Building and maintaining a thoughtful wardrobe after two decades of willy-nilly purchases, gifts from parents and friends, and incurable nostalgia is no simple task. Do not be fooled.
A few weeks ago I achieved something significant, at least for me. I texted Cate, I got my husband on the phone, I e-mailed my mother—you get the picture. I was REALLY impressed with myself. The accomplishment: I cut my wardrobe down to fifty pieces, not including pajamas, shoes, jewelry, undergarments, bathing suits, or my “ski” jacket. (Those categories also took a beating, though, and I’m happy to report are much more organized.) The fifty does include all other outerwear and formalwear and all clothing that was hiding in my husband’s closet, in the car, in the laundry, and at my parents’ home in San Diego.
I never counted the number of clothing items I owned pre-Twenty Pieces Project, but I can confidently say it was well over three-hundred. Embarrassing, but true. I never thought of myself as a hoarder, because more often than not my life is pretty clean and organized. Ask the people closest to me, though, and they’ll tell you I still have quite a few tchotchkes to my name and a guilt/sentiment complex (sentiguilt!) that results in keeping things I don’t want or need.
These same people might find it hard to believe, but since graduating from college in 2006, I have regularly removed damaged, old, or no longer useful items from my closet. Long before, I grew up in a household where “cleaning out the garage” or “spring cleaning” was a fun thing, not a chore. About once a year I conducted a more in-depth analysis of my belongings and took a car load to Goodwill or the closest dumpster. Despite this general awareness of my property, though, I still owned far too many impractical or under-used pieces. Intervention was needed.
When dear Cate first announced her Twenty Pieces intentions, I audibly groaned because I knew I’d be reeled into it faster than I could say “I DO need all my highschool formals!” The initial culling ceremony was partially documented here. Read it if you must. Hi, my name is Christy, and I have a ball gown problem. No, I have no intention of being cured.
A couple glasses of wine and a conciliatory Taco Bell run later, I determined that fifty pieces was my ultimate goal. Since then, many weekday evenings have been spent making more “maybe” and “donate” piles. Several late-night Gmail chats have become debates about which T-shirt or which LBD to give up next. My husband has endured more than one Saturday morning fashion show. When the magic number was finally achieved, I felt such a sense of relief, as if I would never have to think about or be tempted by clothes again. I had achieved Wardrobe Nirvana, or something. Right?
It is with chagrin I tell you that Wardrobe Nirvana is a myth. We live in a changeable, imperfect world where the lovely threads we don each day are all too subject to wear, tear, criticism, and loss of interest. Within a few days of my glorious deed, the hems on my favorite pair of pants unraveled for the umpteenth time, causing me to shop for a replacement pair (which I have yet to find).
Then I fell in love with this sparkly little vintage number at a thrift store (good grief, I love sparkles), so I rid myself of an old tank to make room for this one. Then I realized that functioning without a long-sleeved black T-shirt was impossible given my lifestyle, and having only one pair of jeans was problematic. To top it all off, last week I found myself at an Old Navy cash register with a clearance find—just a little consolation after a frustrating week. What gives?
It’s good to have goals, meet them, and stick with them. It can be demoralizing to find yourself reverting to old habits, or even being forced to adjust to new circumstances. Imagine curating a pitch-perfect wardrobe for your teaching job only to be handed a pink slip the next week, or buying the best everyday jeans only to drop a size a month later. But it’s not about the number of items in your closet or berating yourself when you have to pick up and start over.
That’s what I love about the Twenty Pieces Project. Whether you have one-hundred pieces or ten, the point is not to be enslaved to a number, but rather to approach clothing intentionally and ethically, with deference to the bigger priorities of life: God, our communities, and our souls. Not the letter of the law, but the spirit.
Confession: I currently own fifty-two pieces. My ambition of building a minimal, practical, and beautiful wardrobe that reflects my current lifestyle has (clearly) only just begun. For my own purposes, I’d love to get back down to fifty pieces and make wiser, more financially sound decisions in the future. The good news is, tomorrow is another day.
Christy is an aspiring artist from beautiful Orange County, CA with a B.A. in English Literature. An academic administrator by day, she enjoys acting, singing, dancing, playing the piano, reading, traveling, (occasionally) cooking, a good Scrabble game, and imbibing Anthropologie catalogs. She’s determined to figure out the complexities of interior design, photography, drawing, and keeping plants alive for more than a week. She can often be found exploring local restaurants with her awesome husband and friends and dreaming about her future English Tudor-style mansion filled with cats.