Post Express Checkout: The unanticipated pleasures of a spare wardrobe

Too damn stuffed
For four weeks ending last Sunday, I wore twelve items, not counting coats or accessories. Now back to my usual wardrobe, I was definitely affected by the experiment. 

What I learned was expressed by commenter Demi-pointe:
"Perhaps the clothing cleanse is similar to the tip of slowing down one's eating during a meal to wait to allow your stomach to realize you are full. Just slow down the buying.  

Stop the force feeding of one item on top of another...
Space in the closet, space in the stomach = space in the brain. It doesn't all have to be filled to the brim."

Yet another pair 
I don't consider myself an ardent shopper. My Achilles Heel was the back-up item. But who doesn't know where to get another pair of black pants? (I had thirteen pairs, two unworn.)

Deja Pseu joined the experiment, with her customary verve. She and I are united in our wish for an edited closet, leavened by a few "hero pieces".

But for me, the experiment was also about freedom from the need to cosset oneself by buying, from the reflexive siren call of a sale. It is the wish for, as Demi-pointe suggests, a quiet and spacious place beyond a closet.

At 62, time races by, space slows its rush. The jumble of a large wardrobe is a distraction: what to buy next, and when?

"Getting and spending",  Wordsworth wrote, "we lay waste our powers." Did he begrudge himself a new Homburg? 

I'll find out what lures me back to acquisition, but for now I'm enjoying the tender state of refusal. Maybe I'll fall prey to the hobgoblin of fear, fear of looking like a frump, with out of date shoes and lumpy coat.

Outrageously gorgeous earrings
Or my head will be turned by a pretty bauble. 

Fortunately my taste often outstrips my budget. 

But let's drool over Marie-Helene Taillac's gemmy "Elizabeth Taylor" earrings, of amethyst, green and pink tourmaline set in 22k gold. Price $3,380 from Twist.

Oh yes.


Frugal Scholar said…
Very thoughtful, as expected. I start my "fiscal year" with the school year, since I'm a teacher. And, while I have bought some thrifted items, I haven't bought anything at a "real" store! I think my 2 weeks on your experiment made me more conscious--and now I'm thinking: what would be good/special enough to "break the fast" for. So far I've been tempted by back-ups of what I have--another pair of jeans, for instance.

PS Wordsworth: lay waste our powers
Duchesse said…
Frugal: Thanks for the correction, my memory as well as my closet is reduced. Backups are OK as they save one from daily laundry or panic, but I had back ups to backups, not necessary.
Susan B said…
Duchesse, I like that concept of "head space" too. Well put!

"Back up items" are my downfall as well. I think this comes from having spent many years in my young adulthood making very low wages and without much of a clothing budget. At that time my wardrobe was sparse, and if my one pair of jeans, wore out, it might be months before I could afford another. Like famine survivors who always keep a stocked pantry, a lot of my buying is fear-based.
Mary said…
As I've said many times, you just seem to echo so many of my current thoughts and feelings. Perhaps it is being the same age or perhaps it just is. At any rate, as I've lost weight this year (and have kept it off!!), I have learned to satisfy my comsumption itch by viewing "things" as though they are in a museum. Just as I can walk through a museum and appreciate the beauty and appeal of art without feeling I have to own it, I am learning to be satisfied by just seeing and appreciating ... whether it is clothes, jewelry or a luscious dark chocolate cake. Secondly, have seriously edited my closets and now make a real effort to wear & use what I have. As a result, I feel as though I am moving through life lighter and happier. Thanks so much for your continued inspiration.
Northmoon said…
I love the idea of allowing space - in the closet, in my house, in my head, in my life.

I've reached the stage in my life where I could be retiring in a few years. So does it make sense to have so many business jackets that I only wear occasionally? I want to be purchasing clothing for a potential different lifestyle ahead. A 'strict' lean wardrobe appeals now.

At the same time as I edit, I want to get as much use as possible from what I have.
materfamilias said…
I'm curious to see what clothes I end up relying on when I'm on my research leave next term. I've definitely focussed my shopping more over the past year or two, being more careful to buy only what I love, becoming more aware of what suits me. But I'm aware that I have far more than I need, that sometimes I go for long periods completely forgetting garments that I love, and also that I can be quite content living from a carry-on bag for a month, while away. Still, I enjoy the variety more, for now, than the spare, especially while I'm appearing in front of a class. But your thoughts on this experiment, and Pseu's, have been very helpful, motivating. . .
Fuji said…
My personal theory is it's good feng shui to have some empty space - in cupboards, wardrobes, rooms and our minds. In the West we get so used to fullness that we forget how good less than full can feel. :)
LPC said…
I find that pictures of Asprey, Chanel, Kwiat, Graf diamonds etc. helps, since I will never buy them and they are beautiful, I can dream away. As you have done with those earrings.
Rubiatonta said…
Although I didn't participate in the experiment, I have been paying more attention my wardrobe -- what I wear, what I don't -- and how it affects my mood. And I'm pleased to say that what's endured is generally getting worn regularly, and happily.

I do have multiples of some items -- predictably, black pants and black sweaters -- but not in outrageous numbers. (Five black pants, but that includes the grotty pair I wear to volunteer at the animal shelter so I can be drooled on; four black sweaters, including the big cosy one I put on when I get home from work, a la Mr. Rogers' cardigan.)

I've also noticed that the few things I haven't been wearing regularly just need some simple alterations to make them work -- a white blouse that needs taking in so that I don't feel like a shapeless blob in it, for example. A few more tweaks are needed to an Eileen Fisher pencil skirt that is a bit "swimmy" on me. All within reason, and a much smarter option than trying to find something that "works better." Because nothing ever works that well.
MJ said…
Reading about your and Deja Pseu's wardrobe experiment led me finally to cull my closet this past weekend, removing those items that I don't wear even though they seem like they should be good enough. It has left me with what looks to be a much smaller wardrobe, which is a little alarming, but it is the items that I actually wear. I'm not quite through yet - I focused primarily on the items on hangers rather than in drawers or on shelves - but it's a good start to finally see some open space.
Demi-pointe said…
I am so glad to read your resultant thoughts on your wardrobe and of your moves forward. On what to choose next, because the choosing and the wanting to choose can be fun after a hiatus, reminds me of a magpie (not the attacking and picking behavior, more the attraction to shiny objects).
When I know I am in a mood of 'wanting' I have to be careful of just how shiny that thing is that I am attracted to. Too much shine (in the form of too expensive, too trendy, too formal, etc.) and it will probably just sit- with some negative emotion hovering over it. Not enough shine because it really is just like the other (pants, black sweater, whatever) that I own - and it will also sit - wrapped in yawns. Some magpies must always be attracted to the same shiny thing- over and over again (shoes for some).
It can be hard to find of balance- to enjoy satisfying a 'want' of a new and shiny thing but not to tip over into a stuffed nest.
Duchesse, it kind of reminds me of tree pose!
Duchesse said…
Pseu: I know a number of women who say that their acquisitions are based on early scarcity. My early lessons were "buy the best and keep it forever". But when you are in your 20s, you a) can't afford the best, and b) want the latest thing.

Mary: Changing size is ideal time to pare the closet. When I'm not happy with my size, will buy things that are only OK out of gratitude for finding anything. Thanks for our appreciation!

Northmoon: I'm in same place, semi-retired with bursts of work, so have some soft jackets, but no more power suits! Twin sets also work well.

materfamilias: I propose that there is a spot between too much and too little, and that spot may change depending on mood and living space.

Fuji: I do not subscribe to that system of aesthetics, but have never accommodated much clutter. Though I had a large wardrobe, it hung (hangs, for I still have most of it) in well-organized closets :)

LPC: That level, such as Graf, does not incite my dreams; the gems are so large that they're surreal. I'm more transported to dreamland by the design, rather than magnificence. Hmmm, but would I say no to a 15ct emerald cut?

Rubi: My experience with alterations is mixed, only 25% or so really do the trick. I spent $150 having an expensive jacket taken in and it just did not look right. (This by a shop that works regularly on Chanel.)

MJ: Good for you! I've done various rounds of major reducing over the years. Only maybe twice have I gotten rid of a piece I wish I'd kept. Most of the time, after 2 months, can't even remember what it was.

Demi-pointe: I've never favoured the shiny, look-at-me items (despite earrings shown). My magpie tendencies show up re pearls, and I have not given myself any orders about laying off.
spacegeek said…
I heed that siren call far too often. I frequent sample sales, and there are at least two items coming to me in the next week or so that I should not have purchased.
One is a La Florentina camel-colored cape with fox fur trim. My life is not at all in alignment with wearing that piece, EVER. But oh, I wanted it. So I clicked "Buy". I should have resisted, even though I know I will love it and will want to keep it. Sigh. I need more self-control.
spacegeek (again) said…
Another point I should have put in the previous post. (Sorry!!) My weight has fluctuated significantly over the last 4 years, and I have clothing from size 6 to 12 in my home. I have a secondary closet where I put off season and non-fitting clothes, but I have no idea how my weight will be in the next few years (hopefully down again), so I am reluctant to part with some very beautiful (and still functional things).

I have brown and black and camel trousers in various sizes and styles, and jackets too. At one point I altered quite a few larger items to fit my slimmer size. Of course now I wish I had those items in larger sizes.

How does one handle the burgeoning closet problem when this is the issue?
Susan said…
Spacegeek, I have the same issue you are facing---things in my closet when were taken in to fit me when I was 15 lbs slimmer. Every once in a while, I try some of them on--to motivate me. I can zip up some of the pants (briefly) but would not dare wear them. I hope to lose the weight before these lovely things are out of fashion.

At the time I had them altered, I was SURE I would not gain the weight again. Sigh....
Duchesse said…
spacegeek: That cape sounds... incredible. Might you wear it, if only to a party or restaurant? Could it look amazing with jeans and a black turtleneck? And it will fit no matter what.

But if you decide to return, you will know that's the thing to do.

re all the sizes: my guess is that the extremes will fall away. Those are the stats, YMMV.

Susan: I put serious money into accessories and less into clothes.
s. said…
Duchesse, my track record with alterations is the same as yours - as described in your response to Rubi. Changing buttons or shortening hems seem manageable but anything more complex tends to be more Miss than Hit.
sisty said…
Hi! I posted this also on Deja Pseu's site, too:

A big surprise for me was that I actually wore fewer than 12 items --
10 to be exact, or 11 if you count the coat. They were:
black pencil skirt
gray pencil skirt
black cargo pants
gray trouser jeans
gray long-sleeved low-neck tee
gray 3/4 sleeve tee with ruffle detail
black v-neck tee
brown scoop neck tee
white long sleeved, long tee
cornflower blue cotton jacket
The brown tee didn't get much wear, and neither did the trouser jeans,
since they have to be drycleaned. I cheated on a couple of days when I
hadn't washed my black skirt, and substituted a dry-clean-only one.
What I learned? this was much, much, much easier than I thought it
would be, and very freeing. I could actually get up in the morning
knowing what I was going to put on without thinking about it, or
thinking about it for less than a minute. I brought more of my jewelry
and scarves into rotation, and I had fun playing with makeup and
I also learned that I look better in skirts, and honed in on that
specific silhouette as something that really works for me and that I
don't need to vary.

Now, a week or so after, I still find myself wearing these 10 or 11 items,
adding very little to it. Next? On to the closet purge.

Thanks for the challenge -- it was really worth it.

Like spacegeek, I have clothes that I'm hoping to fit back into someday that I'm still hanging onto, and things I had taken in that now I wish I hadn't. That's the next frontier for ruthless editing, I think.
Duchesse said…
sisty: Thanks so much for the details, and for 'playing'. I have found it's a whole different thing doing it than watching or thinking about wearing fewer items.

Some things I'll purge, and some will drop away by attrition.

And- as if I needed it- the experiment shows me that accessories are often a better investment than high end clothing- and no size worries!

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