I ran this post pre-pandemic last February; it was the beginning of my attempt to learn to live with less and come to terms with all the clothing I had acquired over the years as a fashion editor and beyond. Ultimately, I let go of 281 items (which makes me pretty uncomfortable now when I think about it) and continue to weed out here and there. Then, I came up with a strategy that helped me stay (relatively) on a path to keeping a tighter-edited closet of clothes I love and actually wear. I also helped many women achieve the same. Of course, the continuing pandemic has since laid waste the idea of getting dressed as I often spend four or five days rotating between two outfits. However, as I continue to reassess my current wardrobe state, I believe that ultimately my ideas will be more applicable than ever. Because as much as we all miss getting dressed, we also have learned how little we can actually live with. (Personally, I want a beautiful, succinct wardrobe packed in a carry on so I can travel , travel, travel, the minute the world opens back up.) Below is how my journey started, and stay tuned, because I am not only going to share my ideas again, but take them further (hopefully with the help of some friends), so we can all learn to live with less. (And that Nili Lotan blazer above? Wore it once this fall. Hmmph.)
It should be abundantly clear to those who know me even the littlest bit that I love clothes. How you present yourself, which includes the shoes you put on your feet, the coat on your back and the bag in your hand, speaks volumes about who you are or want to be. And if you’ve been lucky like I have been and had a chance to meet many major designers and see their designs and creative talents up close and personal, you realize clothing can be inspiring, almost an art form. I will never quit loving or desiring beautifully made things.
But I am having issues with fashion these days. The majority of social media (at least that I follow) feels like a constant marketing barrage of newness and moreness (making up words here, but it feels exactly like what it represents). Fashion houses, for the most part, frankly create too much stuff and still have their deliveries so out of whack (fall clothes in June etc), everyone waits till it all goes on sale, which is an unsustainable cycle. And I’m exhausted by Pinterest photos that show glittering walk-in closets chock full of rainbow arrays of shoes and Hermes bags and Instagram influencers posing in a new outfit everyday. Plus if you consider some of the sobering statistics–85% of textiles end of in landfills and that between 2000 and 2014 people increased their clothing purchases by 60%, buying whatever you want when you want it–just clicking the LikeToKnowIt button on Instagram and snatching up whatever that really chic influencer is wearing, starts to feel like a wasteful, un-modern practice that is ultimately harmful to the planet.
There has to be a better way–one that allows you to love fashion and getting dressed without feeling like you’re responsible for encouraging needless (and sometimes destructive) spending and environmental waste. Because honestly, how much of what’s sitting in your closet do you wear? I think I wear less than half of mine. Maybe one third? Maybe even less?
I have been giving all of this a lot of thought and realized I couldn’t revolutionize the fashion industry, but I could change my behavior. I started to think–how could I change my habits and hopefully inspire and possibly encourage others to follow suit? And maybe if I was radical enough in my approach, a clearer path forward for others would present itself. I’d be my own fashion guinea pig.
My first step? I seriously, close to radically, cleaned out my closet. I had completed a few purges prior to moving to the city a couple of months ago and have written a few posts about it. Then I decided to get ruthless. A couple of weeks ago, I sent over 80 items to The Real Real and another 40 to ThredUp plus a dozen or so to be recycled. There is now extra space in my single closet and I only have two plastic bins–one of summer shorts, etc and another of seriously sentimental clothing items. I am also down to 4 leather handbags and two straw ones. (Out went my Hermes Birkin/30th birthday present that I have been holding onto, and not using, for years.)
At first it as a struggle, I let go of a lot of beautiful things that I still loved, but didn’t get worn. At the same time there were plenty of old and worn out items that just needed to disappear. Plus, I was committed to a zero waste clean-out (which I managed to achieve) and that takes a lot of effort–splitting up the resell items from the donation piles from the recycle bits and then getting everything where it has to go.
Worse than letting things go was realizing how much money was sitting in my closet. In fact, it was rather shocking. Sure, I will make some of it back with resell, but it will be the smallest percentage and there was money wasted on whim purchases. Too much of it. The traveling I could have done with that money.
The most surprising thing since I completed my clean out? After the initial stresses, I am really happy with fewer things, I miss nothing that I let go of, and two weeks later I’m ready to let go of more. As I continue to get rid of extraneous things–those meh items that hang around, I find I am wearing something that I love most of the time. My style seems more focused. I do believe when you learn to live with less, you find your flair. It’s something I thought I was already practicing, until I decided to take it more seriously. To me a sexy closet isn’t one teaming with stuff, but a succinct one that allows you to immediately envision that person’s style. James Bond would have a sexy closet. Audrey Hepburn probably had a sexy closet. My goal is a sexy closet. It will evolve and change and get updated–which all seems much more achievable when you eliminate the excess.
Having less also goes hand in hand with learning to get really comfortable with wearing the same things again and again. What’s wrong with repetition? If you have seen me this fall/winter, chances are I was wearing the Nili Lotan blazer I’m wearing in the photo above. I have one perfect (in my eyes) plaid blazer and that is enough, I don’t need a second or third option. It’s in weekly rotation. Now, I am thinking about next Spring and how I can make thoughtful purchases that will work with what I already have and still keep my Spring wardrobe to a well-edited, really tight minimum.
I’m excited by the prospects, because it feels really good on so many levels. I’m even more thrilled because I really want to start helping other women (and men) achieve a well-edited wardrobe and am about to embark on a program that will do just that. If you’re game for a closet clean out email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, so you will be the first to know once I am ready to roll it out. More details to come soon, plus more of my journey on living with less and ways to sharpen your style. And if you’ve been through this and want to share any tips I would love to hear from you.