(More) Adventures in Decluttering

Helping other people declutter their wardrobes is the gift that keeps on giving. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know I’m not joking.

Every time I help someone, I learn something new. Sometimes it’s another insight into their personal style, their lifestyle (and how that informs the way they dress), or about style archetypes in general.

Earlier this month, a close friend contacted me to ask for help. She was avoiding putting the laundry away, she told me, because her clothes wouldn’t fit in her wardrobe anymore. Over several hours, with ruthless efficiency and the easy banter that comes from knowing someone for so long, we assessed every item of clothing she owned. I wrote down a list of her ‘gaps’ (things she needs to buy) and a list of her favourite brands.

Watching my friend try on mini skirts that used to be wardrobe staples, we both concluded that the skirts now simply looked too short. In the same way someone looks at odds when they aren’t dressing for their personal style, this realisation had nothing to do with age or size. The mini skirts were just… not quite right. I was fascinated by this, having seen her wear these items with aplomb for years. But, undoubtedly, something had changed. Afterwards, I sent her a list of items I thought would fill her gaps, taking into account the style discoveries we’d made during the decluttering process.

This friend’s decluttering inspired me to do some of my own. I’m someone who reviews their own clothes every 3-6 months, but after helping my friend I realised I’d been holding onto things that no longer served me, too.

“I realised, with a heavy heart, that somewhere along the line I’d stopped looking in the mirror.”

I got rid of an entire bin bag of clothes, unheard of for me. I realised I’d been hanging onto things, waiting to resume my old (pre-pandemic) life. But upon assessing each item of clothing, I realised I was holding onto things for the wrong reasons. Some items were simply past their best. Some I’d had for so long they now looked dated. And, without exception, all of these things no longer fit me.

I kept some items that are too small for me right now, and hopefully these will fit again when I start eating more mindfully and moving my body. Like many, I’ve gained weight during the pandemic. And, like many, my lifestyle has changed. I work from home primarily now, my dress and leggings ‘uniform’ replaced by comfortable jogging bottoms and t-shirts (I might push the boat out and wear a snood if I’m on a video call that day).

Whilst trying on outfits I realised, with a heavy heart, that somewhere along the line I’d stopped looking in the mirror. No longer wearing my minimal make-up each day, I’d not really had any need to. But this wasn’t the only reason. I knew, if I was being honest with myself, that it was also related to the weight gain.

“…in no small way, I’d been ignoring myself.”

You can glean so much by looking at a face. We can assess health, we can assess mood, we can tell whether we’re looking after ourselves (or not). With this in mind, imagine being friends with someone but never looking at their face. Wouldn’t that be bizarre? We wouldn’t expect to do this and for it to be okay. In fact, in doing so we’d be ignoring our friends. I realised that, in no small way, I’d been ignoring myself.

After nearly two years of pyjamas and jogging bottoms, I have every faith I can find my way back to myself. Perhaps this is hubris. I will be forty this year; I refuse to ‘dress my age’, to be ruled by a fear of appearing ‘mutton dressed as lamb’. But, as helping my friend so brilliantly illustrated, I also have to accept that personal style does evolve within our archetype. Some clothes do date, and some styles can look ‘off’ after years of looking right. And that’s okay. It’s more than okay, in fact; it’s an opportunity to try something new. So with that said, I’m off to order some velvet dungarees and a lace blouse to see if that’s a look I can pull off. We shall see… Wish me luck 😉

Clothing personalities and style archetypes

In recent weeks I’ve experienced the unadulterated joy of helping a friend declutter her wardrobe. This is not sarcasm; I’m one of those people who loves to declutter so much that I get pleasure-by-proxy in helping someone else. During the decluttering process we had several conversations about style as we narrowed down the things that were a solid 10/10 and really hit that style sweet spot.

My friend, let’s call her K, hasn’t been to House of Colour, isn’t familiar with Kibbe or David Zyla’s work. She doesn’t have the same shared references and terminology when it comes to clothing personalities, and this has made me see style archetypes in a different way. How useful are they when you’re talking to a new client who isn’t familiar with those systems? How accessible are they? And so, I found myself talking about style in a different way. Initially, I found myself trying to guess where my friend would sit (was she a Romantic? Ingenue? a Natural?) and in the end I gave up. I wasn’t defeated, but I realised trying to solve that puzzle just then wasn’t helping me, either. Instead, I found myself using words we both understood.

Feminine, but not overtly sexy. Pretty, but not prim. Comfortable, natural, but not preppy or bohemian. Cute, but not too kooky.

And suddenly things started to make sense. After our call ended, I found myself hopping onto Pinterest and creating a style board using the information I’d gleaned. K is someone who needs waist definition. An empire line isn’t flattering, nor is a high neckline. Comfort is essential. She’s Zooey Deschanel from New Girl, not Penelope Cruz in Casino Royale. Pointelle, broderie anglaise, vintage styles, these all work. Medium-to-large scale patterns, accessories etc, but not oversized or extra large. Soft lines and round shapes are better than sharp, angular lines because she herself is not sharp or angular. Probably, on reflection, a Romantic Ingenue after all.

I had a similar realisation when I was shopping for my wedding dress. The women in the bridal shops didn’t understand clothing archetypes, so instead I had to try and describe what I wanted in a different way. ‘Elegant bohemian’ was the best I could come up with, and it did help. I was steered towards the more understated, pretty dresses and away from the mermaid fishtails and plunging necklines. Phew.

When it comes to discussions around style, I always enjoy the fancy dress analogy. The question I love to ask clients is: who would you dress as if you were going to a fancy dress party and you knew your crush would be there? What instinctively do you think would look good? A fairy princess? Pirate? Sexy nurse? Some character from an 80s film? Arwen from Lord of the Rings? Snow White? I can see, looking back at old photos of myself, that I chose to dress as a fairy at one fancy dress party I attended (which, coincidentally, my crush was also attending…) I chose that outfit for a reason, and I didn’t feel self-conscious in it. It was my Facebook profile picture for a while, too. It’s telling, isn’t it, what one sets their social media profile picture to.

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At the end of our session together, sat beside a huge pile of clothes for the charity shop and satisfied by the new space in her wardrobe, K said to me:

“I am so relieved I don’t have to try to be someone else.”

And really, truly, that is the essence of it.

Want help with your wardrobe? Let me know: janine@inlovewithcolour.com. I would absolutely ~love~ to help 🙂