I like closure. Completeness. I don’t collect many things because my urge to acquire one of each available item is very, very strong. And I know now how counterproductive that urge can be.
When I first became interested in expanding my wardrobe, I was rather obsessive about slowly gathering one of each. And by “each” I don’t really mean every possible garment, shoe, and accessory. It was mostly limited to basics. If I was going to bother with dress pants, I might as well have a black pair, and brown pair, and a gray pair. Come to think of it, that triad covered most of my “one of each” tendencies: Black, brown, and gray skirts, pumps, boots, blazers, tees, etc. And I never put myself in financial risk by amassing these items, but I did spend quite a bit of money acquiring them over the years.
And it really did take years. And then it took even MORE years for me to realize that my black, brown, and gray dress pants were collecting dust because I don’t wear pants that often. And then I realized that, yes, it was nice to have thrifted that flattering gray wool blazer but the stiff wool and lining made it so uncomfortable that I hated wearing it. I hung onto that damned blazer for years and years because it filled some imaginary hole. Then I finally admitted that filling that hole did me no good at all.
I have been in a state of purging for many months now. Friends and family have received many gifts, thrift stores have received many donations, consignment shops have seen me come in again and again with armloads of stuff to pass along to new owners. And it feels so liberating to have a (slightly) smaller but carefully honed wardrobe. I always knew intellectually that attempting to acquire a complete set of clothing was not only impossible but also destructive. But, if I’m being honest, I attempted it anyway. It’s a fool’s errand, and no matter how close I got to creating a complete set of black, brown, and gray basics, I never felt any more complete myself. Paring my wardrobe down to items that I actually use and enjoy has been a genuinely rewarding experience.
I don’t think I did anything intentionally stupid or evil by applying a collector’s mentality to clothes. In fact, as someone who cared not a whit about clothing for most of my life, became interested very suddenly, and felt completely ill-prepared to attempt a stylish existence, I believe my actions were somewhat logical. If you want to dress well, you need the proper tools to do so. I focused on these basic items as the proper tools and set about buying them over time. But it took living through that cycle, observing my use patterns, and finally concluding that having something and using it don’t always align before I could accept that brown dress pants aren’t a tool I need in my toolbox.
Image courtesy Gap.
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