operation revamp :: the closet, part I

denim jacket

So here’s the deal. We all go through phases of stylishness and unstylishness, depending on the time of year, our body image, or what sorts of things are going on in our lives at the moment. We all that those days where we hate everything in our closets. We don’t have ANYTHING to wear and we need to be somewhere yesterday and all that will go together is a jacket from sophomore year of college and pants that stretch out in nanoseconds. When your closet isn’t together, everything is hard.

(This is an exaggeration. There are plenty of other things in life that are hard, like poverty and paralysis and living without health care. But in the moment — you know what I’m talking about — it all seems so appropriate.)

I’ve been coming to terms with my closet for the past six months. After the wedding, I had some free time to go through things while Andrew and I unpacked and settled into our first apartment. There, I had my own walk-in closet. (Let me state here for the record that you really don’t understand what you have until it’s gone. Now I share a closet with Andrew that is – I AM NOT KIDDING YOU – one fourth of the size of one of our closets.) In my closet, I could afford, space-wise, to hold onto some things that I didn’t need any longer, simply because I had the room to store them. I had shirts from high school, skirts that didn’t fit, too-short dresses, cheap pants with impossible pockets, shoes that I kept for sentimental reasons…it was all getting out of hand. I did my first big edit during the summer, and after giving some things away to Goodwill I felt like I could breathe a little easier.

I started my job working as a crepiere in a local cafe. I was in the kitchen all the time, sweating over a hot griddle and loving it, but it limited my wardrobe to shorts and tank tops, a few t-shirt dresses, and close-toed clogs. With my headscarves, I was the epitome of fashion. Except not really.

But it was so easy to get dressed for that job and not worry about how I looked that I lost my ability to get dressed. I’m serious. Whenever I would have to go out somewhere, go to church or to dinner or out for drinks I would be at a total loss for what to wear. When I cleaned out my closet I left serious gaps in my usable wardrobe – I’d kept the comfy, flowy things I needed for work and I had kept the fancy dresses for holidays and military events, but everything in between was weird and sporadic in style and usage. I have had to re-learn how to dress myself and, in the process re-discover my style.

Thus began my quest for a wardrobe overhall. It has been a gentle and gradual process so far. I have tried to define what pieces in my closet work best for my body type and for my life’s events, in addition to what I feel best wearing. I have tried to buy quality pieces over quantity, and I’m currently on a mission to find my “uniform.”

Liz and Kathleen have both written about the beauty of a uniform, and I’m trying to follow up my appreciation for their words with a practice of the habits of simplicity. If pressed for an answer, my “uniform” of choice would probably be a v-neck top with a jacket, a sensibly heeled bootie and bootcut jeans, or a high-waisted skirt with a tucked-in top. Or A dress with a belt, boots and a cardigan is option three, and I like crew-neck sweaters with layers of button-ups or other crew-necks. Other outfits include: thick black leggings under a tunic or skinny jeans tucked into tall boots. Wait…is it possible to have more than one “uniform”?

Additionally, Lauren at Seventeenth & Irving (my new favorite style blog) has pledged that 2013 will be her year of simplifying. She’s already blazed a trail by her massive closet and style overhaul, and she has inspired my own personal edit. I also really liked Kate’s musing on the return of minimalism in the fashion world. She calls us out on layering a million scarves and bracelets – a la the Olsen twins – and instead recommends a return to the clean (and now modern) idea of 1990’s minimalism. This I like.

Rachel from Small Notebook recently wrote about the irrational fear in letting go of our things — a good reminder and refresher if you’re having a hard time letting go  of useless, thankless objects. Getting rid of the physical clutter helps to de-clutter our minds, which I think all of us could use a little dose of these days.

As an exercise, I’ve looked at my closet and listed what I have, what I like, and what I need. It was really eye-opening to discover that much of what I have has been kept out of habit. Isn’t it crazy how so much of our life, of our routine, is overlooked simply because it’s normal? Here’s what I’ve discovered:

I have discovered that I really love jackets. I enjoy wearing dark-wash denim and high-waisted, full skirts. I like v-neck tees (too much, in fact). I like boots, and neutral leather shoes that can work with anything (nothing crazy in the shoe department over here). As far as accessories go, I like big scarves, chunky necklaces, leather belts and bags. I like dresses that can be made up or dressed down, with waist-defining properties. I have an irrational attraction to sweaters — it’s irrational because I live in the desert. I like classic shapes, quirky details, and a menswear-twist on feminine clothes. I have need for only a select few “professional” pieces as my job takes place, for the most part, at home. Ditto for fancy dresses, even though I am a sucker for them and also may have occasion to wear them to military events in the near future. I don’t care for stripes all that much anymore, nor do I ever like things with brand names/excessive logos or lots of lettering across the chest. I like gray, camel, cream, blue, green, and deep red.

This should be easy, right? Well, maybe.

As a start, I’m trying to pare down what’s in my closet. There are things that may work but that I absolutely never wear, and that I haven’t touched since they entered my life. It’s hard to get rid of things, but especially things like that. They have potential, they’re nice and pretty…but the just don’t work for me. It feels a little bit like wastefulness to “toss” those pieces, but buyer’s guilt has no place in this exercise — I try to think about all of the good they can do for someone shopping at a thrift/consignment store, plus I try to remember all of the good they will do for me by vanishing.

To help out with this, I’m trying to sell a few things on Poshmark. This is essentially an iPhone fashion consignment app that allows me to post photos and descriptions of clothing and accessories I want to sell, and makes it easy to conduct a transaction and make a profit. If you’re interested in checking out what I’m selling on Poshmark, find me via the username “erinrosalita.” If you’re even interested in creating your own profile to buy or sell, Poshmark is offering the first ten people to join through my recommendation a $5 credit for purchases. Simply use the code “HUPAI” when you sign up to activate the credit — I’ll also get a $5 bonus for sending you in their direction.

*     *     *     *     *

I’d love to hear your thoughts about personal style, simplicity, and maintaining a workable wardrobe. Do you have any favorite pieces that you go to again and again? In this new year, are you on a mission to clean out and pare down any area of your life aside from your clothes? Let me know, I’m always curious! And next up, I’ll be discussing how I’m weeding out the not-so-great things in my closet and filling in the gaps with classic pieces.

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11 thoughts on “operation revamp :: the closet, part I

  1. The best thing I’ve ever done for my wardrobe is to stop planning what I need to wear, and only buy for what I am actually going to wear. What do I need for the next 2 weeks at church? What do I need to go out to lunch with Scott when he is wearing a suit? What do I need to look great when I am with other women? So I try only to buy for a specific occasion, and then that outfit looks great, and of course in whole or parts I can wear stuff I really like.

    • I like that approach, it’s very practical. In a similar manner, I’ve been taking note of what I wish I had for various occasions when what I’m wearing doesn’t work for that occasion. Making a list and checking it twice… Thanks for sharing, Mama VG!

  2. Oh, dear, you are going to laugh out loud when you get my letter. I spent the last three days ruthlessly going through my closet and getting rid of everything that wasn’t either perfect or absolutely necessary and not replaced yet. I have gone through my closet twice in the past year, but both times it was sort of half hearted. This time it was intense!

    My “uniforms” are pretty similar to yours– leggings with pretty, comfy dresses, cotton a-line skirts in the summer, pretty tops tucked in to high-waisted skirts, cardigans and skinny jeans. Out are clothes I’ve kept for sentimental reasons, or because I spent money on them, or that don’t quite fit.

    It’s so incredibly freeing. ❤ Good luck! It is worth it. 🙂

    (Also, I think I shall toddle off to blog about this sometime this week… citing you as my inspiration, of course!)

  3. I’ve spent that past few months doing the same. The last three years of having either a pregnant or post-pregnant body has left my wardrobe very sad. Combine that with the fact that I stopped working and I’ve got some seriously comfy clothes but not much else.
    Cleaning out my closet has been amazingly uplifting. I’ve cleared probably over 100 hangers and multiple drawers full of STUFF. And I don’t miss it one bit. My biggest tip is to ask yourself if you’ve worn it in the last year. Besides formal wear, etc, if the answer is “no” it goes.
    A tip to Anthropologie after Christmas this year was helpful. But I only bought about six articles of clothing and my closet feels like it got a facelift.
    Good luck!

    • That all sounds wonderful, Ashley! (Especially the Anthro part) Congrats on a wardrobe overhaul, no matter how simple — I’ll be taking a few of your tips with me to Austin this weekend, as I’m hoping to hit up a few favorite stores while I’m there. Thanks for sharing!

      • I’m impressed that you counted them! Can’t hangers be so annoying? I’d love to hear about what you consider your “essentials” or what some of your favorite items are. Now that I’ve started thinking about this I’m fascinated by others’ experiences.

        Also, congratulations on the new addition to your family — your birth story was so beautiful.

  4. Thank you.
    I must admit that I’ve recently been pretty obsessed with getting rid of anything that’s not essential in the house or that contributes to my daily well being (photos, keepsakes). It’s been incredible how much I’ve disposed/donated/given away. My house feels so much more liveable and open.

    My essentials: (This made me think!)
    2 pair jeans: comfy and skinny
    pair of cords
    about 5 long sleeves
    1 chunky sweater used for layering
    2 jackets (casual and nicer)
    brown boots
    pair of flats
    At home: comfy sweats, tees, zip up hoodie

    Of course, I have more, but this is probably what I wear 90% of the time. Keep us updated as to how it comes along!

    • What a great list! Thank you for sharing this with me — I’m hoping to be just as diligent as you in refining my belongings down to the best and the most necessary. I’ll be talking a bit more about the wardrobe issue as the month progresses, and hopefully I’ll have such a comprehensive list as yours when all is said and done. Paring down my shoes is probably the hardest…

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