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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Clothes: How much do you need and how much should you spend?

If you ask me how many clothes I want, I will tell you infinity. I'd like a new outfit every day, maybe a couple times a day. Not realistic. How many clothes do I need? I could get by with two outfits but that's no way to live. How much should I spend? That question is just all shades of grey. With spring in our midst and summer right around the corner, I am feeling the familiar pangs to fill my closet with clothes for my very favorite seasons. It's true, I could use a few things, but what things? And, (more important) where do I stop?

If you join something like Alcoholics Anonymous, the idea is that you will never drink alcohol again. All or nothing. If you join a diet in which all food is provided for you, you eat what you get and nothing more. During the Bye Buy year, no clothes, period. The problem comes when restraint is needed. My husband and I are on a calorie restricted diet so we can choose anything as long as we stay within the day's calorie count. It's in this spirit that I was searching for guidelines to determine how much clothing we really need, and how much we should spend.

I am going to break this up into two posts, this one about quantity, and the next about budget.

If you've been in the stores lately, you have probably seen that cropped, or ankle length pants are shown everywhere. And for good reason. I've been feeling like capri pants are, in the words of the great Tim Gunn, matronly. Ideally, pants should stop at the best part of your leg and generally mid-calf is not it. For most of us, a shapely ankle is a very flattering focus. So, of course, I need ankle length pants. Sadly, this can quickly turn in to an obsession. Left to my own devices, I would have 7 pairs, one for each day of the week. But do I need 7 pairs? No. 

To determine what you really need, start by taking a realistic view of your life. I work from home. If staying in, I will wear my workout clothes so I'm ready for the gym later. I go shopping about two times per week and will want to look a little better. On the weekends, we are pretty relaxed, perhaps going out one evening. I'll start with jeans, or pants. One nice pair for going out. One casual pair for shopping (cropped at the ankle?) Perhaps a work pair. That's three. The average woman has 8 pairs.

Maybe your lifestyle is different. Students may need more jeans. Someone with a casual job. But 7 pairs is one pair per weekday, and isn't that more than enough? Retailers would like you to think you need skinny, trouser, boyfriend, bootcut, flared, distressed, indigo, cropped--all styles in your collection. At at some point, all of those styles were in my closet. But I never wore them. I thought I needed them. Last year, I pulled out all of my jeans, tried them all on and asked myself honestly, will you go out in public in these? Answer no, in the donate pile. Do they fit? Answer no, in the donate pile. Then, over the next few months, pay attention to what you wear. The cream will float to the top and it becomes clear what you need. For me, three pairs of jeans.

Dresses. I LOVE dresses. When do I wear them? Realistically, two times per week. Even if I wear a dress twice a month, I still need 4. I have about 12. Same routine, which are the cutest, most versatile, most comfortable? Keep those and lose the rest. T-shirts--same deal. I need about 7 and I'll bet I have 20. If you don't edit your closet to what you NEED, you will end up with wasted closet space and items that could be worn by someone else. It's harder to keep a super-full closet organized. Give your clothes room to breathe!

During the Bye Buy year, I edited my closet down to 50%. There is still 50% of the remaining collection that I have not, and will not wear so another big cleanout is in order.Yet it's spring and the stores are bursting with fresh, bright colors and what's a girl to do? New rule.

Here's my new rule for restraint: Edit your closet down to what you really need. Fill in if you MUST. Then new purchases must replace something in your existing wardrobe. If I really, really want ankle jeans, a pair of my old jeans has to go. New dress in, old dress out. If you can't find something to get rid of, you probably don't need the new item, even if it is fabulous. I have found this spring that, like a craving for a cookie, my need for ankle pants will diminish if I just distract myself, as long as the distraction is not in the shoe department.

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