After having given it some thought, I finally engaged in some serious wardrobe culling over the weekend. By serious I mean that I bagged up a lot of clothes to donate. By a lot I mean not actually all that many considering how many clothes I have. All I can really say is "Holy macaroni, Batman, how did this happen?"
I have been holding onto so much crap it isn't funny. The crap in question can be roughly divided into four categories:
1) stuff I used to like and wear years ago but have grown out of, mentally or physically
2) stuff I used to love and then just forgot about
3) stuff I bought thrifted and never really got to wear for whatever reason (fit, colour, randomness)
4) stuff I bought because I bought into a trend, or because I saw it on someone else.
The first category is pretty easy to live with: even if the clothes don't fit me anymore, I at least wore them in the past. The second category is sort of wonderful, actually: I've been re-acquainted with some oldies-but-goodies. The two remaining categories are the ones I'm having a tough time accepting.
I think the main reason I've held onto the thrifted crap and the trend crap / someone else's style crap for so long is embarrassment. I guess I don't do all that well with admitting my own mistakes, and I don't do well with guilt. I have bought stuff, then realised the next day that it wasn't going to work for me, but it would prove too difficult to fully admit it. Maybe I just didn't want to deal with buyer's remorse, the money wasted, or my inability to spot an obvious flaw. Instead, I'd say "darn, I'll figure out a way to wear it anyway." "I'll try it again tomorrow. Or the day after." "Maybe I'll re-work it. I'll take off the sleeves. I'll hem it." "Or maybe I can wear that colour with a tan." And yet, I'd somehow know that I had made a mistake, that I wasn't going to tan, that I never managed to rework an ill-fitting garment successfully. I just didn't want to admit it to myself, and I kept holding onto clothes that I didn't love. After all of my previous culling attempts, there were (and are) still way too many clothes like that in my wardrobe. Time after time they kept creeping in somehow, and there they remained, because to admit failure is not always an easy thing to do.
As I was digging into my mess of a wardrobe over the weekend, it became obvious that yes, I have made plenty of mistakes. I've had moments of clarity like that before, and they led to nothing: I'd get rid of my mistakes and then make more of them. I tried a different approach on Saturday: I started trying stuff on, and I tried to remember why I had decided to buy that particular piece of clothing. I tried to remember the last time I had worn it, and if I didn't remember, or if I didn't recall the way that garment made me feel, I'd fold it away. I asked myself what was wrong with whatever needed to go: was it the colour, the fit, the hem length? Once I started asking myself questions and being honest with my answers, it got surprisingly easy to admit that I had made mistakes. Because you know what, everyone has made mistakes, and to acknowledge them and to understand them is the only way forward. If we don't fully admit to ourselves what we have done, we will never change.
After about two and a half hours of culling, I had bagged up five big garbage bags of stuff. I couldn't help but admit that I had barely begun the process, that there was a lot more stuff that needed to go, but then I stopped myself. I had to, because getting rid of all of that stuff felt a little bit... too rewarding. I've been there before: I've culled one day, lived with an emptier wardrobe for a week or two, and then started buying again. I figured that I'd better do this in stages this time. I don't want to get too comfortable. I am not ready to see a healthy wardrobe just yet.
Pictures from a Montgomery Ward catalogue, 1950.