Every minute of every day, inside and outside of every closet, there’s a women who thinks she’s got nothing to wear.
Can you relate?
Every day, closet doors open on rooms full of nostalgia and dream sizes, garments we convince ourselves we’ll one day wear again. These are the “skins” for who we are—at work, at home, when nobody’s around, on a first date, for our partners, while out shopping, in the park, when we want to be noticed, when we want to hide. These are our psyches, exposed!
What seems never to be discussed in the media is the relationship that we have with our closets: attachment or pride or joy, for example, or disconnection or betrayal or disappointment. What is happening here? We are identifying with our clothes. To say it another way, we want our clothes to identify with us.
In the last ten months, I’ve run two 12-session Stopping Overshopping groups, worked with a number of individual overshopping clients, and learned about two women who swore off any clothing purchases for an entire year, choosing instead to shop their own closets. (One has even developed a program to teach others to do the same. ) It seems as though everywhere I turn in my work life, people are coming out of their closets to talk about what’s in them. They’re doing this to feel balanced and reasonable, or to put the brakes on overshopping.
One useful strategy they use is to count the items of a particular class that they’ve overbought: shoes, perhaps, or maybe scarves or sweaters. For Lois, iterating a staggering 122 summer dresses certainly brought home the fact that she had far more than she needed or wore. Less dramatic counts had the same effect on others. Some clients have sold their overages on eBay; others gave things away by the dozen.
Clearly, I believe that closet reconnaissance is a mission worth completing. It’s something I’d been meaning to do for a number of years—yet never quite happened to get around to. Then I read an article in a local paper this April about a warm, creative, and competent woman named Eve Cantor, a former buyer at upscale Barneys and former women and children’s boutique owner who’d recently begun a business helping women explore their closets. I decided it was time for that long-postponed spring cleaning of mine.
I knew that part of what had kept me from overhauling my own closets was inertia, but a larger part was not wanting to go it alone. What Eve offers— impeccable taste and the capacity to size up (forgive the pun!) clients and help them put together versatile, reliable, and flattering wardrobes that express their personalities and lifestyles—exactly filled the bill. We decided that she’d come, we’d work together on my closet, and then we’d each write about the experience. Maybe the experience would be positive enough to motivate overshoppers, with or without a closet support buddy, to do the same.
As the day approached, I noticed a few anxious thoughts: “I don’t shop at Barney’s; I almost never spend that kind of money on my clothes. What’s she going to think of my wardrobe?” or “I haven’t tried on some of this stuff in years; what if it doesn’t even fit anymore?” or “There’s so much in these closets; where are we going to begin and how much can we get to? If we don’t finish, am I going to continue myself or just let the rest go?”
The actual day couldn’t have been more conducive to the task at hand. A gentle rain fell on New York, offering us a nurturing cocoon for the metamorphosis. Eve began by asking me to set aside the “no-brainers,” those items that I definitely wanted to keep; I’d say that constituted about half my wardrobe. As I tried on the rest of the garments, one by one, Eve showed me how some items could be altered to fit better. For example, the first picture is me trying on one of my favorite jackets; it’s gotten a little snug. Eve suggested this out-of-the box solution: have the zipper removed and replaced with a hook-and-eye closure, and maybe even wear the jacket with a skinny brown belt.
She also demonstrated how I could accessorize some things differently to look better and wear more. The second photo is of me wearing a pair of beige suede slacks that I bought eight or nine years ago and wore only once: I never could figure out what to wear them with, though I had the shirt and belt that you see in the picture in my closet as well! Eve suggested restyling a skirt and two dresses to give them each a new lease on life. Some items, she thought, had seen better days and were ready to be recycled. I was delighted to be letting go of them; her encouragement made it painless.
Here’s what Eve had to say when we were done.
I enjoyed spending time with you and I hope behind those closet doors you now feel a little lighter and have a better understanding of what you own.
Below is my experience of our work together.
I had the pleasure of joining April Benson in her closet. She contacted me based on an article recently released about “Shopping Your Closet” in the Bergen Herald. As I arrived in her lovely home I felt like I was floating on a gondola in Venice with the murals of Italian waterways on the walls. This women clearly has style. I knew in this moment I was going to love her closet. We immediately got to work.
I normally do a Spring/Summer or Winter/Fall wardrobe in three hours, and once we got into our work we decided to continue the momentum of productivity and completed her entire closet (all seasons) in five hours. During this time:
- April tried on nearly every piece of clothing
- We discussed openly the positives, negatives, vulnerabilities, missing pieces and accessories, etc. of her wardrobe
- We envisioned the events where she will maximize all the pieces to give appropriateness to each outfit
- We donated thirty-plus pieces that don’t fit the wardrobe anymore to Shelter Our Sisters, a non-profit organization that assists women and children victims of domestic violence
- We created new, refreshing, stylish outfits with already existing pieces and discussed new ways of wearing them
- We made many needed alteration suggestions
- We put together a list of a few accessories and separates that she might want to purchase to maximize the look of existing pieces
- She swapped out her wire and plastic hangers for new thinner no slip velvet hangers for a cleaner closet look
I love April’s closet! Every piece is unique and yet they all belong in the same place, with April Benson. Many women like a look and buy that look with small nuances of distinction. This closet is a wardrobe of concise choosing. April is an expert shopper. She hunts for detail and color and has a natural gravitation to classic silhouettes. Her pieces can be worn forever.
While April needed no help in the style category, she seemed to light up with the validation of her wardrobe. She was thrilled to have a partner to try on clothing with. I felt energized and admired April, appreciated the openness of communication between us, and completely enjoyed the exchange of creative energy that flowed during our time together.
Nice to know you April!
Okay … so how was it for me, really?
What I’ve noticed:
- I really like seeing some empty spaces in my shoe racks.
- I don’t miss anything I’ve let go of.
- I could imagine letting go of a few more things if I don’t wear them within the next year.
- Now I have a desire to go through all the t-shirts, shells, camisoles, and sweaters, and pare those down too.
- Even though they don’t take up that much physical space, the more belts, scarves, stockings, lingerie, and jewelry stuff I have, the more brain space it takes.
- I’d be delighted to know that things now sitting passively in drawers and on hooks in my closet will lead an active, healthy life with somebody else.
- I do feel lighter and want to keep it that way.