Monday, October 13, 2008

Closet Chaos: 80% Crazy, 20% Sane

© 2008 Leighann Lord

Living in a four-season climate, I get the pleasure of switching the clothes in my closet two times a year. Tricky business this. There are always a few awkward days when I’m sweating in a turtle neck on a warm October afternoon or shivering in a cute but thin blouse on a cool May morning.

This biannual switching has shown me that my wardrobe adheres to the 80/20 rule. I wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time. The other 80% I’m not wearing speaks volumes. The first thing it says is that I’m a pack rat. There are times when I’m at peace with this and others when I’m in full blown denial. I tell myself that I’m only hanging onto good quality pieces until they come back in style. Speaking of which, I hear vests are returning this year. My tan fringed suede vest that would look perfect on Linc from "The Mod Squad" is finally coming out of the plastic.

While it’s true that everything comes back — even things that shouldn’t — it takes about 20 years. Do I have enough space to keep stuff for that long? Will I really want to wear the outfit I’m wearing right now in 20 years? Even if it fits me physically, I probably won’t be same person stylistically.

I loved my big 80s leg warmers. I was young. I didn’t know any better. Slip them on again? Probably not. In retrospect considering everything that went on in the 80's — crack cocaine, Ronald Reagan, the last episode of "Mash," I’m lucky to have escaped with my leg warmers and Milli Vanilli tape in tact. (Yes, I said tape!)

I’ve also learned that if an impromptu formal function breaks out, I’m ready. For some reason I’ve got an assortment of formal wear (not including bridesmaids dresses) stashed in my closet. The lesson? I’ve got to stop basing buying decisions on "Wow! I’d look great in that!"

That brings me too the goodly number of clothes in my closet that I bought with The Best of Intentions. They looked great in the store, but they never seem to survive the "What am I gonna wear today?" selection process. I hang on thinking one day I’ll don them, but that’s like trying to make a relationship work when deep down you know there’s nothing there.

I also have the bad habit of trying to color match from memory. While shopping I’ll see a really cute top and become absolutely, 100% convinced that it will perfectly match something I already have. I buy it, take it home and learn – once again – that there are multiple shades of black. Do I return it? Can’t. It’s cute.

The most perplexing thing in the 80% section of my closet is anything white. I almost never wear white. Of course I look outstanding in it (you should have seen me in my wedding gown) but I’m just not a big fan. Wearing white is way too stressful. I’m paranoid I’ll get a mark or stain that’ll ruin the outfit.

Oddly enough I didn’t stress about my white wedding gown. No doubt I had a few other things on my mind, but I also had an army of people at my disposal who’s job was to help keep me and my dress looking pristine. Without a staff I just don’t have the stones. So why do I have white outfits sitting in the 80% section of my closet?

Well, I went through a phase where I thought if I bought more white I’d get over my fear and wear it. It hasn’t really worked out that way. It’s too bad because I’ve got some cute stuff: A white denim skirt, white sweat pants, white dress pants, white button down shirts ... And it all hangs inside-out in my closet, getting switched around, back and forth, season to season.

The only white I wear, out of necessity, are my gi pants. They are part of the uniform at my martial arts school. I wash them religiously and damn near own stock in Clorox and Oxy Clean. The cool thing is the students who have earned their black belts get to wear black pants. Guess who can’t wait? Thankfully, as a brown belt, I’m 80% there.


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