For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a large wardrobe. I’ve always adhered to the “more is better” philosophy when it comes to my clothes. Much of my over-shopping in my adult life can be attributed to my wanting to dress well, as I thought a full closet was part and parcel of being stylish.
Whenever I felt less than chic, I assumed a shopping trip was in order to add new fabulous and trendy pieces to my wardrobe. This regular practice has led me to where I am today, with a packed closet of over 300 pieces, most of which have been purchased during the last three years. While I have been diligent at doing regular closet audits, my continuous shopping has generally replaced all of my discarded items – and then some!
I should feel incredibly stylish and impeccably dressed at this point, but I mostly just feel overwhelmed, ashamed, and frustrated. I realize now how wrong I’ve been in my behavior. And if I look back, I also see strong clues which I failed to heed along the way.
Remembering a Stylish Co-Worker…
In my mid-thirties, I worked as a program manager at a high-tech company in the Silicon Valley. Most of my co-workers dressed in the ultra-casual clothing common to that industry and location, but there was one woman who strongly deviated from that norm. She always looked chic, sophisticated, and stylish. Her classic wardrobe included a lot of black and white and everything looked expensive, well-tailored, and fit and flattered her shape perfectly.
Over time, I developed a friendship with this woman and was eventually invited to her home. My intense curiosity led to my request to see her closet, and I expected to see an immense walk-in filled to the brim with designer pieces. I definitely believed my friend would have more clothes than I did, but I was wrong… When she opened the door to her closet, I saw a wardrobe that was maybe a quarter the size of mine. The hangers had space between them unlike in my jam-packed closet.
Two Closets: Large and Haphazard vs. Small and Curated
My friend had fewer clothes than I did, yet she was much more well-dressed than I was. At the time, I dressed in a haphazard and quirky manner without a defined point of view. I wore whatever styles caught my eye, bought clothing piecemeal, and always shopped the sale racks for good deals. In contrast, my friend had a carefully curated wardrobe filled with quality items. While I don’t know for sure, I suspect that she shopped with a list and primarily purchased full-priced garments. She made more money than I did, but my guess is that we spent roughly the same overall amount for our clothes and shoes. The difference is that she shopped smarter, bought less, and used logic instead of emotions in making her purchasing decisions.
Over the years, I have met other such women. I’ve always marveled at their style and have been surprised when I saw their smaller yet more stylish closets. Yet I still didn’t apply what I saw to my own life. I persisted in buying too much, getting a bargain, and amassing a large wardrobe. I continually let my emotions run the show while my brain didn’t apply the lessons I learned from my stylish cohorts.
“What Not to Wear” and the “Enough” Wardrobe
Shortly after my recent closet inventory and the surprisingly high overall number, I found myself watching an episode of “What Not to Wear.” I decided to count the number of items purchased with the $5000 awarded to the makeover subject. I paused the recording during the “What She Got” segment and counted 48 total pieces, including shoes and bags. That’s only about one-seventh the size of my wardrobe, yet I was impressed by both the style and versatility of the woman’s resulting outfits. What’s more, it seemed to be enough.
Massive Overhaul or “Shop My Closet”?
Sometimes I am tempted to do a massive overhaul of my closet and get rid of one-half to three-quarters of what I own. While that would alleviate the sinking and overwhelmed feeling I get when I open my closet door each day, I don’t think it’s the best answer for me at this time. After all, most of my clothes are close to new and in excellent condition.
I feel my best approach is to shop my closet instead of the mall for a while, use what I have, and learn more about myself and my ideal style. Along the way, I will purge the pieces I don’t love and will eventually develop a more curated wardrobe. The fact that I’m limiting what I buy to only one item of clothing and one accessory per month this year will definitely help, as I’ll be getting rid of more than I bring in.
A New Wardrobe Goal for 2013
As I was writing this article, I created a new goal for myself for 2013. When I did my closet inventory last month, I had a total of 384 items, including clothes, shoes, purses, and scarves. My goal is to pare my wardrobe down to 250 items by the end of the year. That would represent a 35% reduction in my wardrobe size and would definitely be a great start! Whatever I don’t love will be passed on to a new home (after all, one person’s trash is another’s treasure!).
Over time, I hope to reduce my wardrobe to 200 pieces and possibly even fewer than 150, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. I would be incredibly proud of myself if I meet “the 250 goal” this year, as that would mean less closet overwhelm, fewer mediocre items taking up space in my wardrobe, and increased wear for what I have. Win, win, win, in my book!