Wardrobe Detox: Well THIS is embarrassing

Recently I was thinking how great it would be if I could figure out a way to fit another wardrobe storage unit into my small bedroom. Then I could organize my clothes and actually find something to wear in the morning!– I thought naively. Lucky for me, as I was surfing the sewing blogosphere, the Wardrobe Architect crossed in front of my face just in time. It made me realize I didn’t need more storage for my clothes, what I needed was to detox my wardrobe: pare it back to a more manageable size, and make sure it contains only clothes that make me feel and look great.

Just part of the pile of clothes I’m getting rid of. Not pictured: shoes, purses, more clothes. Yikes.
Just part of the pile of clothes I’m getting rid of. Not pictured: shoes, purses, more clothes. Yikes.

So here are two embarrassing facts to come out of this detox:

  1. I pulled over 65 garments that I just don’t love enough or wear enough out of my closet and dresser for the give-away pile. Over sixty-five! It’s embarrassing to me that I could pull that many articles of clothing out of my wardrobe and still have plenty of pieces left to keep me well dressed all year round.
  2. Prior to the detox I had two drawers just for socks. JUST. FOR. SOCKS. In my defense, they weren’t two LARGE drawers, and granted, in this climate one does need a variety of socks for a huge range of weather conditions, but two drawers full was just plain insane. Just the socks I got rid of would have been enough to keep my feet clothed for more than 2 weeks without doing laundry. Why on earth would someone need so many socks?? After detox: just one drawer for socks.

Once I got started, the only difficulty I encountered was resolving to get rid of those pieces that I had really loved at the time I bought them. Even if I hadn’t worn them for years or they didn’t really suit me, I’d still remember that feeling of spotting that amazing print, or getting a great deal, or how that geometric pattern and colour combination got me so excited, and it would make me feel like I couldn’t possibly get rid of this thing. I also had pangs about clothes I had received compliments on or had worn for a special occasion. But I was ruthless, sticking to some of the principles that I’d really always known but that reading the Wardrobe Architect brought into stark relief for me:

  • if you don’t feel great in it, get rid of it
  • if it’s not a style that suits you, get rid of it (WA’s section on understanding sillhouettes was really helpful on this one)
  • if you haven’t worn it in forever, it’s highly unlikely you’re going to wear it again, so get rid of it

Embarrassing fact #3: You’d think I would have loved every item of clothing I bought at least at the time I bought it — I mean, why would a sane person buy something if they don’t love it? — but sadly that’s not the case. These are some of the reasons I seem to buy things that I don’t love. Maybe you can relate to these:

  1. Sometimes I go shopping to relieve anxiety or stress, in which case I often make poor buying decisions, because it feels better to complete the mission (i.e. buy something) than to leave empty-handed, even if it’s not a good choice.
  2. Sometimes I’m on the hunt for a particular thing that I think I need — let’s say a black long-sleeved tee — and eventually I’ll settle for buying one where the neckline is a little too deep or it rides up around the tops of the sleeves but I buy it anyway just to get that thing crossed off my list.
  3. Sometimes I buy something just because it’s on sale and seems like a great deal. (In my defense I believe this might actually be genetic — my parents are both chronic bargain hunters who never buy anything if it’s not on sale and will drive across town to save 20 cents on cheese!)

    Lovely silk dress. Original price: $140. Bought at a second-hand shop in a shi-shi NYC neighbourhood for $20. Bargain? Nope. Waist is too high, it needs a belt that I don't have, and the colour isn't great for me.
    Lovely silk dress. Original price: $140. Bought it with the tags still on at a second-hand shop in a shi-shi NYC neighbourhood for $20. Bargain? Nope. Waist is too high for my liking, it needs a belt that I don’t have, and the colour isn’t great for me.
  4. Worst of all, I sometimes buy things to make up for a previous poor buying choice. Example: a year or two ago I bought a pair of jeans with a pinky-coral and navy paisley print on them, but I had very little that I could actually wear with them. So, I decided I ‘needed’ a coral T-shirt, so I bought one, and for cooler weather a lightweight cardigan that matched would be ‘needed’, so I bought one of those, and then it turned out the coral t-shirt was shitty quality because I had done that thing where I bought one that didn’t quite fit the bill anyway just to get it off my list, so I bought a navy t-shirt instead, and really I don’t like the neckline of that navy t-shirt after all…. I have been trying to make those fucking jeans work by buying more things ever since. Cripes.

    The offending jeans in question.
    The offending jeans in question.

Yes, I’m a basket case. But I’d like to think I’m now a reformed basket case. New questions I must ask myself when shopping:

  1. Is this truly a style that suits me and I feel good in? (Avoid buying styles I admire on others but aren’t really my thing. Avoid buying things that maybe have one great feature about them like a fantastic colour but something else about it isn’t quite right for me.)
  2. Do I already have something in my wardrobe I can wear with this? Or will buying this one thing necessitate buying a bunch of other things in order to build an outfit?
  3. Am I heading to the cash with this in my hand just because it’s on sale?
  4. Do I really need another damn brightly coloured and/or busy-patterned article of clothing, fercrissake? (It’s important for me to swear at myself on this question to really make sure I’m following it. A closet stuffed with a riot of colours and patterns does not make for easy dressing each morning, trust me. At some point in my life I seem to have forgotten how elegant and easy black, neutrals, and solid colours can be.)

I also have new rules about choosing knitting and sewing patterns, as well as selecting fabric and yarn, but I’ll save those for another post.

What about you? How do you manage your wardrobe? Do you have rules for when you shop, and rules for when you’re purging your closet? Do you stick to them?

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9 thoughts on “Wardrobe Detox: Well THIS is embarrassing

  1. So many comments reminded me of myself! Especially …buy a matching garment. I try and make rules but, I dunno, I am so interested in so many styles and designs. I get bored of neutrals and so I am so glad I have purple patterned pants! I am really looking forward to your rules for sewing patterns. 🙂

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    1. I agree, I’m definitely not cutting out patterns altogether, just making myself think twice or three times to make sure I actually can work it into my wardrobe. So now the pressure’s on to write a good post about rules for sewing!–will get to work on that. Thanks for commenting, Janet.

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  2. I like that yellow print dress. Can I have it? 😉
    Seriously, you’re talking about giving away clothes you’ve *bought*. Buying clothes was your first error — giving them away is a laudable act of charity and you can total up the cost of them and pat yourself on the back for how much you’ve given to the less well-off. Now getting rid of clothes you’ve *made* — I can attest to the fact that that’s a way bigger challenge. Then you’re thinking of giving away your own blood, your own sweat, your own … babies. Ow! That hurts.

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    1. Please send self-addressed stamped envelope…. lol.
      Thanks for that perspective. You know, I find that I don’t mind giving away things I’ve sewed so much…it’s the knitting that really gets me. So much more time spent on the knitted garments, I guess.

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  3. This is such a timely post as I recently did a big wardrobe detox and it was so informative. I love making artsy jackets but many just don’t work on my body or lifestyle. They now have new homes and I have space in my closet like you! I’m anxious to hearing about your rules for sewing patterns!

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    1. Maybe if you love making artsy jackets you could set yourself up in business to make them for others? Could be one way to scratch that itch without filling up your closet. I’m grappling with a similar problem with knitting…there are only so many sweaters one person can possibly need. 🙂

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  4. Love the pants ! Thinking navy blue is best. I also “hunt’ in second-hand stores
    but actually enjoy wearing them more & don’t feel badly if I re-donate them at some
    point.

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    1. Thanks, Nancy, I like those pants too…they’re great in the summertime with the cuffs rolled up, now that I finally have a decent navy blue t-shirt to wear with them. They actually made the cut, and are still in my closet.

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  5. Do you ever over-dye clothes? That lovely silk dress could be over-dyed with this season’s Marsala – it already has some of the Marsala in it. It might just look wonderful. And you could wear Marsala well.
    About that short waist – do you carry a tape measure? Do you know your own body’s measurements? Do you know the measurement of your hand-span? The length of your fingers, your phalanges?…for easy measuring before buying, or even considering buying.
    I love the paisley jeans – I hope you find the right tops to go with them because they are pretty wonderful.

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