What to do When You Hate Everything in Your Closet

…and you write about wardrobes.

What to do when you hate everything in your closet...and you write about wardrobes. Whisper & Howl

(Did someone say TEACHABLE MOMENT?!)

After a year of capsule wardrobe bliss, I have come to a place I hoped never to be in again. I hate everything in my closet.

Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. I hate most things.

The whole point of a capsule is to make me feel great all the time in all of my clothes. It’s to have a (small) wardrobe with nothing but favorites, in which everything goes together and flatters my figure and feels wonderful on my body. Last spring was pretty good. Summer was great (with the exception of the humid heat; there’s no way to dress for that). Fall was beautiful and I felt lovely in winter. But this spring, year 2 of my experiment, is blah. Blech. Ugh.

I didn’t get anything new this season, and I didn’t throw anything out. I thought I’d keep the random stuff from years past in there and see what I ended up wanting to keep v. discard. I guess in that sense, it has been a successful season. (Remember, since it gets hot in May in N.C.–it was 85 degrees last week–spring is a mini-season for capsules and summer is extra-long.) It has been unsuccessful, though, in actually being a cohesive, dreamy capsule wardrobe.

Here are some issues:

  1. A lot of the pieces I kept in are several years old and since they weren’t great quality to begin with, are falling apart. Stretching, fading, sagging and grease spots are abundant. This simply will not do.
  2. The silhouettes are wrong. They seemed right last year, but this year they are wrong. It’s not that I’m so fickle. My tastes have actually taken a step back. Last year I was really into swing cuts and those baggy shirts that look fantastic on models but make me look dumpy and shapeless. I think this is because I worked in an office that had no ventilation and I refused to wear anything that actually touched my skin. Now, I do have a couple of loose, drapey items that I love but it’s a matter of fabric weight and cut. Most of what I have simply isn’t flattering, and I’m no longer comfortable in those pieces. Instead, I’m drawn more to classic feminine cuts that flatter my curves.
  3. The quality is low. I already mentioned that, I know, but it bears repeating. My cheap shirts are stretched and pilled. The cutoffs I made last year from cheap jeans are now cheap, ill-fitting shorts. I’m coming to the realization that tshirts, like flats, just get worn out and need replacing once a year.
  4. I’m missing some staples, such as basic skirts, dresses and shorts. I have been wearing the same pair of jeans over and over again because they’re the only thing that will go with the tops I do like.

So, I’m at the point where I look at my closet and whine “I have everything” and “I have nothing to wear!”–the very thing I strive against! The only thing to do is to take my own advice and…

Cut out the shit! This is pretty easy and enjoyable for me (and something I help other people do–check out my Wardrobe Consulting Service!)  but it can be challenging, especially when money is tight. It’s hard to get rid of things when you don’t feel able to replace them. It’s hard to let go of items you see as resources, wealth, or really, things. Yes, it is hard to let go of our things.

However, I truly believe in cutting out things (or beliefs, relationships, habits) that no longer serve me in order to make way for the new. You have to weed a garden so that beautiful flowers and tomatoes can grow! To apply this to clothing, getting rid of pieces that no longer make you feel and look fantastic gives you space to only wear the things that do–whether that means buying new clothes or simply stripping it down to a uniform with simple variations, or discovering new outfit combinations. Yes, you literally make space for new clothes, but it’s not about replacing and storing up more. It’s about the quality of feeling that you get when you have fewer, better things. You deserve better than that ribbed cotton tank that was, at one point, black. You can have tights without holes in them! I do not need that favorite sailor-striped top with the breast pocket that has sagged to the point that it is basically cupping my boob! No one needs to know that I can’t eat anything greasy without getting stains! I have a waist, damn it, and I want to show it!

You get the point. I will be doing a big discard soon. I will be left with fewer things, but they will be good. And yes, I’ll buy some new (linen) tshirts to replace the gross, pilled, saggy ones. I will make sundresses fit for a foxy lady in 1960s Cambridge (I’ve been watching a lot of Grantchester). But it will be better. It will be fantastic. If not, you’ll be reading about it.

Do you have trouble deciding which clothes to discard? Do you get nervous getting rid of things even though you haven’t worn them in years or they have holes or weird saggy pockets? Tell me about it in the comments! Or, better yet, let me help!

Spring (Capsule) is Here!

The last weeks of winter were unseasonably warm, with temperatures climbing into the 80s. This had me nervous about what spring would be like this year. Should I put all my mid-temp clothes away or keep the lightweight sweaters and jeans out? Do I just skip straight to my summer clothes?

In the end, I decided to take my own advice and make my Spring Capsule basically a long transition into Summer Capsule. I pulled a lot of summer clothes in addition to lighter shirts and sweaters (lighter in weight and color). I’ve kept in all my jeans and added the very pale blue ones, which will only be worn if I can squeeze into them! I stored my heavy and dark-colored sweaters, flannel-lined leggings, thicker dresses and shirts, and put away my knee-high boots. I’m left with more clothes than I’d like (48 pieces shown below!), including some I haven’t worn in over a year but haven’t gotten rid of yet; this is their last chance at getting worn before I ditch them. My plan is to continue to store clothes as the weather gets hotter, and add in the few summer pieces I’ve kept out. Here’s what I’ve got:
Spring Capsule 2016, Tops | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Tops | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Tops | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Light Sweaters | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Light Sweaters | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Outfits | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Dresses | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Bottoms | Whisper & Howl

Spring Capsule 2016, Handmade | Whisper & Howl

These 2 are handmade by me!

There are a few pieces I’d like to add. However, I’m dedicated to making my clothes this year rather than purchasing them, with the exception of magical thrift store finds. On my sewing/thrifting list:

  • Palazzo pants
  • Shorts (sewn or cut off from thrifted jeans)
  • T shirts (Grainline’s Lark pattern is my jam, and I also love their Scout and Hemlock shirts)
  • 2 sundresses
  • 2+ Inari Tee Shirt Dresses (a Named Clothing pattern)
  • A light-weight Laurel dress

I know, I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s most likely that I will have 2-3 of these things done before the Summer Solstice, but I have plenty of things to wear (too much, really) and can be patient.

Stay tuned for how I incorporate sewing into my capsule planning.

If you have a capsule, I’d love to know more about it!

Baby’s First Capsule Wardrobe

You may be wondering, what is a capsule wardrobe?  Unless, of course, we’re friends IRL, in which case you’ve definitely heard me talking about this, one of my new favorite things.

I first heard of the capsule wardrobe in the book Lessons From Madame Chic (interesting but not amazing).  The author studied abroad in France and learned many lessons about life and style from her very chic French host family, including the benefits of a minimalist wardrobe.  This family valued quality over quantity, owning just a few tops, bottoms, dresses of a simple and luxurious nature.  I read this and thought, that’s nice but not for me.  However, the idea of having fewer, better things in my wardrobe did stick, and sparked The Great Discard of December 31, 2014.  

Later, in sewing class, my friend Kelly brought up the idea of having a capsule wardrobe.  I went home and scoured the internet for ideas and finally found the Un-Fancy blog, written by Caroline Joy Rector.  There are many other bloggers who are trying out a capsule or who have been committed to the lifestyle for years (Project 333 is one of the first and best), but I really liked Caroline’s style.  She’s one of those bloggers I’m convinced I’d be friends with in real life, and I am inspired by her fashion, too.  After reading her blog and it’s comprehensive posts about creating a capsule wardrobe including not just how but why to do this, I decided to give it a whirl.

I started this past Spring, debuting my carefully curated selection on March 21st.  I LOVED it.  Having a limited amount of choices made it so much easier to get dressed, and because I had shopped and curated with intention, I felt good in everything I put on.  I had more than 37 items (I found it really hard to limit my shoes and accessories to fit that number, although I did curate them) but I felt that sticking to someone else’s number would have impeded my own process.  I think I had around 35 pieces of clothing and 9 pairs of shoes.  Everything was coordinated, and I felt that I was discovering a new personal style that fit my lifestyle better than ever before.  (Incidentally, my only issue with Un-Fancy is that we have different lifestyles–I work in an office which, although relaxed, does require me to have more separation between casual and work clothes than Caroline has–and I want to know what she’d wear to my office!)

But then, summer struck.  Technically it was late Spring, but still.  My capsule was really meant for a 3-month Spring, and here in North Carolina we get about 6 weeks of what feels like Spring before transitioning into Summer.  Around the middle of May, my wardrobe no longer worked.  I dug through my bin of Summer clothes from years past and pulled out a few dresses to help get me through.  I certainly don’t feel like I failed, but I learned something that I can apply for next year.  However, the wardobe zen I felt in April is gone.  I’m frustrated.  I miss the calm confidence that I felt each morning as I reached for my clothes and throughout the day as I lived in them.

Since then, I’ve been struggling a bit with what to do for Summer.  Planning the wardrobe I want was easy, but finding pieces has been difficult.  I also haven’t had time to go to the stores so I’ve been ordering things online and returning almost all of them.  I need a day to go through what I have, find some outfits, figure out what I want to add and then go shopping.  Maybe 2 days.  Oof. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’m into minimalism.

words

 

Not that I’m a minimalist right now, but it’s something I’m slowly working toward.  See, it all started when I moved to Bloomington, IN a few years ago for grad school.  I brought EVERYTHING.  I filled a decent-sized Budget moving truck with all of my furniture (couch, loveseat, chair, ottoman, dining set, mattress, dresser, entertainment shelf thing, bookshelf, vanity…probably things I’m forgetting), art, clothes, books, records…EVERYTHING.  I packed my Camry full of stuff.  I had a whole, furnished house worth of STUFF.

I did this because neither of my new housemates had any furniture and I thought it would be easier and cheaper to carry the trappings of my 28 years of life across several state lines, and it was fine.  We had a nicely furnished, comfortable home with lots of kitchen equipment and gardening tools and knick knacks.  And all through that year, I bought more stuff.  I bought clothes for a new lifestyle.  I bought shoes.  I filled the house with more and more things.

And then disaster struck.  Relative disaster.  We had to move.  I found a small 1-bedroom apartment that a lot of my furniture wouldn’t fit it.  I had a storage unit for the summer, but it was double-booked so I was left with a truck full of my stuff, a limited time to move it all, and 1 friend who could help.  I was screwed.  I called my friend Alexa, who was in Germany, to beg her to let me use her tiny basement storage area for my things.  I grabbed her hidden extra key and I crammed as much stuff as I could into her basement room, shoved my mattress behind her wardrobe, loaned her my coffee table and patio furniture for the summer…but I had to donate the rest of my furniture to the ReStore.  I gave my couches to another friend (they came to me for free so I felt this was probably a good karmic decision) and said goodbye to everything except what I could fit at Alexa’s, and drove my packed Camry to Richmond, VA for a summer internship.

Flash forward to August, when I went to retrieve my things from the basement and discovered a bunch of mildewed clothes and moldy leather accessories.  Everything stunk.  I spent weeks trying to clean Frye boots and my great-grandmother’s scarves, hanging them outside my small apartment to dry in the sun.  I had been forced to downgrade, but I still had SO MUCH STUFF.

My Mom and sister drove Mom’s hatchback to Bloomington for my graduation and to help me move back to North Carolina.  I hadn’t done much packing (I’d been too busy with exams and grading undergraduate papers to do anything else) and I was sure we could get it all done in one night, but I was oh so wrong.  They stayed an extra day to help me go through all of my stuff, which I now think of as my crap.  I loaded a friend’s truck up for 2 separate Goodwill trips.  I sold books and furniture on Facebook and gave away the rest.  At the last minute, I ditched an entire laundry basket worth of shoes (there was another basket), making snap decisions.  It felt good.

My neighbor, an older man, walked by and looked at my car in amazement.  He went to college, he said, with a single suitcase.  I felt ashamed then, looking at all my stuff.

We loaded my Mom’s and my car with everything that would possibly fit, leaving a little space for my sweet cat, Devo, to ride atop a pile of stuff in my car (she likes to sit up high and look out the windows on car rides).  I loaded everything in my parents’ basement for the next 9 months while I lived at home, finished up some school projects and hunted for a job.  I didn’t touch most of my stuff.

In September last year I moved into an apartment with a friend.  I brought all the stuff from the basement plus my clothes and some of my sister’s kitchen things.  I realized over the next couple of months that even though I had so many items of clothing, I had very little that I actually wanted to wear.  Many things no longer fit my lifestyle; others were in less-than-perfect condition, hadn’t been worn in over a year, or didn’t fit quite right.  I decided that I deserved to feel awesome in my clothes and to only have things that make me feel great.  I deserve to have clean, well-fitting clothes with no holes, clothes that make me feel great and look great.  I decided to throw out everything that didn’t fit that model, to make space for things that did.  I stood at the top of the stairs and threw clothes down, releasing them from my life.  It felt AMAZING.  I ended up with several garbage bags of clothes that I was able to donate to Goodwill so that someone else could enjoy them.

Since then I’ve been on a mission to reduce clutter in my life and to make space for joy.  A lot of this has to do with my wardrobe.  I have always loved fashion and consider my clothes a source of creative expression.  What I wear matters to me, and I love that I can shape the way I’m perceived through my wardrobe.  I like things that make me feel comfortable and confident.  My style has changed a lot since I moved to Bloomington and back.  My job and the weather require different types of clothing.  My body has changed a little and my ideas about who I am and what I like have changed a lot.  I’m still developing my style, and I’m still discarding old things and shopping much, much less.  I recently went full konmari on my wardrobe and donated 4 more bags of clothing and shoes, and I’m ready to go through books and papers the next time I get a free day.  I am attempting a second capsule wardrobe (more on that later).  Becoming more minimalist and intentional with my wardrobe, figuring out my personal style, and exploring a capsule wardrobe are key factors in my personal life this year.  I’m going to be sharing more about this as I go along.  I don’t know that I’ll ever be a fashion blogger, but we’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in capsule wardrobes, check out this (now defunct) blog by photographer and writer Caroline Joy Rector.  I really responded to her style when I was searching for information on a capsule wardrobe, and I found her wardrobe planning document really useful.  If you’re considering a capsule, I highly recommend checking her out.

Peace,

Jillian

This is Devo.

Devo the minimalist cat