Monday, 21 January 2013

Wardrobe Inventory of Doom and my style crisis

This weekend, in a fit of organizational zeal, I dragged out every single item of clothing and pair of shoes that I own. I excavated the stuff that lurks in storage boxes under my bed. I took everything out of wardrobe. I collected up shoes from all the places they had wandered to in the house. I put them all the same place, and then I went through every single thing, checked it was still in good condition, that I still wanted it and that it either fits or will (hopefully) fit when my weight gets back to normal after recent health-related dramatic swings.

Wardrobe before and after! (Full disclosure: the 'before' shot was taken in September 2012, but the situation hadn't improved in the meantime.)
I ended up with a HUGE pile of things that are going to the clothing charity box. I've always hated the idea of getting rid of something I paid good money for but that I turned out to really dislike, or that really never fit. It always felt like such a waste, even more so now I know that most donated clothing never finds another owner and just ends up in landfill. However, I bit the bullet and put my accumulated bad buys in the pile. I've had some of them for a decade. Nothing was going to suddenly make them work for me and I'm really never going to wear them. Time to let go.

I also hate throw away things that have life in them in some ways -- they are clean and whole and sturdy -- but look utterly shabby. I have kept some things to repurpose -- t-shirts to PJ tops, jumpers I wore to work demoted to wearing around the house, that sort of thing.  There comes a point though where you'd be embarrassed to be seen in something and I'll only need so many items of clothes to wear around the house out of sight of the general public once I'm working full-time again. (I work at home at the moment and can get away with wearing whatever I like.) I had a LOT of shabby, past-their-best clothes hanging about that I didn't want to throw away but also didn't want to wear. They went too, some into the charity box pile and some, frankly, straight into the recycling. I put a lot of stuff that is currently too small or out of season back into storage, except this time in a better organized way.

Everything I kept  I then recorded in a spreadsheet by size and type and season. I decided to do this after reading a post by Sarai of Colette patterns and downloading her inventory template. In the end I made my own spreadsheet because I wanted to track some extra things that she does not, particularly sizes and what fits now vs. what doesn't. It seemed more effort to fix her template to suit me than to just make my own, and anyway I love a good Excel spreadsheeting session. Her idea was to just keep track of what she owns so she can see where her gaps are and what she already owns to excess. She had too many fancy dresses. I own far too many basically identical black trousers. Her problem is probably the more enviable situation.

From recording everything, I then sorted my wardrobe out into my colour palettes in my spreadsheet and tried to imagine assembled outfits. This is is actually something I've never ever done. Historically I would always just buy clothes that were just like the clothes I had before, or that made up one single outfit that I bought all at the same time, usually for a specific event, without too much regard to what I already owned. I've never tried to make my whole wardrobe work together consciously, and frankly the only reason my wardrobe has ever worked at all is that I am WILDLY UNADVENTUROUS with colours and styles. I basically only ever wear solids and have a few really basic prints -- checks, stripes, a couple of ditzy types, that kind of thing. I only wear a very few colours. On the plus side, I have no wardrobe orphans except for one beautiful originally-very-expensive-but-I-bought-it-for-a-tenner-second-hand mint green blazer that does not go with anything else I own and never has, and which I have therefore barely worn. On the minus side, I have the world's most boring wardrobe. No, really, it's totally snoozeville.

This realization prompted me to I eyeball my fabric collection. You have to understand that I fabric shopped for six to eight months last year for garment fabric totally by instinct rather than need. I have SO MUCH fabric, so much of it in fact that I do not even want to make the total figure public, and only about a third of it is allocated to any specific project. Somehow, despite this, it's all really consistent with what I already own. It's mainly the same colours, and largely solids. Again, looking for positives, there aren't many wardrobe orphans in the making in my stash, at any rate. But on the other hand, wow, I am really boring. (What I have done though, I've now realized, is make a lot of mistakes with fabric content, based on the comparison between my preferred wardrobe and my fabric collection. Too many synthetics, not enough natural fibres. I am not going to fret about that for now. I'm still learning to sew and will ruin a lot more fabric before I'm done, and the few fabrics I've bought with a long-term, keep-it-forever item of clothing in mind are in my preferred types of fabrics.)

That barely scratches the surface of my style crisis, but suffice to say I spent way too much time this weekend trying to reach any kind of determination about what my personal style is and whether I should really care about it. There's a whole other feminist rant contained within that over the fact that there's a part of me that rejects being interested in fashion AT ALL because I need to be taken seriously in a totally male-dominated professional environment and being interested in clothes can send the wrong messages. And about the fact that there's a part of me that has totally internalized the idea that because I'm not thin (even at my lowest weight) or pretty or young, fashion and "personal style" considerations are Not For Me and a waste of time to contemplate. I'll spare you, though.

Hand-quilting practice last summer
As a palette cleanser from this excessive navel gazing, I spent some time last night working on my first (probably only) quilt. I've had it planned for ages but I am progressing at a glacial rate and am still cutting my fabric, a year later! It is a square lap quilt, and it's supposed to end up around 150cm by 150cm. I am making it Quilt As You Go style, so last night I devoted a couple of hours to mindlessly cutting wadding squares and squares of my backing fabric. I'm using a recycled fabric for my backing. It used to be a very expensive duvet cover that lived on my bed for about 10 years. Part of the fabric was a heavier Egyptian cotton fabric while the rest was more standard cotton sheeting. Eventually, the sheeting part wore thin and eventually tore at the seams in the wash. I took the heavier piece off and that is what I am using for the backing and for the joining strips on the quilt top. Yay, recycling of a much loved object!

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