I recently had a clear out. Not the wussy kind I normally have where I get everything out, imagine some emotional attachment/marvel that it is not completely knackered/think of the next hypothetical time I will wear it. Oh no, this was EPIC. Turned out, not that I’d like to admit, that I had been hanging on to my past life through my range of tutu skirts and sequins. Eek. It also came just as I had published my latest blog post on 'Fake It Till You Make It - How Important Is Image?' so perhaps it is time I took some of my own advice. It hadn’t started out as a complete image overhaul but my mum was visiting. She took one look at my All Saints waterfall cardigan and set to the entire wardrobe!
After she unearthed the third waterfall cardigan (turns out I literally sponsored All Saints at the turn of the century) I realised I had kept all these thin floral dresses, gathered full skirts, sequin strappy tops, mini skirts, bad holiday gear, even a tee from Playboy was hiding in there, because that is when I had been happiest. I wore some of it – because I always felt I should get good wear out of things, but mostly, it was just sitting there, waiting to become fashionable again. I told myself that I needed to keep it, because I look after clothes – I don’t really buy what I don’t really love anymore. But alas there was a time in my twenties where I did have disposable income and I would buy a high street dress every week to go out at the weekend.
It reminds me of Trinny and Susannah who each week would make over some hapless woman who had found herself stuck in the 80s with gigantic hair, blue eye liner and faded blue badly fitting jeans. They would have to drag her kicking and screaming into the right era. Or in the Sex and the City movie where Carrie goes through her entire wardrobe - shoulder pads and all - and the girls help her clearout. I was stuck in my mid twenties when puffy skirts were the rage, leggings (shudder) were in and you could have a tea dress in ten different prints and feel ok with that.
Alas I am not that girl anymore. It is time to grow up. My emotional attachment would be related to holidays, boys, you name it. My mother would say – it this a Gareth dress? Why yes it is from my time of being 'Gareth's girlfriend'. ‘Bin.’ Even things I wore and liked went if it didn’t fit the image of who I have become. The best thing is that my wardrobes are now pretty empty. Save for the few quality pieces that I really love. I feel free to start again and never again will I get stuck in a decade and amass so many things.
How can you tell if it is time for a clear out or a rebrand?
1) What do you want? If it is to be at the top of your professional game and your outer image (and attitude don't match), then yah it is time. You'll feel out of step with your clothes. Like you never quite have quite the right sophisticated shirt for a meeting, or you're just crashing into work parties rather than making a grand entrance.
2) Are you hoarding? Is your wardrobe literally tipping over but you can't find anything (see Clueless's Cher Horwitz above)? Well you've probably got some key pieces in there but you can't find them for all the junk in there. An edit is long overdue.
3) Is it emotional? If your clothes represent emotional moments - good, bad, happy, sad, it is time for a re-evaluation. It isn't to say you have to throw it all out, but it is time to be honest about whether these items are keeping you emotionally stuck. Stuck means that your life will stay stuck in a rut. Un-stuck means you can open the wardrobe door to a new life!
Ready? Nearly? Ok there's one more thing to consider - what to do with everything you edit out of your wardrobe. Luckily I live about two yards from Mary’s Living and Giving Shop in Maida Vale so I happily dropped off eight bags full of clothes to them. They sent me a letter afterwards to tell me how much my clothes raised for Save the Children. See cathartic isn't it? Time to reclaim your life - this isn't about trends or fashion, it is about your life, your image and your brand. Let's go!
The Golden Rules
- Get someone you trust (and fairly ruthless) to help you. It is much easier to assess worn out pieces with a second opinion.
- Moodboard - sounds RIDICULOUS I know but how about a little moodboard of what you want your image to be, use some celebrities who have an image you admire and try and represent all different aspects of your life - you will need casual clothes, work outfits and special evening pieces.
- Try things on. ‘Oh I loved this dress.’ Yah but it is a size 8 – you’ve changed shape. Try it on, if it doesn’t fit pass it on for someone else to enjoy.
- Bin things that are over – bikinis, underwear, old white tees. If it makes you feel any better, I put my old white tee into my ‘gym clothes pile.’ As my mother rightly pointed out ‘How many knackered gym tops do you need?’ Answer – none.
- Charity – it isn’t just Mary’s Living and Giving Shop – plenty of shops will be happy to take your clothes off your hands.
- Keep the good stuff. If you have a vintage Chanel jacket - do not bin this! If it is in and out of style, it will come round again. Don't fall for trends in this instance. A good vintage piece is a treasure (unless it doesn't fit in which case...)
- Sell it – for me, I just knew if it was knocking around any longer, I’d probably squeeze it back into the wardrobe. If you have time you can ebay or there are specialist sellers for designer pieces.
- Not sure? Make a separate pile for things you aren't sure about. If you haven't been tempted into them by the end of the next season then it is time to part ways.
- Get the professionals in. I didn’t need to but there are plenty of fabulous image consultants who will help you. Kate Moss swears by Practical Princess Elika Gibbs who can re-organise your wardrobe in a flash. This is a more extreme solution and will involve entirely new hangers, dividers and a whole team of experts - tempting isn't it?
If you’re thinking of doing this, I wish you luck, as silly as it may sound you may unearth more than a few clothes…but there’s no time like the present to get rid of those skeletons in your closet. This isn’t about vanity, or overspending or being frivolous, this is about cleansing your past to invest in your future with your image and therefore ultimately your happiness. For me, all the puffy skirts in the world won’t take me back to my twenties, but now I realise, I’m happy right where I am.