Happy New Year!
I've written often on this blog about cleaning out and streamlining your wardrobe, but that's only one side of the work that I do. The other side is making sure that you actually have clothes you love and that fit your life. Last summer, I worked with a lovely writer and editor who was in real need of someone to help her with this task. She wrote this beautiful piece for Encore Magazine about her experience, and it illustrates more than I ever could the positivity that new clothes can bring to your outlook. It seemed like a fitting way to start 2014 on the mindful closet blog!
Looking through my closet was like looking through a scrapbook, a history in black and navy blue and sludgy brown. My main requirement for clothing was that it could survive a lengthy commute and the chance that I might have to change a tire. I thought black always matched black and was always appropriate. My funereal wardrobe reflected exactly how I'd felt about my day job.
During my husband's long illness, clothes were not important, and I got out of the habit of caring. I relied on a pair of black wool trousers with pockets deep enough to carry the cellphone and pleats enough to hide it. These got dry-cleaned and pressed to a rat-like luster.
My late husband left me some money. I quit my day job, toured Europe in a black jacket, skirt, hose, and flats, and then came home and set up my own business. Not once did I think to enhance my new life with new clothes.
After two years, the clothes in my closet off-gassed the smells of the old office and dry-cleaning solvent. Some pieces were 12 years old. I'd inked their fraying edges and stains with Magic Marker. Their polyesters and tropical wools were severly tailored and fully lined.
For reasons of economy and habit, I might have continued to wear them except that I had changed. I wanted color and flow and femininity.
But I still wore tag ends of the old wardrobe, held closed at the waistline with safety pins I deemed invisible. I interpreted the itch for change as a desire to go to a spa. I was about to book the most radical makeover package, when at a meeting of entrepreneurs I took the card of a young woman calling her business mindful closet.
I liked that name. Her hair was not bleached and I liked her simple taupe shift in a textured fabric, and her belt, bag and shoes. I'd never dreamed of hiring a wardrobe consultant, but at that moment I was pierced with the perfect rightness of it.
Before the free consultation, I answered her one-page questionnaire.
"What are your favorite colors?"
I wrote, "White and red."
"Who are your style icons?"
"How do you feel wearing your current wardrobe?"
People do change; I explained that I actually enjoyed myself and my life now. I confessed to not knowing where to shop, that price tags scared me, that separates confused me, and I wished to downplay a figure flaw (I have only one).
She was the only person in the world able to use such information.
"Tell me about yourself," she said when we sat down at my place. That's everyone's favorite invitation. I shared historic photos of myself and explained that I did not follow fashion. I said, "I always thought fashion was for people without brains or talent."
She said, "It's not about fashion. It's about style."
She had brought stylebooks. "Page through," she said, "and show me any style or color you like, whether you think you can wear it or not." So I did.
Then she said, "Do you mind if I look in your closet?"
I'd edited and aired the closet, throwing the dingy low-heeled pumps and orthotic oxfords into another room, and said, "Be my guest." She merely looked, saying nothing; incredibly smart of her.
"This I can still wear," I said, showing a long-sleeved black number. "And this. And this." A total of three pieces.
Even so, I wasn't ready to chuck my old clothes. They held memories. She said, "Think instead about the future, about having clothes that fit and that you will feel awesome in."
Then she measured me and said we could shop together, or she could shop on her own and in about five days return to my house with her purchases. I could try on and buy any I liked, or none; she'd do the returns.
Ecstatic, I appointed her my personal shopper. In two days, she emailed a photographic sneak preview of some selected items. I saw yellow, I saw aqua. Excitement was building.
At my house she set up in the living room her own rolling clothes rack and carried in from her hatchback big bags from department stores.
"You were so easy to buy for," she said.
Instantly I fell in love my myself in a clingy, nicely-draped magenta dress. I looked so sultry that I bought two, the second one in navy blue. She'd brought a white Calvin Klein suit in two sizes. One was too small but the other just right. I almost wept.
I'd asked her to bring a red sheath. Of the three she'd brought, one very pretty one wouldn't do because raising my arms hauled the hemline up to the oh-no zone. The next had funny shoulders. The third was a gorgeous, form-fitting eye-popper.
I selected the white suit and a navy one; a fun textured jacket in navy and white; and five dresses, loving a floral print with a narrow patent leather belt she showed me how to wear. "This is your real waistline," she said, fitting it an inch higher. Who knew?
And she'd brought a load of handbags. I'd complained to her about bags, showing her the only ideal bag I'd ever owned, a Hello Kitty tote, more subdued and sophisticated than you'd think. In Europe, cries of "Hello Kitty!" greeted me everywhere it went. But I understood how Hello Kitty might be a minus in the business world.
Now for the bill. This was the kind of event one saves for, and I'd expected to take a major hit. She checked the price tags against the receipts and tallied. The total for the clothing and two great bags plus tax was $676. She emailed me the invoice that included her shopping hours.
After she'd gone off with the leftovers, I sat among my colorful clothes, marveling and wondering. It had been like a visit by a fairy godmother. The tags showed where she'd worked her magic: Marshall's. Macy's. Stein's. The future held bold business meetings and knockout dinner dates.