It was unpleasant realising my clothing consumption was out of control. My wardrobe was full of things I didn’t wear, and I stood many mornings in my dressing gown thinking that today would be the day I finally went to work naked. How did it come to this? Why did I have have garments with the tags still on hanging unloved and unworn in my closet? After a bit of reflection, I began to figure out where I was going wrong. It was not a nice process. I was doing dumb things.
Sales. Yes, that dress is ok, I guess, but knock 30% off and it becomes more attractive. But does it really? No, it does not. It goes into the wardrobe to hang for a year and it never gets worn because I don’t really like it. I just bought it because it was cheaper. That’s the definition of a false economy.
Body Denial. Does this garment fit my shape? I am not slim and I’m quite short, and while the outfit looks fabulous on the leggy model in the catalogue, it looks dumb on me so I wear it once, feel uncomfortable the entire day, and then put it in the wardrobe next to the sale dress I’ve never worn. We won’t discuss the number of times I’ve ‘vanity shopped’ a smaller size and have been too humiliated to return the item.
Lifestyle. That dress would be perfect for a wedding or formal occasion, but I rarely go to weddings and I haven’t been to anything formal in about 20 years. I’m self-employed, so my looks should be quite casual and relaxed. Why did I buy a dress that makes me look like an outdated prom queen? I don’t even have any heels to wear with it.
Cloning Past Success. I got loads of compliments on that red cardigan, so it must’ve been working for me. I know what to do – buy another one that’s only slightly different. And then another that is only slightly different to that one. So I end up with five red cardigans in my closet (two still with tags) and I only ever wear one. This is stupid.
Greed/Dopamine Hit. It’s quite fun to buy things. There is this sort of anticipation that the outfit I neither needed nor really wanted will be the magic one that makes me look younger/slimmer/prettier/happier/fitter/wiser/more productive/whatever. It never does. Retail therapy does not work.
After assessing why I had too many unloved garments, it was time for a major clear out. I won’t give you the details of the sorting of the clothes – there are plenty of sites to advise you on how to do this. But I will tell you that I cleared out two-thirds of my wardrobe! I sold some, but found the process annoying, so the rest went to the charity shop. The entire episode was traumatic, so I have established a few rules to prevent coming off the rails again.
Know Your Style. As I mentioned, I am short and plump, so not everything looks good on me. I understand this, and I don’t try to put my round self into a square garment. I have a sort of uniform now in which I feel happy and comfortable, so I never find myself standing in front of my closet contemplating life as a nudist. I grab an underdress, a pinafore, some tights, and a pair of ankle boots and I’m off.
Know Your Palette. I have recognised the value of a colour palette. Where I used to buy blacks, pinks, greens, yellows, oranges, blues, purples and whites, I now stick to a strict group of colours. Most of my items are black, grey, red or pink, and I no longer have to think to come up with an outfit. Most everything works together, which has cut down a lot of morning stress. I do keep a few colourful accessories to liven things up if I feel I want something brighter.
The Five Outfit Rule. Space in my wardrobe is precious, and I won’t let just anything in, so before I buy something new, I ensure it will work with most everything else I own and mix and match with those items to give me at least five new outfits. This not only prevents my buying things that won’t work, it also acts as a bit of pre-planning so that I can visualise outfits I’ll be wearing in future.
The Love Rule. I have a red embroidered coat I bought a few years ago and it’s my favourite thing I own. Every time I wear it out in public I get compliments, and that makes me feel happy. And while I know I’ll never love every garment I own as much as I love that one, it does give me a point of comparison before I buy. Do I love this item? If the answer is yes and it meets the criteria above, I will consider it. If the answer is no, I don’t give it another thought.
No Fast Fashion. I will not buy anything unless it’s ethically made of natural fibres. Yes, this costs more, but I only buy one garment so often, so I can spend a bit more per item.
This is where I am now. I don’t have a capsule wardrobe, and I certainly can’t call myself a minimalist when it comes to clothing. But I do wear everything in my wardrobe and I don’t make dumb purchases any more. I’m well-dressed and guilt-free. It’s a nice feeling.