April 23rd, 2012


Closet Archeology

I had the kind of weekend that I'd like to extend for a day, but I have business-type stuff to do. Maybe if I'm really efficient, I can take care of it all this morning and then enjoy the afternoon. There were two kinds of weather that used to make me want to call in well when I had a regular job. Of course, rainy days made me want to stay home with a book, but then there are those rare perfect days when it's sunny and warm but not too warm. Saturday was like that, and so is today. On Saturday, I ran some errands and then spent much of the afternoon sitting on my patio. That evening, I went with my friends to the lake. We found this kind of dive cafe at the marina -- the kind of place where you eat fried fish out of paper baskets while sitting at a picnic table on the pier and listening to someone sing Jimmy Buffett-style music. Though I don't know that this guy did any actual Buffett songs. He just sang everything in that laid-back, island style, including a very interesting cover of "Tainted Love" that turned it into a sort of reggae style. We also discovered that there's a nice city park on the lake shore near the marina, so now I know a place to go when I need to be near water and the canals, small lake and river in my neighborhood aren't enough.

I ended up taking about four bags of clothes and shoes to the donation drop-off at our community recycling day. Going through my closet was like an archaeological expedition. I could track what was going on in my life based on the clothing I was wearing at that time. In the first five years out of college, there were a lot of suits, since that job had a more formal dress code. I still can't quite bring myself to get rid of those suits, even though they're totally out of style (huge shoulder pads, and inside the lining so I'd have to take the jacket apart to get to them). I remember buying each of those suits, and it was a real investment at the time. I think on my next round of closet purging I'll make myself put them on and then convince myself that I have no reason to wear them now and they're out of style. I'm not even sure any of those "dress for success" charities would take them, since they're so out of style and since they generally don't have much use for sizes that small. But around that time, my non-work style seems to have started shifting. Most of my "church" type dresses from that era are of the floaty, quasi-Victorian variety. I remember gazing longingly at the Laura Ashley shop around that time (but couldn't afford it, and their clothes never fit me). I'd always thought of myself as a very tailored person, but around that time I was growing my hair out, and I suppose I found my inner romantic. I'd had the very streamlined, modern look in my home, too, but when I moved past my post-college hand-me-downs and bought real furniture, I ended up with that romantic Victorian look (that I still have). I guess I was proto-steampunk even back then. With the shoulder pads removed, those dresses still work (I wore one to church Sunday and even got compliments on it).

The next five years are a little less defined. I was working at PR agencies, where the dress code was looser. That was where all those pleated slacks I got rid of came in. I still use a lot of the basic skirts I got then, as well. I seem to have gone through an early mid-life crisis in my early 30s because around that time I suddenly had a lot of slightly sluttier (for me, which is a sliding scale, meaning "not suitable for a convent") tank tops and strappy high-heeled sandals. That was around the time I was telecommuting, so I didn't have to buy "work" clothes and could focus on "fun" clothes. Then there was my "author" era, with a lot of Ann Taylor Loft stuff.

In addition to getting rid of the old suits, I think my next purge will focus on t-shirts. I think I could easily wear a different t-shirt a day for a month. Some of them have some sentimental value, but I'm not sure why I'm hanging onto shirts from 5K races, from old clients or old employers or from organizations I no longer care about. I may have to lay them all out on my bed and force myself to choose about 14 -- enough to wear one a day without doing laundry without doing laundry for a couple of weeks, plus maybe a couple of really ratty ones that are essentially disposable to use for things like painting.

I did not get rid of the holographic sandals. I just can't.