On wearing clothes

Wardrobe essentials

“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” — Virginia Woolf, Orlando

At the turn of each new year, I apparently expend a good deal of mental space thinking about clothes. What can I discard and donate now? What did I not wear in the past year? What, in Kondo’s life-changing phrase, sparks joy?

If anything, the simple act of tidying my wardrobe sparks joy for me. (I unashamedly admit that I love folding my underwear.) Last night, I edited my closet and came up with armful of things, once more, that I ought not hold onto. It thrilled me. I am so much happier with less.

Wardrobe essentials

But. I am struggling with a new desire. I do not want a pile of new things, but I want but fewer, far more expensive, and well-made things. Gobs of cheap garments from Target and Old Navy no longer appeal to me, as they did when I was younger. I just want one ludicrously expensive pair of jeans. Or a luxurious, sustainably made handbag. Which is a different (fiscal) problem altogether.

My style aspirations haven’t changed at all since I last wrote about them. I still want to dress like a Parisienne, however that is within my power in Central Virginia. I have successfully edited out most colors and prints, except for stripes. I wear rather plain things now, and I love it.

Simply put, people who say they “don’t care about clothes” are not truthful. Everyone cares about clothes. Everyone makes deliberate choices about what they buy and how they wear it. Our wardrobes are not happy accidents.

What people mean when they say this is that they don’t care about fashion or trends. Which is fine. But everyone cares about clothes.

And that is why I like thinking about clothes and observing what people wear and why. What we say to the world through what we wear. Is the image that I think I’m projecting through my clothes what the world actually receives? It is something to ponder.

Next: Perhaps some thoughts on uniforms and minimalism.

Closet visit

One of my 2015 resolutions is to simplify my life, particularly my wardrobe. I’m far from declaring that I have achieved a streamlined, minimalist wardrobe, but I think I’ve made progress. It’s a start, at least.

Closet visit
Tapestry by Laura Dillon Rogers.

A physical benefit of attempting a pared-down wardrobe is that we have TINY closets. Simply, there is no space to have an expansive collection of clothes. When we moved in a year ago, I begrudged this seeming limitation and envied women with those luxurious walk-in closets. But now I feel grateful for this small space. It has forced me to become a conscientious and ruthless editor over time.

Closet visit

Closet visit
Shaker dictum calligraphy print, by me.

This is it:

Closet visit

Closet visit

And then I have three drawers (grunders not pictured).

Closet visit

Closet visit
Shirts, transformed by the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying (a la Marie Kondo).

My shoes live on a little shelf outside the closet.

Closet visit

The surrounding goals are to (1) discard/donate more, (2) reduce colors, (3) refine what I consider to be my personal style, (4) buy less, and (5) buy better-made clothes when I do buy.

Closet visit
Silk blouse from Everlane.

I still have lots of progress to make, but I am feeling refreshed and inspired with this small start. An added benefit is that my mom and sisters (and some of Grace’s friends) are joining in this goal to simplify our closets, and so I have a good deal of peripheral, personal support. I am thankful for them, and for this year of new beginnings, even if it is starting with something as ordinary as a collection of clothes.

“Through housewifely care a house recovers not so much its originality as its origin. And what a great life it would be if, every morning, every object in the house could be made anew by our hands, could ‘issue’ from our hands. In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent van Gogh tells him that we should ‘retain something of the original character of a Robinson Crusoe.’ Make and remake everything oneself, make a ‘supplementary gesture’ toward each object, give another facet to the polished reflections, all of which are so many boons the imagination confers upon us by making us aware of the house’s inner growth.”

— The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard

Inspiration