I’ve hung onto this dress because the times when I need to wear a nice dress are few and far between. If I can save myself the trouble of shopping when I already own something I love, then the storage space it uses is well used, in my opinion. I mean, have you tried to shop for a dress lately? They are super hard to find.
|Of the 12 items shown here in my closet, only 5 were purchased in the past two years.
But what happens if the “just in case” pile gets overwhelming? I have a weakness for fall jackets and blazers. I have rarely met a tweed jacket that I did not want to have a meaningful relationship with. Blazers, jeans, and boots… have long been my favourite fall pieces. But the tweed-blazer-as-outer-wear season is very short, some years only a month, here in Canada. September is usually too hot for a jacket, and by November it’s raining and even snowing. When I was still teaching, I wore my fall jackets all winter long. Not any more. They do not slip easily under a heavy winter coat, and are not comfortable unless I plan to take the coat off.
Now, let’s enumerate the occasions when I might go somewhere, take off my winter coat, and stay a while. To a party, when a wool blazer is too outdoorsy looking, and neither festive nor casual enough, depending on the party. To a friend’s home for lunch or dinner or book club, when, in my blazer, I might look as if I’m at a business meeting, instead of lounging with a glass of wine and my feet tucked up under me. No, to my mind, wool and tweed jackets need boots and jeans and a loosely swathed scarf to make them look casual enough for my non-working lifestyle. And that means wearing them as outerwear.
When my “just in case” pile gets too big, a mini-purge becomes necessary. I usually do culling like this in between seasons. To that end, I did a jacket purge late last fall, and sent three blazers from my “maybe” stash to be consigned. That still leaves three wool blazers hanging in my closet, all of them quite different in style, all old, all in great condition, all still capable of making my fashion heart go pitty pat. I’ll no doubt only wear them during that short fall season, but since they are good quality and meet all my other “keep” requirements, I’m happy to give them closet space. Even if I might wear each of them only once or twice a season.
|Breathing new life into this old leather jacket.
The one fall jacket that I’m determined to wear this winter is this Akris leather jacket, above. I’d been looking for two or three years for a light leather jacket when I found this one at Holt Renfrew in 2008. I loved (and still love) the slightly moto look, the chocolate brown colour, the buttery soft leather, the understated hardware. It’s much more of an indoor jacket than my tweed ones, and slips easily under a coat. But it’s short, and I haven’t done short for a very long time. So to wear the jacket I need a dress (which I have been looking for) or a suitably loose, long sweater to fall below the hem of the jacket. The other day, when I wore my navy Uniqlo cashmere turtleneck with jeans, these old Stuart Weitzman suede boots, and my down coat, I remember thinking that I should slip on the leather jacket and see how it felt.
And actually, it felt wonderful. I love the jacket with this double-faced, wool scarf that has navy and teal on one side, and soft brown animal-print on the other, and my brown suede boots. It makes me smile with satisfaction every year when I see that Stuart Weitzman has issued another version of his high suede boots. I love my boots. They are only appropriate on certain very cold winter days, when there’s not too much slush and salty muck on the streets, but on those days I haul them out, feeling pleased with myself for having made the investment so many years ago.
I see myself in this outfit sliding off my big down coat, stashing it in Liz’s dressing room at Nordstrom, then roaming the store looking for that elusive dress, and finally coming back to meet Liz for lunch. Yep. This is exactly what I’ll wear when we do that in a couple of weeks. When I attend a party later this week, at a bar, I’ll wear this outfit then too. Unlike a house party where one has to shed one’s boots and wear indoor shoes, a party in a bar will be the perfect occasion to wear my suede boots and leather jacket. In fact, I think I’ll feel quite spiffy in this get up.
|Feeling quite spiffy in leather and suede.
Substituting my unworn leather jacket for my all-too-frequently-worn Uniqlo ultra-light down one is a good move. It’s getting too cold for that light down jacket anyway. And I’ve thus justified the continued inclusion of this leather jacket in my closet. I won’t be saying good-bye to this gem just yet. Although next year may be a whole different story.
So, I’ve solved my own problem, but I haven’t actually helped answer Ann’s question. How do you say good-bye when a certain piece of clothing still calls out to you?
Well, I have some thoughts on that subject, as you might have guessed.
If your closet is burgeoning, and you know you need to make a start, somehow, to whittle it down to manageable size, but you can’t face doing your whole wardrobe in one go, why not start with one category of clothing? Do one season, like I do. Or just jackets. Or only jeans and tees. When you do start, be sure to try everything on. Everything.
If a piece doesn’t fit, is not in good condition, or doesn’t suit your current lifestyle, then the answer should be obvious. Consign it or donate it.
If you don’t love it, do the same.
If some pieces don’t suit your current lifestyle, but your life is still in flux, I say hang onto them until things settle down. Making decisions while under stress seems like a recipe for regret. However, if you own a closet full of business wear, and have retired for good, then why not donate most of your suits and dress pants to Dress for Success
or some similar organization? Keep one outfit… just in case. You don’t have to get rid of everything at once. If you have, say, fifteen cashmere turtlenecks, and they all fit, but you rarely wear them because you’ve moved to a warmer climate, choose three that are your favourites to set aside for travel, and consign or donate the rest.
But those pieces which you bought on impulse, but have never worn because they’ve never, ever worked with the rest of your wardrobe, be strict with those pieces, my friends. Give up, and get rid of them. And never, ever do that again. Do your research and shop with a list. I’m shaking my finger here.
And if you don’t have the courage or the energy to face making all these decisions alone, then call your sister (that’s what my sister does), or a stylish friend who understands your style, bribe them with lunch and a glass of wine, and ask for their help. My sister and I had a wonderful afternoon when I helped her cull her closet. I was strict, though. Sometimes someone has to be bossy, even with someone’s older sister. And when we were done, we both thought it had been worth the effort.
It’s a great feeling being able to see everything in your closet, loving each and every piece, and knowing that you could pull out anything and feel wonderful in it. No more guilt about unworn, unloved clothing. It’s all gone to be loved by someone else. Conversely, no more fooling yourself that you don’t need to go shopping because you have “so many clothes already.” After my sister’s closet purge the need to fill empty niches in her wardrobe became patently obvious.
I know it’s hard to say good-bye to formerly much loved pieces when your relationship has ended. But, as Hubby said to me when I was a little depressed about retiring and moaned, “I can’t believe it’s the end.”… “Maybe you should look at it as a beginning, Suz.”
So I did. And you can too. A new beginning in the life of your closet.
And if you can’t bear to never again see that too-small, beloved sweater you’ve had since university and haven’t worn in five years (or ten), then take a picture of it. And keep a file titled… “Clothes to which I have had the courage to say good-bye.”
I love that last idea. It was Hubby’s. He’s learned so much about closet culling since he’s been with me. He even instigated a cull of his sock and underwear drawer a few days ago. He was very strict, and we didn’t even have to take any pictures. Ha.
Now, I know we’re all different, have different needs, different budgets, different closets… so let’s hear what you have to say, my lovely readers. How do you say good-bye to formerly well-loved pieces in your closet? Or do you? You can tell us.