A few weeks ago after the kids were all in bed my friend Charity came over to help me with a project. My wardrobe needed a complete, top to bottom rehab.
Since I got pregnant with Lou in August of 2013 my body has gone through the ringer. It’s been three years straight of growing with pregnancy, shrinking much more slowly than I’d like, growing again and shrinking again (even more slowly, of course). All while breastfeeding, the needs of which do not lend themselves to all clothes equally. For the last three years I’ve worn whatever was comfortable, whatever fit in my in-between sizing states, and whatever allowed me to whip a boob out at a moment’s notice. This mostly looked like wearing yoga leggings and oversized tops.
I’m pretty much done with breastfeeding and I’ve come to terms with the fact that as much “baby weight” that’s going to come off post Rory has departed; this is my body now. As I mentioned before, my closet was a weird combination of clothes I wish would fit me, clothes I bought right after I had babies that were weird fitting, and clothes that I never wear because I don’t know how or what to wear them with. I’m tired of feeling frumpy at school pick up, tired of wearing stained, hole-y clothes because nothing else fits and this is the only white tee shirt I have left. So it was time to go through each article of clothing and make a decision: keep or toss.
Prior to Charity’s arrival I’d spent a few days pre-purging. I got rid of everything that I was stained or had holes and the things that I knew just really didn’t fit/look good. By the time she arrived that evening I was ready to blow up my whole closet and start from scratch, so I was surprised with how much I ended up keeping when it was all said and done. But of course that is the genius of my friend Charity-she has a keen eye for how to wear things and the most encouraging spirit in the world.
Here are the things I learned in The Great Closet Clean Out:
Often just adding a different shoe changed a whole outfit from tosser to keeper.
There were so many things I assumed would end up in the “donate” pile that wound up in my closet purely because of the shoes Charity told me to try them with. I have a pair of loose, printed summery pants I didn’t wear all summer. Charity paired them with my wedge booties and they will now live to see the fall. The fall! These were unflattering summer pants only in my mind and suddenly with a heel they are chic and awesome printed pants that will be making an appearance all fall. I had a pair of old pumas that I was certain were on their way out that are now going to be worn with a number of different outfits in coming weeks. I don’t think much about shoes when I buy clothes or plan outfits but this experience taught me that shoes can make our break an outfit.
You need good basics.
We discovered in The Great Closet Clean Out that I was long on funky or “interesting” pieces but very short on basics which was preventing me from wearing all those interesting pieces. This is ironic because I told Charity when she arrived that I’d been living in the suburbs for too long and my wardrobe was boring. Back in my NYC days I’d been a little bolder when it came to wearing clothes. Everyone was a walking canvas in New York when it came to fashion-you would stick out if you didn’t try a few funky pieces from time to time. I missed wearing clothes that were a little unique. I felt like I was wearing the same combination of yoga pants and cotton tops, and everything else in my closet was unwearable or weird. Charity helped me realize I had all the unique pieces, but they needed some basics to make them wearable.
It’s ok to hang on to clothes for sentimental reasons.
There were a few pieces in my closet that carried a story. The green skirt I bought at a flea market the summer I worked in NYC during college and was wearing when Tommy knew he wanted to date me, a white skirt with embroidered flowers I purchased in Ireland during my study abroad year, a pair of pants Tommy had bought me when we were first dating. Some of these things had been ill-fitting over the years, or wavered between fashionable or not, but I held on to them because they carried a beloved story. I was pretty sure my time with Charity was going to be the push I needed to finally say good-bye, but instead she was a champion in encouraging me to put them in the keep pile. She helped me find ways to wear some of them, convincing me that the clothes looked good and not, as some of them were, almost 12 years old. She championed the notion that clothing with history is important. Since then I’ve worn an orange skirt with beautiful embroidered flowers and delicate beadwork twice, each time remembering my favorite little boutique in New York and my early days dating Tommy. And I put aside a few pieces that no longer fit great to hand down to the girls. Maybe someday they’ll love the blue, velvety flair pants that their dad picked out when we were first dating. Or maybe I’ll just love telling the story. Either way I’m thankful she persuaded me to save a few pieces for sentimental reasons and helped me freshen them up.
Be ruthless about what comes and goes
I had to get real strict when it came to getting rid of stuff. My favorite shirt with the hole? Time to say good bye. Those pants I spent too much on, but look terrible on me? Sorry you’re gone. Anything that fits weird? Out. I’m learning that I’m super picky about how clothes feel on my body. If I find myself thinking about my clothes all day, adjusting them or pulling on them because I can feel them on me I’m less likely to wear them again. I got rid of a lot of great clothes that weren’t great for me. And from now on I’m going to be equally ruthless about what I buy. No more shopping online at stores that are difficult to make returns. No more clothes that I only sorta like but bought because they were cheap. I want to build my wardrobe with good quality necessities from now on.
It’s not just about getting dressed to get dressed.
Thanks to the great closet clean out I’m excited about getting dressed again. There’s a creative element to it for me and I really do feel more confident when I walk out the door. I’m learning that it’s not shallow to care about what you wear because it really does do something inside of you. I have a different energy and a different “I got this” attitude. I don’t know why exactly, but I know that by clearing out all the things I owned that didn’t make me feel confident to wear and reworking what was left, getting dressed is easier in the morning and I feel better all day.
And lastly…. At the end of the day, who cares? Just try something bold
I bought overalls. Yeah I did. I have long loved overalls and when they started coming back around in the last few years I wanted desperately to try them out again. I found a pair for $12 at Von Maur that actually looked cute on me and I knew I had to try it. For $12 I could take that fashion risk. And friends I love them. It makes an average Friday chasing around my kids so much more fun. What’s fashion risk are you secretly dying to try? Just do it. I don’t think you’ll regret it!