Monday 30 August 2021

Wardrobe clearout: playsuits

I'm participating in a challenge at the moment, where I wear the same dress for 100 days. If I do this and take a picture each day, I get $100 towards a new dress. This is a challenge with many benefits, though the cynical part of me says this is mainly really good advertising for the company that makes the dresses, especially judging by the number of people in the Facebook group that own half a dozen. Benefits for the participant, however, include learning to wear dresses (I don't own a wearable pair of trousers that aren't exercise related); washing clothes less (I don't wash clothes until they smell bad); learning to live with fewer clothes. That's the one for me.

My wardrobe is heaving. I have a lot of clothes I wear, a lot of clothes that almost fit and a lot of clothes I would never wear again but want to keep. The problem is that the volume obscures what is in there: it is difficult to riffle through the rail, for example, because it's quite tightly packed. I've observed that this is a trait I've inherited from Mother Hand, who gets round this problem by buying new wardrobes so that she can retain items of clothing Sib and I wore as children...I cannot become this. 

I've spent some of the summer musing over my clothes-hording instinct. I've figured out a few things -

  • Plus sized shopping has been, in the past, very tough. I had a habit of buying things because they fitted rather than because I liked them. This is not a problem any longer, as the next generation swarm the castles of fashion and demand inclusivity, so now is the time to start being discerning about what I buy and really think about what my style is, rather than my style just being 'what fits'. 
  • I keep hold of items of clothing because they have good memories attached to them. I don't need the item of clothing to keep that memory: a photograph of the memory, or of the garment itself in a pinch, is all that is needed.
  • I buy clothes via mail order and then don't send them back, even if they don't fit quite right or aren't what I want. Then I don't want to get rid of them because it is wasteful to pay for clothes I've never worn. I still believe that to be true, no matter which way you slice it, but it is less wasteful to pass the clothes on to someone who will wear them, rather than keep them squirrelled away until they're well out of fashion and nobody will wear them at all. And the best way to avoid this is to not order them in the first place - or, at the very least, to send them back. 
  • Using the cost-per-wear argument or 'the most sustainable garment is the one you already own' argument to justify keeping hold of clothes I don't wear is not the one. While clothes I don't wear take up storage space, clothes I do wear are in neatly folded piles on the floor, getting dusty. 
  • If I like something and it is a flattering item, I will quite often buy it again in another colour, or sometimes even the same colour, so I have a spare. But. I buy good quality clothes (and justify the spend on the basis that they will last) and so they last and last, because I'm wearing each item half as often. I can't expect the clothes I own now to be the ones I will wear for the rest of my life. Wardrobe turnover is normal. Buying two of everything is not necessary. I do not allow Mr Z to order spare food items for the kitchen on the basis that we don't have the space to store them: I should also be applying this logic to my clothes.
  • My clothes are not my car: I do not need to use them until the fall to pieces to make them worth the spend. 

So, as I work through the challenge, my plan is to work through my wardrobe and make some donations. I would like to donate 100 items to charity by the end of the challenge. Ideally these should be wearable items, not things going for ragging. 

To begin with, I went through the box of clothes I weeded out of my wardrobe two years ago, that were in the spare room. These are clothes I don't want to part with but that I don't wear. Having worked through the box, I turned out a pair of shorts and a dress that I put in there for reasons I cannot work out, and reintroduced them to my wardrobe...a fail. But I got rid of half the garments in the box. I then worked through my holidays clothes - tricky, because I haven't been on a foreign holiday for two years so I don't really know what I need, but I went on colour and shape for now - and added to the pile. 

Today, I have tackled playsuits. A big fan of the old TV programme Life Laundry, I pegged them all out on the line to have a look. 

I started wearing playsuits in 2018 when I turned 40. I was overjoyed to find something so comfortable and easy to wear. In 2019 I shopped for them heavily. Since then, I have added to the collection annually, without throwing any out. I am, in truth, searching for a replacement for my very favourite playsuit: a blue floral, button up number from Gap that is rapidly fading. 

The favourite one, pictured here with the assistant head's dog that I unsuccessfully tried to kidnap. 

Hence, I have ended up with this situation - 13 playsuits. Enough to wear one a day for nearly a fortnight. In truth, I wear three of these on rotation. Time to be brutal. 

I started by removing all the playsuits without pockets. 

I'm already sad. One of those, I'd never worn (but it was too big on the chest, a hazard of ordering such a garment as a pear shaped woman). 

One, I wore to my 40th birthday party and my 12th wedding anniversary dinner and to a fancy beach club in the south of France. We had adventures. But no pockets and it was very short and the fabric was quite thick, so it's going. 

Fancy Montpellier beach club (waitress's thumb just seen). I don't think I have worn it since this holiday, to be honest. 

One had a print I just loved, so I swapped it out for another which I had washed with a garment I'd dyed red, inadvertantly turning the white in the print into a sort of grey pink. I reflected and was sad again: I wore this one to work on an inset day and the head said I looked lovely. But she said I looked lovely in the version I hadn't accidentally dyed. Granted, the cherry print is too blousy on the bust, but I can fix that. I swapped it out. 

My final swap was for the other red print. I received this at school, tried it on and wore it immediately to go to teach a taster lesson. It is just about smart enough and long enough to wear to school...but it has a back zip, making it hard to wear, and the v neck has a little rip. I couldn't decide what to put in its place: a plain black jersey with a split back that is good for wearing out, or the patchwork that prompted me to start the playsuit experiment in the first place after I saw it on a plus sized instagrammer. 

I tried them both on and decided to keep the black one. I am sad about the patchwork: the print in it reminds me of a playsuit I had when I was a teenager (and wore the very first time I went clubbing, with DMs, shedloads of black eyeliner on my eyes and in my brows, and a long medallion necklace...ahh, the 90s) and it is light and airy, easy to wear on holiday. But, it spontaneously unbuttons and is a little short in the body. So it is in the charity pile. 

Said garment on our wedding anniversary trip to southern Italy in 2018. I do always allow myself one buy-back from the charity shop bag and it is possible this will be it. 

The remaining seven playsuits fit in their box. Two of them are almost worn to death: a faded navy and a bird print that has holes in the shoulder, somehow; I will aim to retire them next summer. The cherry print will need some adjustments and, if I haven't made them by next summer, I will charity shop that one as well. 

Added to the other pile, that is 27 garments off to the charity shop. A strong start. 

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