Ever since moving last November, my closet situation has been kind of an invisible disaster. Pre-move, after decluttering and ferrying bags of discards to Value Village, I thought I had a solid, edited wardrobe that I’d be happy to live with for a while. Nothing in, nothing out. Now forward to post-move and I’m adjusting to living in a much smaller, less functional space. The contents of my wardrobe have migrated around the space of my apartment over the past few months and is currently spread out over several locations: 15% hung in a small storage closet adjacent to the bathroom, 15% stuffed away in a box in the same closet (things that need fixing, want to donate/sell/swap, 30% (mainly winter clothes) stored in a rolling box under the bed, and 40%, consisting of my everyday clothes for the summer, organized in a small wired drawer set from IKEA, located next to my bed.
Through this process of resettling all the clothes I own, it became hard to keep track of what I had, especially since that “no-buy” resolve I’d had pre-move dissipated pretty fast and I continued to regularly acquire new things. I wasn’t shopping like crazy, but as I assigned these new-ins to one of the four potential stash spots – typically the more hidden areas until I decided I wanted to wear them – an invisible mess was brewing. I knew that I had too much, but I couldn’t see how much.
Earlier this year, I decided to create a spreadsheet to formally catalogue all the items I own. I’d been tracking outfits since early 2018 through sketches, but this was a clearer, numbers-oriented way to view the true scale of my wardrobe. The process of going through and recording my wardrobe was very satisfying to my list- and data-loving spirit. It was an opportunity to rediscover all the things I loved in my closet and see all the functional, monetary, and emotional value this collection of wares represented. It also brought up feelings of shame and guilt over the bad purchases and the reality of how much stuff I own. I thought to myself, “Now, this is everything I need. I should go on a shopping ban and focus on wearing the things I have.”
Each time I’ve had this smug thought, I’ve failed. The high of going through my wardrobe and the strong compulsion thereafter to quit buying things never has never really lasted that long in my cycle of analysis – purging – buying. It’s the wheel I want to break.
Personal style and “style anthropology” – what the mix of pieces we choose to bring into our lives say about ourselves – have always been high on my list of interests. However, I’m also highly concerned with the abundance of clothing our society produces and discards, and the effects of an increasing pace of fashion consumption on the planet. I’ve been dabbling in the “minimalism” movement for the last two years and have tried various minimalist approaches to fashion. From downsizing, creating capsules, and wearing uniforms to imposing shopping rules and a budget – each to varying degrees of success. I slowly became more interested in coming up with my own wardrobe experiment – first, for the purpose of helping me be more conscious of my own closet over a longer period of time, and second, to challenge myself to change my consumption habits.
To create a “slow catalogue” that doubles as a style journal of all the items of clothing I have in my wardrobe. It’s an exercise that I hope will help me gain more “wardrobe consciousness” and eventually “style actuality”. Just kidding. But, I would like to use this process to truly meditate on what I own and express my appreciation and gratitude for what I have. And to mix that in with analysis – the actual utility of an item in my everyday life, the quality over time: the use, the wear. I want to pick up each item, just like Marie Kondo said to, and give it the same attention as I had when I first saw it and decided I needed it. It’s an opportunity to give some reflection to my relationship with my clothes, piece by piece, from the lens of the past and the present, as well as pondering the future. Perhaps renegotiating that relationship, making new plans, or choosing to part ways.
I admit that I don’t have a tiny wardrobe. I have excess of what I need. I feel guilt for not having a 30-piece wardrobe that is sustainably sourced and will last for years. The point of the project is not to make it a purging exercise, but I want to face my conflicting feelings on style vs. environmental responsibility and reflect on what has purpose in my wardrobe, what I can realistically use up, and what needs to be repurposed and how do I do it in the least harmful way?
The aim of the project is to allow myself to focus on what I have, shifting from patterns of outward seeking to inner assessment. I’m hoping this strategy will help me be a more mindful consumer over time, only choosing to acquire items that I can see myself having a meaningful and long-term relationship with. It’s also a more personal way for me to visualize and list out what I have than taking a bunch of photos to be uploaded into an app or maintaining that spreadsheet. Through revisiting all the shopping decisions I’ve made and thinking critically about the items I’ve chosen to bring into my home, it is my overall intention to do some inner learning. To look at my style journey, to understand more about my impulses and desires, and to try to nudge them more in-line with my other goals.
- Create a post of each item in my closet, ideally a piece a day, but realistically, at my own pace
- Not buy anything new during this “meditation” period – the idea is to not shop for at least as many days as I have items in my wardrobe
- As a clause to the “no buy” aspect, because I’m expecting this to be a longer term undertaking, I may keep a small list of premeditated practical items and a budget for them; things on this list may change and I will try to do without as much as possible (more on this later)
- Things that I will not be counting in this catalogue are: intimates, loungewear, exercise clothes, accessories (I may write about these things at a later time, separately from the challenge)
My concept for this personal project isn’t new; it’s a riff on the ideas and work of many bloggers and creative people, but particularly the books, Women in Clothes and Worn Stories.
If you’re still reading, thanks for hanging in.
#1 Something New
The newest item in my wardrobe, I brought home this silk skirt from Kit and Ace in a mad 24 hours. I’ve been trying to cut back on browsing fashion sites, which always leads to annoying ads in my browser, but somehow an ad for Kit and Ace notifying me of their summer sale snuck its way onto the corner of my screen. And when I saw the silky slip-like skirt, despite my mantras of “consume nothing new” and “you’re better than your impulses!”, I knew I wanted to check it out in-store. When I got to the store, they didn’t have any left in my exact size, but I was able to try the skirt in a size up (the last one remaining). It still looked and felt amazing, but I knew it wasn’t a perfect fit and even with the discount, the price tag was a little steep. So, after a few minutes of thinking, I left the item behind with a little bit of sadness, but a hundred dollars not spent in my bank account.
Purchased from: Kit and Ace, 2019
Material: 96% silk, 4% spandex
Wears counted: 0
During 2019, I’ve been teetering between wanting to try a shopping ban and then inadvertently finding something that fits exactly my criteria. I couldn’t stop thinking about the skirt the next day and eventually the anxiety of missing out led me to go back for it. I justified it as my “big ticket item” for the year, but while I was happy to acquire something of beautiful quality that would fit my wardrobe needs, there was also a sense of disappointment in that the consumer devil voice in my head had won me over.
I can’t yet answer the question of whether or not it was worth it, but the piece is really well designed and fits a specific archetype of item in my closet. The brand, Kit and Ace, is a Canadian company that produces technical wear, specifically designed for cycling commuters. The skirt is their Bike to Office Silk Skirt, a name which ticks a number of my keywords. The piece is made of impossibly soft two-way stretch silk and is machine washable. It features clever designed-for-cycling elements (snaps on the hem to prevent the skirt lifting, a reflective strip on the side for extra visibility at night), which floored me as someone whose summer wardrobe revolves around a small collection of knee length skirts with elastic waists and pockets that I can comfortably bike around the city in. Although I certainly didn’t need another one and had been generally trying to avoid buying clothes from new, it seemed like the perfect addition to my arsenal of primarily thrifted skirts. Perhaps this purchase signals a certain confidence in my style to start investing in quality pieces I know I’ll get use out of. Or maybe it’s really a waste of money on something that I can easily find secondhand.
As with any new and shiny relationship, I’m excited and look forward to our future together – there are many things I want to with it and in it; I hope it’s a relationship that lasts. Because it’s a size too big, it hangs more drop-waist than it’s probably intended to fit. Right now I have no plans for alterations and will try to embrace the comfort of a loose skirt. I think it’ll be a great everyday piece for the rest of summer, paired with fitted tanks. It should transition nicely into late summer with a thin long sleeve knit, and later fall, with a chunkier sweater and tights. Because it’s an expensive piece in a delicate material, part of me is scared of wearing it, for fear of damage and inflicting signs of wear. But I’m sure a few bike rides will change that.