Late last year, my landlords broke the sad news that they want to sell my apartment (which I do not want to buy) and thus, I must vacate. I’ve lived here for three years, and while I call it The Dollhouse because it’s quite small, it still has to be subjected to the Moving House Process:
First, remove all the stuff that doesn’t bother you in situ but which you do not want to pack
Great, now watch 15,937 decluttering videos on YouTube and really remove the stuff you do not want to pack
Clean various things
Donate various things
Pack various things
Take it all to the new place
Mysteriously find more stuff you did not need to pack
I’m pretty good at not bringing home stuff I don’t really want and not keeping things I don’t really need. Or so I thought - turns out I’m just really tidy. Moving house this time around has really revealed two interesting patterns of thought that apply equally to the contents of my kitchen as they do to my wardrobe.
1: that’s a useful thing and so I will keep it
Readers, I have a mortar and pestle that a colleague gave me as a gift about 5 years ago (maybe longer?). I’ve used it once. ONCE. Yet I seriously intended to keep it because “a mortar and pestle is useful”. Megan, it’s USEful, as in you have to USE it. Farewell, mortar and pestle. See also: my cake stand.
2: that’s a beautiful/expensive thing and so I will keep it
Doesn’t matter if I actually like or use it. I’m especially prone to this when the thing in question is a gift, or if it in anyway overlaps with category (1). My violin is a great example of this – I haven’t played it properly in at least a decade. I’ve considered letting it go many, many times, but it was only this year that I was smart enough to Google charities that collect instruments and now I feel ace about donating it to someone who will get to experience the pleasure of playing music.
Anyway, enough about my lunacy with cake stands and violins. Let’s talk about what I’ve learned about my personal style.
First up, here’s what I “knew”:
I own a lot of clothes by any objective measure
Thanks to op shopping and strategic use of the frivolous things account, I own very few chain store items
I wear a good chunk of those clothes
I do keep some clothes just for funsies/because they’re beautiful
I have a varied and interesting sense of personal style – I wear different looks and I experiment with shapes and colours
Here’s what I learned – and my method
I separated all of my clothes into two groups. Group one was stuff I would take, hell or high water, to a new house. You only got one leetle wardrobe? These are the things that will be in it. Group two was stuff I still loved, and would want to keep, but not enough to find space for it in the one leetle wardrobe.
This was incredibly easy to do. The key lesson here was that there needs to be a confined space for what you’re keeping. I need to be forced to prioritise.
Having done this, I closed the door on group two for a week (literally). At the end of that week, I reopened the wardrobe and realised that, actually, there was still stuff in that group that I was keeping for fantasy purposes.
This is not role play fantasy – this is either the “I’ll wear that when” fantasy or the “I definitely could pull that off” fantasy. One is too future-focussed, and the other fails to be truthful about who you are and what you like. The key lesson for me here was that I believe perhaps too whole-heartedly in the transformative nature of dressing up. While we know, because #science, that the way we dress is capable of changing even our own opinions of ourselves, I was allowing too many potential versions of Megan to exist in one place.
Back to group one. When I stand back from group one I see a couple of things:
I love culottes/cropped wide leg pants a lot. Not only do I own several pairs, I wear them all frequently.
Equally, I love a bright or printed button down shirt.
All my skirts and dresses fall at or below the knee. This makes sense because the little bit above my knee is not my fave.
I have a group of good basics that I enjoy wearing (the holy grail, because who hasn’t owned a basic black top that is necessary but also terrible)
There’s a surprising number of things in group one that, at the time, I thought were a bit of a punt
There’s very little black in my wardrobe, and where there is a lot (five black jackets anyone?) I don’t really wear it
Basically zero chain store stuff. There was still some stuff floating round in my wardrobe, like my recent black beaded skirt, but for the most part it’s all gone and replaced by vintage or local stuff (I make an exception for AS Colour tees because they are life)
KEYEST OF THE KEY LESSONS: my style might be boring? Like, not visually or to the casual observer, but actually I might currently only like about 12 things in the style universe of 20,000,000,000,000 (to infinity) of things.
I can probably stop buying, and then holding onto, short skirts, black anythings, tshirts that aren’t either from Stine Goya or the Maple tee from AS Colour, jumpsuits, longline blazers or anything lacy (sheer seems to be fine, lacy seems to be the thing I then avoid).
I am experimental, but – and this is key – I do not need to keep my experiments after the testing is over. I would say about 60-70% of my experimental op shop purchases are a one hit (or no hit) wonders, which I then keep because I think they’re beautiful, or fabulously unusual, or useful. Fine. Keep the occasional vintage dress but for the love of god, I need to stop collecting black jackets and white shirts (at least six of the latter which I am still struggling with because, say it with me, “they’re all different”).
It’s been immensely useful to stand back and reassess what the core of my wardrobe really is nowadays (because five years ago, nary a culotte was to be seen) so that I can be thinking about that when I’m buying an insane blouse in an op shop for a fiver. Because I think only an insane person buys new things right before they move house, I’ve solemnly sworn I will not buy anything I would need to pack before the end of January (when I move). I broke that pact to buy a colander, after mine flaked red paint into my spaghetti how dare you, but otherwise I remain firm. However, in February I look forward to seeing how my thrifting experience has changed now that I can see my foundational style more clearly – and here’s to better-informed experimenting.
I’m off to iron a pair of culottes now, but chip in and share what you’ve done that’s given you a bit of a shake up on the personal style front. We can all use ideas!