2020: Wardrobe adjustments

by Sunita

I’m trying a few new strategies this year and I’m planning to write posts on them so that I can go back and revisit how I’m doing in a few months. First up: changes I’ve made to my closet. I decluttered using the Marie Kondo method back in 2015, but now my closet and drawers are full again and I need to purge a bunch of stuff. I also discovered technical clothing last spring and summer, mostly because of one-bagging the Wales vacation and then going minimal on weekend trips. But I also like having clothes that I can wear for a while and that all go together. I wear a lot of neutral colors, but I’ve been buying a few individual pieces in brighter shades to mix things up.

I decided to try a version of a capsule wardrobe called Project 333. The idea is that you have 33 pieces that you wear for thee months and then you choose another 33 for the next three months, etc. It’s more season-friendly, which is handy for people like me who live in places with well-defined seasons. I thought about doing the uniform thing, wearing one outfit all the time, but I can’t see teaching in the same clothes over and over. I’m still scarred by a friend’s teaching evaluations where her clothes were critiqued for not being varied enough. I’ve received evaluations that made observations about my clothes and even my jewelry; they were friendly ones but it’s a bit weird to me that students would notice and comment.

I expanded the 33-item requirement a bit by not counting cold-weather accessories (gloves, hats, and outdoor-only scarves) and jewelry. For the latter I’ll stick to a small rotation which is what I usually do anyway. But I wear multiple bracelets at a time and those add up fast. The point, I think, is to reduce choice, which I practice without really thinking about it. I have a bunch of jewelry but I tend to cycle through rather than making new choices every day. And according to the rules I don’t have to count loungewear, exercise clothes, and underclothing in the 33.

33 pieces let you have quite a few options, as it turns out. I can still have my poncho and convertible scarf, a range of sweaters, and a nice selection of tops and bottoms. I made an Excel spreadsheet and I didn’t have to leave out anything I really wanted, and I managed the full range of winter coats, jackets, and shoes. Well, except for the super-cold stuff, which I may or may not need. And I treat dog-walking clothes and shoes as part of the loungewear/exercise category.

My favorite purchases in the technical-wear sections fall into two categories. The first is merino, which TheH has worn for years but I viewed with suspicion because it develops holes. But I became a convert on our walking vacations because merino tops in particular really do work as advertised, and buying pieces when they’re on sale helps a lot with the sticker shock.

The second category is clothing made from a Swiss fabric that is water- and stain-repellent. It’s a bit like ponte fabric but thicker. My favorite source is The Willary, which is run by a woman who has thought carefully about what makes sense in women’s clothing. I found her stuff via Reddit recommendations and totally fell for her signature dress. I then bought both styles of pants, and they are comfortable, look great, have POCKETS, and can be worn multiple times before needing to be washed. The pieces are expensive but they are made in the USA and beautifully cut and tailored. And they’re easy-care. I’ve worn the dress and the pants to work and on trips for the last few months and absolutely love them.

Having settled on my 33 pieces for the winter quarter, I’m going to sort through everything that is winter-appropriate but didn’t make the cut and give away everything I can. I’ll keep pieces I’m still on the fence about, or pieces that can’t easily be replaced (like my two gorgeous Dale of Norway sweaters; I have So Many Sweaters). But even a halfway purge will help, both in terms of making my closet and drawers more bearable and reducing the amount of time I spend thinking about what I’m going to wear next. I noticed on my trips that having fewer options was freeing.

There’s a lot of discussion about the effects of fast fashion on the environment, and there’s no question that we are creating enormous piles of garbage by buying cheap clothes and then getting rid of them. We’re probably the worst about this in the US and UK, but fast fashion is everywhere now. The irony is that unless you’re a girl in her teens or a 20-something whose circle is extremely fashion-conscious, no one really cares what you wear. Certainly almost no one cares what women of my age wear. So why not take advantage of that and cut back? Every item I’ve chosen is something I feel good wearing, so I’m not really giving up the important aspect of what fashion can do.

I’ll let you know how the experiment goes. I’m looking forward to it, but it’s something new for me.