Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How Many Essential Wardrobe Items Do You Need?

Today I received my Ebay order--and was disappointed. It really does usually work out well ordering clothing online! One of the blouses didn't fit well, and the other had a small hole. The jersey dress was okay but did not make me look and feel fabulous. It was fine, but I asked myself, "Will I feel great wearing this?" I could see bulges in my middle that were not flattering. Yes, I want to lose some weight, but we must dress for the bodies we have right now! Not the bodies we hope to have. So the whole order is going back to the seller.

This is a good lesson, though. Maybe since I am focusing on buying only items that I love from now on, I really need to shop in person most of the time. Mailing stuff back is a pain in the butt. The thing is, where I live I am an hour away from a shopping mall. But there is a boutique which sells Free People clothing less than a half hour away, and outlet stores a few minutes from that. There is a small department store in the next town, and there are thrift stores and consignment shops in the area. I think shopping in person has just seemed overwhelming since moving from the city. Now that I am focused, however, now that I am being very discriminating and have clear goals--indeed, a mission--I can take my time and not feel stressed about the process.

The weather has actually been cooling where I live lately, in the low 70s with low humidity, and cooler in the evenings. I have worn my Clarks booties a couple of times and have thrown on a cardigan and my jean jacket on occasion. I think I should venture into the attic and see what I have stored away for winter. I keep picturing my black dress pants in my mind and an orange blazer I got as an investment piece last year. I should go through all of those clothes too and pare them down to the essentials. Then I can really make my wish list and begin to seriously shop for those very few pieces I really need.

So exactly how many items does one need for the essential wardrobe? Again, this means that you only keep those items that you feel great wearing and that you actually do wear. Only those pieces which fit you well right now. If you are 5 pounds away from being able to wear a fabulous pair of pants, keep them but tuck them away. If you have things in your closet that are two sizes too small, however, find them a new home, or pack them far away in the attic or basement. Not every item needs to go with everything else, but you should be able to mix and match your pants, skirts, tops, dresses, shoes, sweaters, etc... In this way you will keep from getting bored with a pared down wardrobe. Getting dressed has been so much easier and fun since I began the joie de vivre adventure! You need high quality clothing, the best you can afford, and at the best price you can get it.

I don't think there is any magical number, but perhaps the essential wardrobe for fall would break down something like this, depending upon your lifestyle, work situation, and preferences:

4 blouses
4 t-shirts
2 pairs of jeans
1 pair of khaki pants
2 pairs of dress pants
2 blazers
2 cardigans
2 pull over sweaters
2 skirts
2 dresses
2 camisoles or turtle necks
(lingerie, pajamas, and exercise clothes are separate)

Twenty-five essential pieces seems reasonable! If that hits you as really sparse, think about all of the times you have seen magazines showcase five or so key items for the season and all of the different ways they can be combined. And consider that you will also have essential extras and accessories such as tights, leggings, socks, scarves, shawls, ponchos, shells, vests, jewelry, hats, belts and hand bags that will facilitate making the same clothes look totally different! What one person considers an essential may be an extra to someone else. The exact number in your essential wardrobe is not so important as streamlining your choices to show your style to your best advantage and to work your clothing easily into your life. Be honest--would you rather have one perfect cashmere sweater in your favorite color that makes you feel divine, or five nondescript, cheap acrylic sweaters that make you feel sweaty? Don't forget the all-important shoes as well. Your essential shoe wardrobe might include:

1 pair of loafers
1 pair of ballet flats
2 pairs of boots
1 pair of dress shoes
1 pair of workout shoes
1 pair of sandals (for Indian summer days...)

Could you get by with only 7 pairs of shoes (this is just for fall/winter--you would have 7 more for spring/summer)? It's a lucky number, after all. I think that if every piece in your essential wardrobe was good quality and you adored wearing it, it is more than doable. It would be sooo freeing! There is also the "investment piece" category, such as an expensive formal dress or luxurious silk blouse that you plan to have for years to come. There must be a balance, so that you have enough that you are not constantly fighting to keep up with your laundry, but not so much that you can't even see what is in your closet and drawers. French women can keep their clothes in good condition longer, because they launder them less. Rather than throwing everything in the dirty clothes after wearing it once, they air out their clothes so they can wear them again.

Perhaps you will want to make your own list and evaluate what type of clothing you need for all of your activities. Do you like to wear dresses, or do prefer to usually live in blue jeans? What items could be worn for both work and weekends? Maybe you need two sets of essentials, one for your job and the other for your home life. I have way more of some of the items than I listed above. But soon I will be putting the summer-specific clothes away. Maybe nothing will replace them, or maybe I will decide that my fall wardrobe still has some holes that need to be filled.

I imagine that the longer I practice this way of dressing, the easier it will be to continue to pare down and to ultimately establish my ideal essential wardrobe. When the temperature really drops, I will pull in my warmer winter clothes and evaluate again what I might need to purchase, and then come spring it will be time to do it all again. It is an ongoing process, as our lives, tastes, interests, and bodies change, as we grow as women and get closer to being the person whom God intends us to be. I believe it is a journey worth pursuing.

Happy purging, and joyous shopping to you!

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