Essentials: Why Wardrobes Are Overstuffed
You know the feeling. You dread it. You half roll, half fall out of bed in the morning, purposely trying to avoid thinking about it and stand, your eyes still partially closed, before your closet.
You have to decide what to wear.
Only half awake, you aimlessly grab things and hold them up. No. No. Definitely not. You shuffle through your wardrobe in ever-growing frustration until you reach the back where everything has managed to retain the tags from when you bought them. You look at the hideous shirt you bought two years ago and think, “Why did I ever even want to wear this?” You toss it aside, hoping you'll remember to take it to a donation bin. Knowing all the while you'll have a moment when you're slightly more lucid and filled with caffeine that you may actually wear that shirt. That or you'll feel guilty for never wearing it, and it will somehow find its way back into the black hole that is your wardrobe.
How, then, do you tackle that mess of indecision and guilt?
Clearing the Air
First, you have to think not so much about the clothes in your closet but the person who is going to wear them. You. Clothes are meant to be worn.
One of my favorite parts of one of my favorite movies, “The Devil Wears Prada,” is when the ever witty Nigel tells the lead character Andy that fashion is “greater than art because you live your life in it.” Meaning if you're not wearing it, it doesn't belong in you life.
Parting with old clothes can be difficult, even if you've never worn them before. You spent hard-earned money on those pants, and you promised yourself when you bought them that you would love wearing them. Then you realized you didn't, but you couldn't break your promise. So you keep them tucked away just in case you change your mind. It happens; we feel invested in what we buy, and we struggle to part with it.
Instead, take what you haven't worn in over a year and put it aside. Go back a week afterward, try everything on, and if you still think it belongs in the “go away” pile, part with it with integrity. It helps to make sure that it will go to a good cause; donate old clothes to a local shelter or give as gifts to relatives or friends that you know who appreciate them. Seeing someone else make use of something is a great way to part with any leftover guilt about not using it yourself. After you clear out, however, you may need to go shopping.
This is the tricky part. Don't go shopping on a whim, deciding that you need this because you love the color or that because you love the style. Do a bit of research about yourself. Look at what you have left, note how many skirts, pants, shirts you have. Try and get a feel for your overall style. If you're all over the place, that's perfectly fine too - I have the same problem. Figure out what you have a lot of and what you have little of. See how different combinations work and how they don't.
After taking stock of your wardrobe, make a list of what you need. It's a lot like grocery shopping. Never go hungry, and always keep an up-to-date list on hand. When shopping, keep in mind what is sitting back at home. You want the new to mesh and blend with the old so that you have a seamless transition between the fickle seasons of fashion.
This is where the essentials come in. After figuring out what it is you love to wear (skirts, dresses pants, tunics), try and make other items in your wardrobe match. Blend what you love together so you can create a wide variety of outfits from just a few articles of clothing and a creative bundle of accessories.
Here are some of my favorite essentials as a nerdy Bohme.
This is my absolute favorite item in my closet. People always recommend black, but I prefer white. It really does go with everything. I wear it with my nicer dressy tops but also pair it with boots and a t-shirt for a more causal day (also when I'm too grumpy in the morning to put proper pants on). It's cool in the summer and when you pair with tights, plenty warm in the winter. It's a win-win – only you have to be careful when you decide to dine out at Italian restaurants.
Much like the little black dress, black flats can go everywhere and do everything. Plus, you can run in them. That's always important to me. My friend actually chose a comfy pair of black flats as her main walking shoes when she studied in Paris for a semester. They match with everything, are light, and subtly formal. Make sure they are close-toed though, as they work well for both office settings and parties. Keep the decorations to a minimum as well. These shoes should be understated yet elegant, not glitzy.
I admit I am a bit indulgent in this category. I have way too many necklaces, but I love them all. I adore pendants. I usually work this by having a few long chains that I can put a variety of charms on. These bright, and often flashy, pieces of jewelry catch eyes and are great conversation starters. This doesn't have to be limited to necklaces either. Rings, bracelets, and earrings all can be focal pieces of an outfit. Just try to keep it to one centerpiece and other pieces of jewelry as accents; it doesn't work having competition for attention. I recommend craft shows for these so they're unique and supportive of local artists.
This one is a bit specific for me, and other nerds like me, I know. But t-shirts of bands, TV shows, animals, artists, and books that you really love are great ways of broadcasting to the world what you care about. They also go great with skirts, pants, shorts, jeans – wedges, flats... you name it, and you can wear a t-shirt with it.
Neutral colored boots/booties
This is a great winter-to-summer transition piece. People might not think of wearing boots in the summer time, but in the morning, when it's cool, or when there is a lot of walking going on, it's nice to have a sturdy, comfy pair of shoes that still go great with almost anything you decide to wear. Keeping them neutral-colored ensures you can wear them with the bright summer hues, as well as the deeper winter tones. I avoid heels for the same reason I like flats: I like to be able to run spur of the moment.
These garments all help tie together a wide variety of styles and colors so that everything I wear is distinctively me. That's the goal of my wardrobe, to better represent to the world who I am.
These are just a few closet essentials, but hopefully a list like this will inspire a few ideas of what it is you value in your closet. Keep in mind when shopping that no matter how much you love the bright colors, essentials work best as neutral tones. That way you can splurge on that bright indigo top and still have several outfits to wear it with. Aim to be versatile and timeless rather than limited and contemporary. You'll save money, and you'll stop dreading those horrid morning closet treasure hunts.