timberland apparel How to edit your wardrobe
Sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees. Sometimes you can’t see what to wear for all your clothes. This was the situation I had found myself in over the past few months. My wardrobe was a disaster. My clothes were so squashed that I had to iron them after they emerged from its depths. I was attempting to squeeze hangers into negative space, my shoes were in disarray and my socks were so single they’d signed up to Tinder. In time honoured tradition, I had a full to bursting wardrobe, and not a thing to wear. It was time to call Anna.
Anna Berkeley is a personal stylist and womenswear buyer. I last called on her services 15 months ago. She completely transformed my closet into a space that was functional rather than dysfunctional. Getting dressed became a pleasure again. I looked at my clothes anew. Thanks to her arrangements, I saw what I had and what I didn’t have, and shopped for the things I actually needed (with her words, ‘Your fine knit section is looking at bit sad,’ ringing in my ears, for shame). Winter to summer transitioned seamlessly I vacuum packed my sweaters and everything. But the system became unstuck when I failed to make a smooth return from summer back to winter, let alone back to spring again. Like Marks Spencer, I blame the weather: if November would stop behaving as though it’s mid July, perhaps I’d know when to retire my summer dresses; and if March hadn’t felt like an Arctic winter, I’d know when to get them out again. But then, when I found myself with three new winter coats, I didn’t rid myself of any older styles (well, you don’t with coats, do you?). My outerwear began infringing upon my eveningwear and, lo, it was chaos again.
You may think, shouldn’t someone who writes about fashion, a fashion editor in fact, be able to edit her own wardrobe? Possibly. But maybe it’s like editing your own writing. Yeah, you can do it, but it’s always better when someone else does it for you. And actually, I can’t do it. Clothes fly at me like stricken children and unless they’re completely ridiculous or I can’t get them past my thighs I find it hard to bat them off. There’s something I love in all of them: colour, fabric, that sleeve detail So I give them chance after chance. My wardrobe becomes like a halfway house. Clothes linger there, rejected but toyed with, not really fulfilling their true potential in my sad sartorial purgatory. And we can’t forget for all the talk of fashion as a medium of self expression and creativity, blah blah that clothes are merely tarted up, rather expensive security blankets. There can be something very comforting in having a full (albeit unworn) wardrobe.
Particularly in my job. If my closet was bare, what kind of fashion journalist would I be? Well, a saner one, maybe. One who wouldn’t have a meltdown looking for that perfect silk mix roll neck that I swear I saw only yesterday Anna sends instructions. Before she arrives, I have to take everything out of my wardrobe and sort it into these six piles: 1 Items not worn for two years (I change this to six months vintage items that I haven’t worn for longer than that are put into storage) 2 Items that are too big, small, overworn or damaged (any tatty, ‘kicking about the house’ garments, are not allowed) 3 Special occasion wear 4 Clothes that used to work but don’t fit my lifestyle any more 5 Items for work 6 Items for daily life and weekends
I start at 9pm the night before and finish at midnight. Even though I last did this only a little over a year ago, it is exhausting, emotional and embarrassingly dusty work. In the process,
there are a few shocking discoveries a cutout swimsuit I must have bought in a state of extreme body dysmorphia, a pair of legwarmers for that perfect ballet moment that never came, 10 white shirts unworn two still in cellophane! There are four pairs of trousers by very nice (ie expensive) labels not worn in months, which makes me dwell on how much weight I’ve put on in the past year, which makes me depressed, which makes me want to give up and get into bed (if only there wasn’t a dumper truck of clothes on top of the duvet). In a temper, I haul out all of my knitwear and fling it on the ‘Not worn’ pile including lovely sweaters that are almost new.
Above: Kate’s top six keeps Joseph skirt, Bruta shirt, Toga boots, M jumper, Petit Bateau top, Margaret Howell trousers
There are distractions, too. I get nostalgic over a pair of brown patent Chlo shoes with gold knots and towering block heels that I bought on a weekend away. Still amazing, but they’re too high to wear now. I spent a good 10 minutes wondering whether my six year old will wear them when she’s a teenager. Conclusion: no idea. Will keep anyway. More pointless but pleasing minutes are whiled away arranging the rest of my shoes into colour tones. At 11.15pm my husband enters the room, surveys the scene and exhales a passive aggressive sigh. He is banished to the guest room. When I finally go to bed, my room looks like the recycling depot at Oxfam. I anxiously observe that the biggest pile is the ‘Not worn for six months’. Surprise surprise So this is the mountain that Anna and I spend most of our time on the next day. (Pile 3 is largely fine, I have no Pile 4 and Piles 5 and 6 mostly consist of jeans and shirts.) But number 1 why am I not wearing any of these clothes? One vintage dress has a tear at the seam, one sweater needs a good old comb to defuzz it. The rest are in perfect condition but remain unworn. Occasionally I’ll give one of them a go but usually end up changing immediately because I don’t feel comfortable.
Anna makes me try on some of these items and the bald truth is and this is embarrassing, because surely I shouldn’t be making errors of this kind that they don’t fit brilliantly or the cut doesn’t suit me. A grey wool jacket that I love but always feels wrong, Anna points out is just too big across the chest. I need to wear French tailoring because the cuts are neater and sharper and better suited to my freakishly small shoulders. Those four pairs of trousers cropped and wide cut have pleated fronts. They’re never going to flatter my shape. From now on, Anna advises, I need to stick to flat fronted trousers in ‘a robust fabric’; straight cut or cropped only. This is the most helpful bit of the session and the bit that’s hard to do yourself. The knits that aren’t working? That’s because I’ve bought too many rib hemmed sweaters that fall in the wrong place. When I fold the rib under, it bulks out over the stomach so I don’t wear them. From now on, I can only buy fine knit sweaters to tuck into skirts or trousers, or styles that stop at the top of the hip to wear with full skirts. Chunkier knits need to have a straight cut.
When that pile is dealt with honestly, it leaves three bags of clothes for the charity shop and three more (see the list above) in almost perfect condition that I can sell. Now, I can better see what I need (yes, I do still need some things), I can go shopping with the money I make (it won’t be as much as I paid for them, but it will help). I’m more than fine for coats, shoes, bags (I still have about 25!) and eveningwear, but I’m lacking woven long sleeved tops and fine knits for work. I need more of those flat fronted trousers and a full skirt to wear with my sweat tops and shorter knits.
The terrifying, sobering thing is that when the following day Anna sends me a catalogue of the items that I’m going to sell, I barely remember any of them. Ten handbags that I can’t even remember? It’s shameful! But also a relief. I certainly don’t miss them. And when I open my wardrobe now, I don’t feel stress or panic but pleasure in far fewer items that I not only love but novelty! suit me, fit me and I want to look after. Sartorial lesson of the season? A wardrobe half empty turns out to be one that’s half full.