Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Clothes! First-time working mother's closet

Disclaimer: I realize that not all mothers have the luxury of owning too many clothes. I just take an inordinate interest in them since my mother (7 children) and grandmothers (8 and 5 children each) were wonderful seamstresses who loved designing their own clothes and enjoying dressing up.

Okay, everyone may already have figured this out for herself, but I just discovered I have too many clothes. Well, I actually was told this by the incomparable fashion consultant Lani Rosenstock www.lanirosensock.com who specializes in women going back to work after children. But she was right.

Why would I eliminate half my wardrobe? So I can freaking find the clothes I actually fit into. Before I cleared the closet, I easily spent half an hour searching for an ensemble appropriate for breastfeeding that actually fit whenever I left the apartment (like I had the time). Because breast-feeding changes everything about how I get dressed. Now it takes me 2 minutes, and I feel so much better.

Lani says everyone in the USA can probably get rid of half her wardrobe, but especially women in my position (unlikely to have another child ever/in the near future), even if they’re going to lose the weight.

But I probably eliminated about 1/3 of the closet, since I did a major cleaning before I moved two years ago. My task was easier because I didn’t own a lot of trendy clothes.

I had fun, utilitarian clothes that never go out of style because they were never in style to begin with. Like those fanciful hand-made outfits from the Czech Republic, some of which look as if they once belonged to the mafia, but in a good way. They’re a kind of diary. And I do actually wear them (London flea market dresses) or should wear them (Senegalese lounging pants).

Cleaning out one's closet doesn’t mean one has to buy anything new. But if one did, it’s a shape-shifting year, so it will be easier to find good clothes. Good-bye infantilizing of the adult female body, which, by the way, seemed to correspond eerily with the sexualizing of children these last few years, sartorially speaking.

Long skirts, tailored dresses, hats and lipstick are outrageously fashionable again.

I decided it would help me part from my clothes if I knew friends would wear them, so I hosted a clothing swap.

The swap let me hang out with friends and find out all sorts of things about them. I didn’t talk about my teething baby, for a change, though my teething baby was, of course, enjoying herself immensely as she drooled on the blouses or other babies. Plus, friends won’t let you keep something that makes you look bad. It’s also nice to wear something that belonged to someone you admire or love.

Okay, to sum up what I learned:
1. I don’t have a social life, but that’s no reason to hate getting dressed each day.
2. Own less. Wear what I have. Give away what I don’t actively wear.
3. Buy/acquire less (one or two pieces each season), but quality.

Just looking at my uncluttered little closet makes me feel as if I’d spent the last month in the gym.

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