In Which I Explore My History of Closets
People mistake closets for wardrobes. All the clothes in your closet = your wardrobe, right? Ah, fashion grasshopper, that isn’t true! Your closet is just the physical husk to store and house the powerhouse of beauty, imagination, possibility and creativity that ideally are your clothes. A wardrobe is really a collection of garments. But of course, it is much more than that.
We’re all collectors of clothing — society forces us to be, since we have to wear clothes most of the time. (At least in my world — maybe your world is a pro-nudity one! Lucky you!) Some will just buy things pell-mell just to satisfy these societal requirements and then move on with life. And that’s just fine — those are fine and worthy lives, and they’ve got other interests and priorities.
But many of us — visual-tactile types, those who have an interest in style or fashion or at least the creative, emotional and quasi-spiritual possibilities of dressing ourselves — have a mind-set, deliberate or otherwise, towards collecting and curating our wardrobes. This mindset can be conscious, like when you decide to buy only green or eco-fashion, or if you decide that “kindergarten sophisticate” or “70s L.A. witch” is your fashion concept for the season. But many times when it comes to clothes, we operate on a combination of instinct, guilt, fantasy, obligation, unconscious assumptions, doubt and confidence, depending on our mood and what we’re shopping for.
I’ve long been interested in not just clothes themselves, but the relationship we have towards them — towards fashion, self-presentation and shopping. Sometimes this underlying psychology and mindset fascinates me more than the actual clothes themselves, to be honest. (Sometimes I think I missed my calling as a kind of fashion/style therapist.) I began to truly understand the intensely intimate archaeology between the self and style with my strangely seminal experience of doing a massive closet clean-out during my grad school years. For some reason, the thoroughness and difficulty of the task finally gave me a bird-eye’s view of the motivations and mindset I brought to fashion, style and shopping.
When I was done, I had concrete evidence right in front of me — the sartorial survivors hanging right there in my closet — of the life I truly lead and the person I truly was, as well as the fantasies and dreams that felt true to myself. In my various discard piles, I also had concrete evidence of the wishes, delusions, longings and outgrown ideas I had as well. It was eye-opening and set me on a course to reframe and reshape my life. I still can’t get over how cleaning out my little Manhattan closet was the start of a great and lovely journey in my life, bringing me authentic contentment and a sense of inner peace. I still have my foibles and struggles, but there’s a core feeling of rightness: I’m right where I want to be and living the life I was meant to, and wearing the best clothes to suit that. And knowing that core feeling keeps my sense of style and shopping on track, and helps make sure my wardrobe is a source of pleasure and creativity, and not guilt, anxiety and confusion. Perfect feedback loop!