Know Thyself

School started back this week (hard to believe, but true) and for the sixth year, I did not have to go.  Being retired is the life I was born to.  People still ask if I don’t miss teaching, and I’ll say that I do, but what I really miss is getting dressed every day.  I miss my skirts and shoes and all the things I worked so hard to assemble as a professional wardrobe.

Actually, I haven’t really missed these things because much of it was still lurking in the back of my closet and in my storage chest.  But after reading earlier this summer that most people wear 20% of their clothing 80% of the time, I realized that I was nothing but a statistic, and that  it was time to address the closet problem.  Starting in June, I began the slow, painful process of letting go.

There have been volumes written on how to develop a wardrobe, and how to clean out the closet.  They all make it sound so simple, but the truth is that there are memories in each item of clothing.  It’s hard to give away the pair of sandals I bought in Athens, even if they are a half size too big and keep slipping, or the perfect suede jumper I got in Montreal that now refuses to stay buttoned.  I seem to have formed a personal attachment to the things that gave me an air of professionalism, but that were still fun to wear.  How could I just turn and walk away?

I actually decided not to try and weed out everything at once.  The first go through I focused on things that were flawed – shoes that were a little tight, the previously mentioned jumper.  This produced a gigantic pile of things for the thrift store.  After a month or so, I was ready to give it another go.  Any orphan-colored pieces or thrifting mistakes went into the donate pile.  Also, I scrutinized each piece for quality.  If it was not well-made, out it went.

Finally, this past week I got really firm and vowed that if I’d not worn it since I retired six years ago, I’d have to have a very good reason for keeping it.  As it turned out, the only clothes from my old teaching wardrobe that I ended up keeping were the really great pieces that I have been wearing:  skirts from Gaultier, Celine and Courreges, the perfect black tee shirt dress from Lands End, cashmere sweaters and a leather jacket I’d bought in Florence.

But even more valuable than having extra space in my closet was a new-found awareness of the types of clothes that were now working for me.  The glimpse inside my closet reveals that I love blue and I love stripes and plaids.  There are no florals and very little green.  I prefer V-necks over crew, and bateau over scoop.  This has given me a nice list of things to look for while thrifting, to help zone in on the things that I’ll actually wear and love.

It also has helped me identify any gaps that needed to be filled.  After throwing out the four pairs of sad-looking sweat and yoga pants that were my wintertime staples,  I’d been on the lookout for a source of comfortable chinos, which I found at L.L. Bean  (Love them, but I had to compromise my vow not to buy anything made in China).  I’ve been able to see where I need to up-grade (and up-date) a few items.

It’s rather nice knowing that the clothes in the closet now fit with the way I live, but without making me look like an out and out slob.

Life changes, and so should your wardrobe.  What’s really interesting is that now my closet looks a lot more like it did in 1975 (college days) than it did when I was working.  Plato was right.  To have a wardrobe that works, you have to know yourself.

22 Comments

Filed under Proper Clothing

22 responses to “Know Thyself

  1. Plato said that? i never knew. i wrote not a few posts about it on my blog. i’m finally not doing much experimentation anymore. maybe it’s age. i still like some variety amidst sameness, it’s reflected in my wardrobe as well as my job choice.

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    • ttft, it really does take a while to learn the types of garments that work best for you. It’s good for young people to experiment because that’s how you find those things that seem so right for you.

      Even now, if I saw something at a thrift that was “not my type” but that I loved anyway, I’d buy it and find out if it would work for me.

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  2. This is really inspiring me to declutter my wardrobe – your approach to cleaning out a closet is a really good one. I have attachments to dresses for one reason or another and to look and see what I’m drawn to most in the past few years (patterns or colors or cut) makes the most sense.

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  3. Great post! I’m getting ready to clear out since I’m now the owner of a vintage clothing business & will constantly have new pieces coming in. Plus, we want a smaller place to live, so I’d better start downsizing now! BTW, I have to mention that I NEVER had a teacher in school who wore Celine or Courreges. Oh how your students were lucky to look at you everyday!

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  4. Maybe it was the change in weather, but your earlier post inspired me to unload a van of trash bags filled with pieces from my own closet (yea!).

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  5. I think that I can never left behind a few pieces of my wardrobe, even if they don’t fit anymore. I think that I consider them like a piece of my story, something that I have to keep for my future daughter.
    But I really enjoyed reading your post, and I am really admiring you for the great work you did.

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  6. Hello, this is such a lovely post ( I found you through the IFB site) and I completely understand about emotional attachment to clothing. I have a drawer full of things that do not fit either my figure or my life. I have started to rid myself of some of the pieces with no emotions attached, but I have a feeling that some things will be hanging around a bit longer…

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  10. Great post – I have the same problem of becoming personally attached to clothes and having just gone through the same wardrobe clearing process as you, I also find it takes more than one pass to truly purge what is not working and get past the emotional letting go phase. Congrats on making LALM!

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  14. I really like how you addressed the sentimentality that comes with clothing and how it truly is hard to pass up some of those pieces, but at the same time, holding on to them for those reasons only isn’t enough. Clothes should be celebrated and worn, not suppressed in a closet for the sake of a memory. Love this entry.

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  15. Not teaching? Shudder. I’m not teaching now as I work on my MA full time and I already miss it, even though it’s only until I finish the degree.

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