I’m a dreamer. As such, I tend to set lofty goals that I can visualize myself accomplishing, but often fall short of in reality (like, ahem, writing this post on time). I have more ideas, aspirations, and desires than I can keep track of or reasonably achieve.
While the “type A” part of me enjoys translating fantasies into scribed rules and quantifiable objectives, from experience, I’ve learned that they don’t always serve me well. Hence, for 2022, I want to do away with the hard goals, the measures of success, and the terrible acronyms (looking at you, SMART) they made me learn in school. Instead, I have just five simple wardrobe intentions that I’ve thought through and some ideas of what they could look like in practice.
Reduce wardrobe anxiety; make my closet a guilt-free space
My wardrobe has been a creative treasure trove for me throughout the years; however, it’s also been a place of constant of guilt, doubt, and worry – over the number of pieces I have, how much I spent on those pieces, where they were from, how often I wear each item – the list goes on and on. With all the doom and gloom about the impact of fashion production, accompanied by the widespread idealization of minimalism, every time I’m tempted to add a new piece to my closet, be it new or used, I’m sacked with the feeling of being a terrible, brainwashed consumer.
I think it’s always good to question one’s behaviours, reassess one’s values, and experiment with new habits. Indeed, I’ve come a long way since my days of keeping drawers overstuffed with fast fashion wares and a hodgepodge of secondhand finds. Yet, I still have an unhealthy-at-times obsession with perfection – both having the perfect wardrobe and performing perfection in how it’s curated. This leads to a sense of inadequacy when I fail to meet my arbitrary goals of only bringing in a certain number of items per year or when I measure the contents of wardrobe against those of (seemingly) more restrained, more stylish women.
Shape my wardrobe in a way that aligns with my ethical, financial, and style goals
Continuing with the theme of reducing guilt and stress, I’ve been rethinking my preoccupation with being restrictive about the size of my wardrobe and the number of items I’m “allowed” to add to my closet. It’s true that I feel best about my wardrobe when I have a smaller, more manageable, collection of things that I enjoy wearing frequently. I’m also passionate about reducing the impact that my consumption habits incur on the planet, but don’t want to blow my budget striving for an unattainable ideal. With all these factors in mind, there can be so much pressure against every single decision, leading to an exhausting amount of uncertainty and guilt.
To an extent, creating “rules” and setting “limits” has helped me make sense of all the different considerations I’m weighing. But for a dreamer, rules on paper can be more idealistic than realistic. Therefore, instead of setting another round of depriving rules that induce binging and self-reproach, I’m more interested in developing good, sustainable habits by revisiting the goals I’m ultimately striving towards.
My first set of goals are surrounding “ethics”, or lessening the social and environmental impact of my wardrobe. Here, I’m not aiming for perfection, but wish to limit the harm I impart by extending the lifespan of the clothing I already have, buying secondhand first (over 85% of my clothing purchases in the last 3 years have been used), avoiding certain brands, and paying attention to materials.
The second portion of my goals have to do with finances: spending wisely, having a budget, and living within my means. In my early twenties, I definitely made a lot of poor shopping decisions and my wallet suffered for it (although my spending was never out of control, I definitely spent too much of my meagre student budget on stuff I didn’t need or end up wearing). There’s a lot of alignment between my financial goals and ethical ones, like buying less, shopping secondhand, and looking for quality items that will last. However, the point of tension arises when I consider bringing ethically-made (preferably local) garments into my wardrobe. I think the price points are usually justified – and I’m glad to pay more for better practices – but it can be easy to overspend when shopping this way. While my first priority is buying secondhand, I do include room in my budget for splurging on a few key “new” purchases that I must think through carefully, with the mindset of buying-it-for-life.
Finally, I want to continue my wardrobe journey in a way that aligns with my personal style goals. These include having pieces that provide me a rich vocabulary to express myself through visual language; wearing outfits that make me feel good, physically and emotionally; having a wardrobe that is largely cohesive, but with room for idiosyncrasies; and developing long-term relationships with my clothes, cultivating a closet full of memories and stories. For me, style is more than vanity. So while I want to be conscientious and pragmatic in my wardrobe approach, I also want to create space for novelty and experimentation, as well as invest time and resources into enhancing my closet (and not worry that that this is time/energy/money wasted). All while being patient with the process – taking time to really get to know my clothes and allowing my style evolution unfold, slowly and organically.
Remove pieces from my wardrobe responsibly
I’m over the whole decluttering-porn trend. I’ve seen one too many Youtube videos of people tossing their stuff on the floor like they don’t give a crap and patting themselves on the back for the mass disposal of material. I’ve definitely been guilty myself of razing my closet and throwing everything into a garbage bag for donation – letting my stuff be someone else’s problem, under the pretense of philanthropy.
Now I no longer make “purging” a habit and try to hold onto or repurpose things as much as possible. The reality is I still have pieces I don’t use or have outgrown that I would prefer to remove from my life. In this Year of Being Guilt-Free, the tally of items in my closet may not matter, but storage in my one-bedroom condo does. Instead of racing to get rid of thing as quickly as possible (this is part of the guilt-ridden mentality of seeing purchases that don’t pan out as mistakes to be stricken from the record), I want to treat my ex-clothes with a bit more kindness and dignity (think conscious uncoupling over back alley annulment).
This year, I want to put more effort into reselling, gifting, or giving new lives to the items I no longer want. Recently, I sold my first piece on Poshmark, and have a few more listed (or earmarked to be). I also donated some clothes to a local thrift store – stuff that’s in decent shape, but is not worth selling or would be too bulky to ship. While donation can be a dubious business, I still think it’s important to keep neighbourhood secondhand stores stocked with affordable, quality items. Other things I’ve done in the past include posting to local trade/”no buy” groups on Facebook, participating in clothing swaps (pre-pandemic), and simply offering things to friends. For the items that are too damaged to be passed on, I’ll be saving them for scraps and rags or finally look into textile recycling programs in my area.
Learn more about mending and sewing
Once upon a time, I thought I’d grow up to be a fashion designer and have an entire wardrobe of my own making. In reality, I have a never-ending list of small sewing projects I keep putting off.
I briefly dabbled in some pandemic sewing, inspired by all the talented seamstresses and hobbyists that seem to frequent this blog; however, it was a project destined to fail as I endeavoured to design and sew a piece from scratch with very minimal skills. Starting too big and quitting when things get frustrating is a pattern I’m not proud of.
So, this year, we’re going to work our way up. First, by tackling the lowest-hanging-fruit category such as stains (I’ve already gone through a lot of baking soda and Eucalan this year) and easy fixes (my first attempt at visible mending didn’t turn out the best, but is still kind of adorable?). Then maybe I’ll graduate to doing some of the alterations on my list, like shortening a skirt and swapping out the straps on a summer top. Finally, if I work up the courage, I might become emboldened to take on bigger sewing projects, like creating a simple, upcycled garment using my bag of non-donation-worthy scraps. I’ve been trying to dedicate a few hours each month to these wardrobe maintenance/improvement tasks, as well as learning and practicing these good-to-have skills.
An important realization I’ve had is that I’m more interested in maintaining, modifying, and reimagining clothes that already exist than creating garments from scratch. There’s so much stuff out there, and I’m honestly more of a designer than a maker. However, I do want to be at least somewhat knowledgeable about clothing construction, pattern-making, and sewing techniques so that, in theory, I could have the skills to create clothes of my own imagining if I can’t find them anywhere else. While I’ve established that I’m not a crafty person who likes to make things for pleasure, I’m not opposed to picking up a sewing machine as a means of fulfilling a style vision I have. I’m also open to paying people to help create my dream garments for me (okay, that seems more plausible).
Document my style and outfits more consistently
My last intention for the year is to create something of a style diary: a record of what I wear, how I wear it, and why. Last year I discovered (the now defunct) Worn Journal – a rare type of fashion publication that celebrates personal style over trends, and inspires you to love and use your own wardrobe, instead of pushing the latest it items. It helped to cement my interest in “style ethnography” (I may have made this term up) – documenting and unpacking what the clothes we keep and how we dress say about people, cultures, places, and times. There’s no better place to deeply explore this curiosity than within my own closet.
Putting on my anthropologist (bucket) hat, I want to observe what I wear and study my style with a little bit more “rigour”. Although I already collect good quantitative data about how often I wear my clothes, I want to expand my documentation to include more photography and record more qualitative notes describing what I’m doing when I wear certain clothes, how different outfits make me feel, and any other stray thoughts. I’ve already begun the practice of jotting these observations down (usually on my phone or computer) to help me with my posts on individual articles of clothing, but I’d like to broaden this to encapsulate my outfits and style as a whole. I’m also hoping to make more effort to synthesize these notes, like keeping them in a little field notebook for my own reflection and sharing learnings in periodic blog posts. As I document what I’m wearing, I’m interested in finding ways to share my style with online communities; I’ve thought about posting outfits to Instagram, but don’t love the platform. For now, Reddit will do.
My wardrobe may be a work in progress, but I already have many great pieces that I want to spend time massaging together, so much potential for style exploration and experimentation – playing dress up, essentially. 2022 is about transforming my closet from a place of anxiety and worry to one of creativity, inspiration, and joy.