Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Shopping my own closet

My name is Jayne and it's been more than a week since I last shopped for shoes and clothes. But I have been indulging in another sort of shopping: the kind fashion bloggers call "shopping your closet".

This means actually wearing the clothes you already own, which sounds silly until you consider that the average Australian only wears a third of the clothes they own. A third! That's a lot of unworn clothes and wasted money, especially if you have a vast wardrobe, as I do (vast by most people's standards, anyway). I'm not sure if I wear more or less than a third, and I'm not sure I really want to quantify it (or think about how much I've spent on unworn garments).

Shopping your closet involves re-examining what you own, purging the stuff you're never going to wear, and working out new ways to put the remaining pieces together so you feel as if you have been shopping. You make better use of everything you own and overcome the boredom of wearing the same outfits over and over (which can give rise to the urge to shop). 

Yes, I'm guilty of wearing the same things over and over. I have a lot of unworn or rarely worn clothing, but I also have a lot of clothes I've worn A LOTonce a week for months and months on end, years even. I've actually worn out some items of clothing, including a couple of my beloved black and white striped tops and a pair of jeans that have massive holes caused by the rubbing of my fleshy inner thighs (which I can't bring myself to get rid of. The jeans, I mean; I'm keeping the fleshy thighs).  

Stripes, stripes, glorious stripes

My tendency to re-wear the same things regularly is partly because I'm always in a rush on work days, and it's easier to reach for the old faithfuls rather than thinking about putting together a new outfit. Often before I go to sleep I will put together outfits in my head that incorporate a new or rarely worn piece, but when I'm racing the clock in the mornings (I usually have about 30 mins from my feet hitting the floor to racing out the door) that new outfit idea goes completely out the window and I opt for the old faithfuls. (Why, yes, I could just get up earlier, but let's be realistic.)

Last year (or the year before even) I bought a hanging rack with the intention of spending time on the weekends putting together a week of outfits so in the mornings I just had to grab my outfit off the rack and thrown it on. But I think I only did that once before the rack got filled with a bunch of clothes I'm going to try to sell day when I can be bothered taking photos of them. 

Another reason I tend to wear the same things often is because I know they actually fit me. Like many women, my weight has fluctuated over the years. I've been a size 10 (Australian sizing) and I've pushed the upper limits of size 14. I have everything between size small and extra extra large (although this is partly due to inconsistent sizing).  At any given time most of my clothes fit and some don't, but usually I don't have the time in the morning to work out if something fits me again if I've lost or gained a few kilos, and then work out what to wear it with.

I'm currently in a 'losing' phase and I've been able to fit into a few barely worn or unworn items, but I need to have a proper trying-on session to work out what fits me now.  

Which brings to me to how to shop your closet...

Clean out your wardrobe. I cull my clothes a few times a year and I'm probably due to do it again. There's plenty of how-tos online on how to go about this, usually suggesting you make three piles: one for clothes to keep, one for clothing to donate/discard and one for things you aren't sure about. The latter pile you can store away for six months or so and if you don't drag anything back out of it, donate/or discard that too. 

Questions to ask yourself when going through your clothes: 

Do I love it? Do I love how I look and feel in it? Marie Kondo might urge you to only keep things that spark joy, but let's be honest: not everything in your closet will bring joy; some things are just more utilitarian, like black opaque tights or basic cotton tops or active wear. If there's no spark of joy, consider: does it serve a purpose? Does it suit my lifestyle? Does it help pull together an outfit I do love?

Even if you answer these questions in the affirmative, also ask yourself: Does it fit me properly? Really fit? If not, can I have it tailored? Will I actually get it tailored?  Does it need mending? Can i be bothered getting it repaired? Is it comfortable? Do I constantly tug at it? Is the fabric scratchy or stiff?  

And further still: Does it go with other pieces in my wardrobe? If it doesn't, you probably won't wear it. Is it too high maintenance? Am I really likely to commit to handwashing/ironing/drycleaning it regularly (bearing in mind not everything that's labelled dryclean or handwash only always needs to be cleaned that way. Some things can go in a wash bag on a gentle cycle, but exercise caution)? Do I have the appropriate undergarments to wear it to best effect? (The difference that the right bra and undies makes cannot be underestimated.)

Do you really need to dry clean that? 

Am I likely to have an occasion to wear it? A whole rack of fancy dresses is nice and all, but not much use if you rarely have occasions to wear them, unless you can dress them down (with, say, a denim jacket and flats) to make them more wearable on an everyday basis, or you are bold enough to adopt the 'every day is a special occasion' approach to dressing and frock up regardless. 

Does it have sentimental meaning to me? If you really can't bear to part with the ragged jumper your late gran knitted, don't.

Keep your clothes where you can see them. Once you've downsized to the clothes you know you will wear, keeping your clothing in one place where everything is visible makes it easier to find and work with clothes you have been neglecting. Organise your clothes so you hang like with like: skirts with skirts, pants with pants etc. Dryclean, iron and mend your clothes as required so they can go straight back into wardrobe to be worn again and again. (I say this, but I'm never likely to iron more than twice a year. That's why I mostly buy wash-and-wear clothes.)

Making new outfits. This is the fun part! Some ideas: 
  • Try on all your tops with all your bottoms. Tuck your tops in or leave them untucked. 
  • Pair your shoes with  skirts or dresses you wouldn't normally put together. 
  • Play around with accessories like scarves and belts. 
  • Consider colour combinations you wouldn't have thought of before, or experiment with pattern mixing. 
  • Mix feminine pieces with edgier garments - like a flowing dress with chunky boots or a leather jacket. 
  • Look at your summer clothes and see if you can get more wear out of them by adding layers. Look into layering generally. 
  • Can you incorporate any of your more casual clothing into your work or going out attire? Can you dress down fancier gear? 
  • But most importantly: Forget the rules. There are no fashion rules, only opinions (I think Iris Apfel said this, but I can't find the quote again). If you like it, wear it. 

When you hit on an outfit you like, take a photo. Keep your photos close at hand, either online or off. Make a Pinterest board. Stick them on your wardrobe door. Refer to them often. There's also an iPhone app called Stylebook designed to help you make outfits from your own clothes, but I don't have an iPhone so can't comment on its usefulness. 

I've been making an effort to wear some of the neglected pieces in my wardrobeshoes, jewellery, a shirt, skirt and a pair of pantsbut this weekend I need to properly go through all my stuff and create new outfits.  

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