Thursday, 6 September 2012

Radical re-imagining: Planning to plan my wardrobe

That article thinks my wardrobe should look like this.
Someone on my twitter feed once posted an article that suggested that you should hang your clothes in the wardrobe in such a way that each item is in 2cm of its own space to reduce crumpling and keep your clothes in perfect, ready-to-wear condition.

These are not the conditions prevail chez moi, let me tell you. To be fair, the original author of that article probably lives in North America, also known as The Place Of The Giant Purpose-Built Walk-in Wardrobe, whereas I live in a 200 year old house in northern England, so my hysterical laughter may originate in part in cultural difference. Like most Brits, I have a freestanding wardrobe, which in my case has just about one metre hanging rail. In addition I have whatever space I have under beds and in cupboards for clothes I am currently not able to wear at all (usually because they are too small for me, although sometimes because they are too big for me, fluctuating weight is a joy) plus some drawer space. And that's it.
This is my ACTUAL wardrobe right now

When I first read the article I scoffed because: 1m of hanging rail, 2cm per item, that's 50 items of (hanging) clothing. Who in modern Britain only has 50 items of clothing in their wardrobe? I have no idea what the consumption figures are for the UK, but I can't imagine that they differ radically from the US figures that were given in Overdressed: Americans buy over 60 new items of clothing every year. That's more than one thing a week, and it's more than I could put in my physical wardrobe if I were following the (theoretical) rules of keeping things looking good in the process. Personally, for the last few years I really haven't bought anywhere near that much. However, I am pretty sure when I was working rather than a PhD student, I easily hit that 60 items a year. When you look in my real, actual wardrobe, you can't make out any particular item since everything is crushed in together. (I didn't tidy my wardrobe at all before I took this photo, so it's a genuine candid!)

When I started to think about it though, I realized the following:
  • I wash and iron my clothes regularly, usually weekly, at most on a 10-day cycle.
  • At any given time, only part of my wardrobe is actually useful to me because I live somewhere with distinct seasons, and because I always have some clothes in the cupboard that are intentionally rarely used (evening wear, in particular)
  • At any given time you only need so much variety in what you wear. I would separate this into: (a) some variety just for sheer aesthetics (i.e. I feel like wearing navy today vs. I wore black and red yesterday); (b) some variety for the weather (i.e. today is a warmer autumn day vs. a colder autumn day) or layering; and (c) some variety within a category of clothing (i.e. today I need to dress more formally at work because of a meeting vs. yesterday I spent the day at my desk)
  • In my particular home, I DO have room to archive some clothes that I just won't wear (summer skirts in autumn and winter; heavy jumpers in summer) if I am systematic about it.
Suddenly, having, if not 50, then MANY FEWER clothes in my wardrobe doesn't seem at all ridiculous. I could imagine having a total wardrobe with enough variety, suitable for the current season in my wardrobe and the number of clothes needed for that being very much smaller that what I have right now. I decided that from now on the only thing that would be hung up in my wardrobe would have to (a) fit; (b) be suitable for wear through the autumn and into early winter; and (c) make up a reasonably co-ordinated wardrobe that I can wear everyday. Then I had to add back some number of things I can't NOT hang up, like suit jackets, even though they don't fit into that description, and also some orphans I love that I need to integrate into my wardrobe.

So my next task is going through absolutely everything I own and sorting it all out. At the end of this, I should have a much better idea of what I own and what I need, and also hopefully, if I have some things that just need mending or altering, give me the push I need to get that started. It'll be interesting to see how many clothes actually make it back into the wardrobe when they're organized on this basis.


  1. I did the same just recently - cleaned out the wardrobe and got rid of what I don't use. Needed to make room for my newly sewn clothes.

    1. It will be really nice when my wardrobe has a lot of made-by-me clothes in it! Can't wait to really get started.