I’ve been feeling somewhat dissatisfied with my wardrobe recently, and I’ve been wondering – what am I doing wrong? I’ve been tracking, documenting, and analyzing for a year and half now; you would think I would be happier than I am. I have changed sizes and consequently lost part of my wardrobe, but many items still fit and I shouldn’t be this bored.
I then got to thinking about why I started this process. The guiding question that initiated my data collection was
How do I make ethical shopping choices that accommodate my budget and allow me to feel good in my clothing at work?
Looking at that question now, I realize why I’m not happy with what’s in my closet: my goals have changed. A year and a half ago, I was looking for a simple formula. I wanted to feel good in my clothing with minimal effort. In the process of curating my wardrobe, I’ve discovered that I actually enjoy putting effort into my outfits. I enjoy the process of combining colors, textures, and silhouettes.
This realization surprised me. I’ve never been interested in fashion. I have always viewed style as fulfilling a function for me as a member of society. Iris van Herpen has never moved me, and I highly doubt I’ll ever hop on the e-girl trend.
In the past six months, I have finally seen improvement in chronic health issues that I’ve dealt with for close to fifteen years. This spring has been the best that I have felt in over five years. This has come at a time when there is little else going on in my life and has come at the cost of almost completely eliminating physical activity from my daily routine. With little else to do outside of work, creating outfits has allowed me to have fun with minimal physical effort.
I’ve also noticed a pattern. When I am feeling well, I am creating outfits and photographing them. When I am not feeling well, my only goal is survival. I want to put on clothing that feels appropriate for work, but I don’t want to have to think about it. And so, I feel bored with my closet when I am not feeling sick. My closet is very formulaic: it coordinates to create one cohesive, functional look that works well for my context. It lacks variety because variety creates complexity which requires choice (and effort).
For example, this is an easy outfit for me to put together. It follows a silhouette formula: lightweight cardigan/jacket/blazer + slim fitting shirt + skinny pants + boots. It is monochrome (most of my closet is black/grey/cream) which minimizes the need for matching. I gravitate towards these types of outfits when I’m not feeling well because they require minimal effort.
In contrast, this outfit is a lot more difficult for me to put together. The silhouette doesn’t follow my formula, I had to think about balancing color and pattern throughout, and I had to make choices about the shoe/socks/pants.
I actually like both outfits, but the first is boring to put together when I’m well while the second would feel like too much effort when I’m sick. It’s an interesting conundrum. I am happy with my wardrobe when I feel terrible, and I am unhappy with it when I feel better.
I would like to think I will continue to feel well, but I obviously cannot guarantee that. I need to make sure that I keep this in mind as I continue to acquire pieces. I need a base wardrobe that is simple and effortless for the days I struggle to complete basic functions. From there, I can add in pieces that create interest and fun for the times when I’m feeling better.