I have been reading with great interest Regina Doman's recent series of posts about clothing clean-out and organization. I admire both her methods and that hint of feminine madness behind it all: the madness that began in some long forgotten cave or tent when the first woman who had five minutes or so to think about something other than survival wove a sprig of blossoms into her hair, or discovered a more flattering way to drape the animal skins across her shoulders.
It's a madness I share, unhampered by my general lack of ability in other feminine arts. I may not be able to make my own clothing--indeed, the only wearable item I ever attempted to fashion was a skirt, as a project for a homeschooling home economics course. I use the word "wearable" loosely, as the end result simply wasn't; I'm sure I only received a passing grade on the project because the school principle didn't want to subject my mother to the nightmare of allowing me any further access to her sewing machine.
But despite my lack of skill in the art of making clothes, I've always derived a certain amount of enjoyment from them. I love the feeling of selecting an outfit whose individual components form a pleasant composite, and of wearing it with that sense that, at least on that occasion, I look presentable, put-together, coordinated. My styles and tastes have changed on many occasions--like most women, I often find myself torn between fashion and practicality, between trends and timelessness, between the clothes in my closet that were mostly bought on sale or clearance at local discount chains, often at the end of a season--and the clothes I'd like to own, if money were no object.
Don't get me wrong; I don't have expensive tastes when it comes to clothes. My idea of wild extravagance would be to pay full price for something Land's End or L.L. Bean is displaying in their catalogs, instead of hoping the items I admire will somehow end up in the "outlet" section of their websites at a price I can almost afford. When I do snag something from either store's outlet bin, though, I notice that most of the time those are the items I reach for and wear, again and again. I may pay attention to fashion trends (probably more than I should); I may be able to tell you that the woman's suit is back in style for the first time in years, I may know that this season's neutral color is an unusually daring choice: shades of grey, which coordinate well with this season's accent choices of purple and a deep red that is a little too brown to be crimson, but not brown enough to be burgundy. But despite my awareness of the trends, I'm not really a trendy dresser; ultimately, I seek comfort more than style, and the clothes in my closet which are the most tailored and fashionable are also the ones I wear the least, because they're too much fuss and bother to deal with on a regular basis.
This is one of the many reasons why I sympathize with Regina's quest for a System. I'd love to have a System when it comes to clothes, and many of the moms I know feel the same way. I'd love to have three-quarters of my wardrobe be as appropriate for teaching in my living room as for going shopping, going out to dinner at a casual restaurant, and even, with moderate accessorization, for going to Mass on Sunday. I would also love to have three-quarters of my wardrobe reflect the fact that I live in a state where three-quarters of the year has approximately the same climate. Then, the remaining fourth of my clothing would also be divided: a couple of extreme climate options like a corduroy dress or fleece sweater for the small amount of winter we have would make up one half, and those dressier options for special Masses (like Christmas or Easter) or family occasions would make up the other.
I've never really tried to implement a System like that, but I have a feeling it would work very well for me, since I rarely wear slacks and could set aside those skirts reaching the end of their years of service for things like housework or yardwork. I also think that having a coherent and consistent style of dress would help me combat the materialistic impulses I sometime battle, when I see a cute new style of shoe or an interesting updated top.
But, of course, being able to replace all of one's clothing in favor of the simple, comfortable, classic clothing one would prefer to own is not an opportunity many of us will ever have--which is why I'm finding Regina's approach to be intriguing, especially her efforts to purge those items that need to be discarded, a sure cure to the "closet full of clothes and not a thing to wear" problem that plagues so many of us. I'm feeling quite inspired, and have set aside a box for some of the sandals that have seen better days--or years, as the case may be--in addition to that darling pair of black heels I rashly purchased two years ago which, despite several close calls, have not actually caused me to break a limb when I suddenly slip out of one or the other owing to the sad reality that they're too big. Not yet, anyway.
So, readers, let me ask a few questions--and if you answer them on your own blog, please say so in the comment box!
1. Do you have a wardrobe "System"? If you could, what would it be?
2. What is the biggest problem area in your wardrobe: shirts, shoes, skirts/dresses, slacks, etc.? Do you have too many, not enough, a really hard time finding some that you like, or...?
3. If you woke up one morning to discover that all of your clothing items except the pajamas you were wearing and your "necessary unmentionables" had mysteriously vanished, what one item would you miss most?
4. If your insurance covered mysteriously vanishing wardrobes, and you were handed a blank check to replace everything, where would you shop first, and what item would you buy?
5. What is your favorite type of accessory?