An Unhurried Wardrobe: Introduction

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The Problem In the Closet

The story always begins in the same way: a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear.  Maybe they’re me-mades.  Maybe they’re from the mall.  It doesn’t matter.  Either way, it crescendos in the same moment of crisis.  There is a recognition that the system is broken.  There has been no guiding principle and the result is a disjointed amalgam of disparate pieces.  And, then, the commitment to change galvanizes.

Only, that’s not where I’m at all.  I have exactly 27 pieces hanging in my closet at the moment.  Total.  Stuffed is not how I would describe it.  Instead of being a recreational shopper, I think I’m a recreational declutterer.  Where others get a shopper’s high, I have a purger’s high.  I take Mari Kondo at her word.  I fearlessly discard anything that does not bring me joy.  Nothing that is not pulling its own weight is allowed to burden my home with its presence.  It is terribly thrilling.  I feel light and free.

And yet, my closet isn’t a space of Zen dressing-ecstasy.  This is where my story joins all those whose closets are overflowing.  Though it is tiny, my wardrobe is frustrating and ill suited.  I have winnowed, but I have not created a functioning wardrobe. 

It would seem that this process requires more than erasure.  Creating a wardrobe I love is not a simple matter of sculpture.  It is not merely chiseling away to reveal the beauty inherent in the stone.  I need both the artful removal of a sculptor, and the intentional strokes of a painter to create a new picture.  This is where I get stuck.  After the rush of removal, I don’t know what to add back. I’m frozen in indecision.  Less than a quarter of my closet really works.  But, I’ve finally recognized that further deletion will get me nowhere without a plan for replacement.

What Slowed Down My Consumption

Let me be clear about this.  Clothes don’t bottle neck in my closet, but they have definitely cycled through.  Though I truly detest shopping, I have still gone through my share of clothes.  For a million reasons, I’ve tried and failed to find clothes that work.  Sometimes I don’t know what I want.  Sometimes I know exactly what I want but can’t find it.  We live in a wide variety of places with a wide variety of clothing needs and that often necessitates more (reluctant) shopping.  And, plenty of the clothes I’ve bought were poorly made and fell apart (and I didn’t try to fix them).

A few years ago, though, I started to recognize the environmental and human impact of this cycle.  Certainly, I was not a mall rat, but there was still plenty of thoughtless consumption going on.  I wanted to change that.  I began buying second hand.  And, I bought less.  Far less.  All good things.  But, they were not getting me where I wanted to go.

A Vision for My Closet

My clothes tell a story, and right now, that story is not a very accurate one.  I’d like to feel like they are an accurate expression of who I am.  Also, I believe my clothes can support me.  I intend to have a closet of clothes that are an expression of me, not an expression of a number (either a size or weight).  I can talk all day long about ill-fitting clothes, but I know that I internalize this as a problem with how I fit.  A problem with my body.  I acknowledge how backward this thinking is.  The clothes don’t fit, but I'm the one at fault.  I need to change—lose weight, tone up, whatever—in order to fit the clothes.  The comparison and shame has got to stop.

This wardrobe of mine needs to support me, but it also has to be one that I can feel good about how it was produced.  I want to make choices that consider both the environmental and human impact of my consumption.  I don’t know all the ways to navigate an industry rife with misuse and expediency.  But, I need to begin asking questions.  I will not always know the best choices.  None of this will be done perfectly.  I recognize that I will make mistakes, and that there will be trade offs required.  But, I am committed to try.

An Unhurried Wardrobe

This, then, is the gift I am giving myself: a Wardrobe made for me, by me.  I will give myself time.  This is not a quick project that can be checked off a list.  I’m ok with that.  I’m not racing anyone and there’s no finish line.

I will give myself space to make mistakes, to miscalculate and to change my mind.  Being intentional is not a barrier to error.  I understand this, too.  I will be brave enough to fail.

And, I will create.  I will sew and I will knit.  With my own two hands I will fashion a wardrobe that feels the same on my outside as I do on the inside.  It will be long lasting.  Both the materials and the styles will be intended to weather decades, not a fashion season.  It will be crafted with awareness of the human and environmental cost it requires. 

And, at the end of the day, it will be fun.When the clothes I put on are something I can feel great about, it allows me to focus on all the other things and people I care about.This is, ultimately an act of self care.If done right, that’s better for everyone.