Building a Wardrobe for Life

An article in this month’s More magazine struck a chord with me. More‘s tagline is “for women of style and substance,” which I take to be marketing code for “women in their forties who are smart and look good for their age.” Since I will be one of those women in a few short months, I’ve started reading the magazine with some regularity.

In this piece the author, Jennifer Braunschweiger, forces herself to consider every last item in her closet. “If I put it on, and then take it off, I have to give it away…If I wear it to work and feel uncomfortable, out it goes as well.” (You can see a slideshow of Braunschweiger’s closet project in More magazine online, but the essay is only available in the hard-copy magazine, and it’s worth a read.)

She continues, “a closet isn’t a museum or an archive. It should be a simple storehouse of clothes that reflect who I am today and that I can wear to work tomorrow. .. Letting go of clothing is letting go of who I used to be.”

Closet as Archive

That’s true, but for me there’s something more. The truth is, and I say this without meaning to sound like the world’s biggest Debbie Downer, but I have had little success to date in building the things most women my age have. Through many missteps for which I take full responsibility, a couple strokes of bad luck, and a select few cases of good old-fashioned getting screwed over, I haven’t as yet succeeded in building a lucrative, flourishing career or a family of my own.

But a wardrobe? Now that, I have managed to build.

Don’t get me wrong. I have managed to grow as a person these last years and I’ve certainly had some successes.  But the truth is that one of the few very tangible things I have to show from my last 10 years is my wardrobe. If I dismantle it blouse by sweater by skirt, what do I have to show for the last decade?

Time Flies

About four years ago an acquaintance and I were remarking at how quickly four years had gone by since I’d left Phoenix and she asked, completely innocently, how you knew time was going by so quickly if you don’t have kids. To her it was obvious; the baby she’d had right before I’d left was now four. At the time I was insulted. I thought, it’s not like people without children stare at their walls as time trudges along.  But now I sort of see where she was coming from. Most of my markers are less tangible; I didn’t have the baby to watch grow up. So if I can look at my dark-turquoise velvet jacket I bought three cities ago (and which I am, admittedly, a little sick of ), it reminds me not only of where I was then, but of the journey I took to where I am now.

But still, I see Braunschweiger’s point. Maybe if I got rid of at least some of these tangible reminders of my past, it would be easier to focus fully on my future. I am no crazy hoarding lady, but perhaps if I got rid of said velvet jacket, I wouldn’t be reminded so much of the journey I have already taken, and could focus my mind (a mind that clearly spends too much time overthinking) more completely on what may be next. To quote the end of a song by one of my favorite singers, “Better times collide with now… And better times are coming still.”

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