Can’t stop shopping insanity? Try shopping your own closet!
Every minute of every day, inside and outside of every closet, there’s a woman who thinks she’s got nothing to wear.
Can you relate?
Every day, closet doors open on rooms full of nostalgia and dream sizes, garments we convince ourselves we’ll one day wear again. These are the “skins” for who we are—at work, at home, when nobody’s around, on a first date, for our partners, while out shopping, in the park, when we want to be noticed, when we want to hide. These are our psyches, exposed!
We identify with our clothes, and we want our clothes to identify with us. The relationship you have to your closet can tell you a lot about your shopping habits: are you proud of it, or do you constantly feel betrayed or disappointed by what it offers you?
In the last ten months, I’ve learned about two women who swore off any clothing purchases for an entire year, choosing instead to shop their own closets. One has even developed a program to teach others to do the same. It seems as though everywhere I turn in my work life, people are coming out of their closets to talk about what’s in them.
They’re doing this to feel balanced and reasonable, or simply to stop shopping. I began wondering what would happen if I tried to treat my own closet like a clothing boutique. Maybe I would find some items I really loved, and get rid of some of the clutter.
I’d been meaning to do some reconnaissance in my closet for a number of years—yet was never quite able to get around to it. Then I read an article in a local paper this April about a warm, creative, and competent woman named Eve Cantor, who had recently begun a business helping women explore their closets. I decided it was time for that long-postponed spring cleaning of mine.
I knew that part of what had kept me from overhauling my own closets was inertia, but a larger part was not wanting to go it alone. What Eve offers— impeccable taste and the capacity to size up clients(forgive the pun!) and help them put together versatile, reliable, and flattering wardrobes that express their personalities and lifestyles—was exactly what I needed. We decided that she would come over, work on my closet with me, and then we’d each write about the experience. Maybe the experience would be positive enough to motivate overshoppers, with or without a closet support buddy, to do the same.
As the day approached, I noticed a few anxious thoughts: “I don’t shop at Barney’s; I almost never spend that kind of money on my clothes. What’s she going to think of my wardrobe?” or “I haven’t tried on some of this stuff in years; what if it doesn’t even fit anymore?” or “There’s so much in these closets; where are we going to begin and how much can we get to? If we don’t finish, am I going to continue myself or just let the rest go?”
The day of our appointment was perfect for the task at hand. A gentle rain fell on New York, making our indoor transformation seem like an ideal activity – both fun and cozy. Eve began by asking me to set aside the “no-brainers,” those items that I definitely wanted to keep; I’d say that constituted about half my wardrobe. As I tried on the rest of the garments, one by one, Eve showed me how some items could be altered to fit better. For example, one of my favorite jackets has gotten a little snug. Eve suggested this out-of-the box solution: have the zipper removed and replaced with a hook-and-eye closure, and maybe even wear the jacket with a skinny brown belt.
She also demonstrated how I could accessorize some things differently to look better and wear more, like a pair of beige suede slacks that I bought eight years ago and wore once. I could never figure out what to wear them with, though I had countless shirts and many belts in my closet as well!
Eve suggested restyling a skirt and two dresses to give them each a new lease on life. Some items, she thought, had seen better days and were ready to be recycled. I was delighted to be letting go of them; her encouragement made it painless.
Here’s what Eve had to say when we were done.
I enjoyed spending time with you and I hope behind those closet doors you now feel a little lighter and have a better understanding of what you own.
Below is my experience of our work together.
I had the pleasure of joining April Benson in her closet. She contacted me based on an article recently released about “Shopping Your Closet” in the Bergen Herald. As I arrived in her lovely home I felt like I was floating on a gondola in Venice with the murals of Italian waterways on the walls. This women clearly has style. I knew in this moment I was going to love her closet. We immediately got to work.
I normally do a Spring/Summer or Winter/Fall wardrobe in 3 hours, and once we got into our work we decided to continue the momentum of productivity and completed her entire closet (all seasons) in 5 hours. During this time:
- April tried on nearly every piece of clothing
- We discussed openly the positives, negatives, vulnerabilities, missing pieces and accessories, etc. of her wardrobe
- We envisioned the events where she will maximize all the pieces to give appropriateness to each outfit
- We donated 30+ pieces that don’t fit the wardrobe anymore to Shelter Our Sisters, a non-profit organization that assists women and children victims of domestic violence
- We created new, refreshing, stylish outfits with already existing pieces and discussed new ways of wearing them
- We made many alteration decisions
- We put together a list of a few accessories and separates that she might want to purchase to maximize the look of existing pieces
- We swapped out her wire and plastic hangers for new thinner no slip velvet hangers for a cleaner closet look
I love April’s closet! Every piece is unique and yet they all belong in the same place, with April Benson. Many women like a look and buy that look with small nuances of distinction. This closet is a wardrobe of concise choosing. April is an expert shopper. She hunts for detail and color and has a natural gravitation to classic silhouettes. Her pieces can be worn forever.
While April needed no help in the style category, she seemed to light up with the validation of her wardrobe. She was thrilled to have a partner to try on clothing with. I felt energized and admired April, appreciated the openness of communication between us, and completely enjoyed the exchange of creative energy that flowed during our time together.
Nice to know you April!
And my thoughts on the experience?
I’ve noticed that:
- I really like seeing some empty spaces in my shoe racks.
- I don’t miss anything I’ve let go of.
- I could imagine letting go of a few more things if I don’t wear them within the next year.
- Now I have a desire to go through all the t-shirts, shells, camisoles, and sweaters, and pare those down too.
- Even though they don’t take up that much physical space, the more belts, scarves, stockings, lingerie, and jewelry stuff I have, the more brain space it takes.
- I’m delighted to know that things now sitting undisturbed in my closet will lead an active, healthy life with somebody else.
- I do feel lighter and want to keep it that way.
- Altering things I already own to make them feel modern and comfortable makes my closet a much happier place!
For more information about the work that Eve has done, click here.
Carrie Rattle is a Principal at BehavioralCents.com, a website for women focused on mind and money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence.