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March 14, 2011 / Danielle

Weeks 7 And 8: A Summary

Today officially marks two full calendar months since I’ve quit clothes-shopping.

I’m through 1/6th of the project, with ten months, a big move, and three changes of season to go, and honestly? I feel fine.

I mentioned before that a lot has changed for me in the past few weeks, primarily because the fantastic and exciting news that I’ll be moving to California for graduate school in five months.  This was relatively unexpected, though certainly hoped for; the program I got into is wildly competitive, and while I had a great audition, so many factors go into casting and building a class that I figured it was for the best to throw my energy out there, do the best work I could do, and then let it go and focus on the rest of my life.

This is going to be a huge change; I’ve lived in Chicago my entire adult life. (My tentative moving date is the day after my 9-year Chicago anniversary.) I moved here for my theatre undergraduate degree, and I’ve been a member of the theatre community here since I was twenty years old. I’m beyond thrilled for the new experiences to come, and especially to see how much I’ll be challenged and stretched and forced to grow (and grow up) – but leaving Chicago? Is going to be a real wrench on the system.

(Don’t worry, Chitown. I’m pretty sure I’ll eventually be back.)

And don’t worry you, either, blog-friends; I’m not going to quit this project just because of my big ole life change. I’ve got a ton of clothes, the San Diego weather looks a hell of a lot milder than Chi but apparently still suffers some ups and down (so these tights and sweaters ain’t goin’ nowhere just yet), and aside from potentially being out of movement clothes for yoga class, I’m still, I think, relatively well-set for the upcoming fall. (Ooh, do you think laundry in-unit would be a regular feature of Southern Californian apartments?)

So all of that said, here’s where I am about my closet these days.

Part of what boggles my mind is still how little of my clothing has been worn, almost 60 days in. I have a full roster of dresses that has yet to escape, along with a million and one tops and a bunch of shoes/skirts that just haven’t gotten outside of their drawers/cubbies yet.  I’m going to partly chalk this up to my winter pudge, which was certainly not aided by my all-you-can-eat vacation; I’m definitely still trying to slim down so I can breathe more easily in my dresses (and start zipping those skirts all the way up), and that’ll probably take a little time, since this has been such a busy and exciting few weeks that eating healthy has been the last item on my agenda. I’m sure it’ll happen, though, and then I’ll be able to get a little more versatility in my clothing rotation.

I’ve been noticing, in my working closet, how often the regular pieces pop up; my gold skirt, my gray/khaki flats, my navy tights. All of them were relatively new pieces as of pre this project (all three bought within the month before I quit shopping), and yet all of them have become vital. I’m wondering if this isn’t the best way to seasonally update your wardrobe; to expect that I’ll buy three-to-five pieces that I”ll wear a ton for three or four months, and then (probably?) tire of, and regulate back to being mix-and-match options rather than necessary staples. In some ways, this is what I was already doing, only on a much grander scale (buying every week rather than every three months, and wearing to death immediately and then cutting back to wearing infrequently.) (Grander means death to the pocketbook, of course.)

It’s not that I think I’ll tire of the tights or the skirt or the flats, exactly. It’s that our clothes, when they’re important to us, seem to become central to expressing who we are at the time. When I first moved to Chicago, I spent an October day in Chinatown on a class fieldtrip; rather than following my class on the train back to the Loop, I hung out in the neighborhood a while, and did some shopping, eventually picking up a pair of the Chinese slippers that were so popular in 2002 (Thanks, Carrie Bradshaw.) I found my own way back to campus, stopped at Starbucks and sipped a caramel macchiato, and felt, for the very first time, like I was at home in this city.

I wore those shoes into the ground all through that fall, more infrequently over the next summer, and then they’d been destroyed by the next. I still have them, though, on my shelf (as an objet d’art); they were a visible sign, to me, of how I’d changed and grown since arriving in my new home.

(I took a trip back home that fall wearing those flats, with my jeans rolled up  and a big-ass felt hat – and I felt mysterious and cool and city-chic.) (Though the hat proved a giant pain on the plane. Kind of killing the cool aspect).

So while this skirt may become completely timeless, or the tights a shade I’ll wear all my life (I’ve never, never, been obsessed with navy before) – if they don’t, if they become things I love for a season that define who I am at that moment? That’s okay. I’ll be redefined the next year.

So the idea, I think, is to build a closet of versatile staples (with perhaps still a tinge of personality – the striped tights, the polka-dot-and-bow’d cardigan, the colorful headband) that can support the introduction of this season’s key pieces – as well as a few items with a ton of personality I’ll always love. (I think back to Day 3 – I have yet to wear that dress again (primarily cause of pudge), but I still love it and I absolutely will wear it again – but where would that dress be without that three-year-old Old Navy sweater to make it seasonally-workable?)

I’m also noticing that it would be pretty easy, at this point, to say exactly what my style is – a fitted waist, a three-quarter sleeve, tights, a full/a-line/pleated skirt,  and either a slim boot or a patent flat – and there’s a part of me that wants to throw out everything but those options in my closet and become The Girl Who Dresses Like She’s In A 1950s Audrey Hepburn Movie, Probably One That’s Set In France. (But you guys can just call me Sabrina Fair.) 

And yet?

I get bored easily. I like expressive change. I’m going to need those options handy (the pencil skirts and minis, the subdued colors, the sequinned shifts and the skinny jeans and pants) when I lose my patience with the way I”m defined now and want to show I’m changing again*.

I also think that I need to give myself permission to get rid of and replace pieces that may still be technically wearable, but are no longer flattering and therefore, nothing I will actually wear (this sweater pops to mind). If I’m no longer shopping without purpose, dropping money every week on things I clearly do not need, it’s easier to justify dropping the cash on a nice (cashmere? cashmere!)(Hush, big spender), basic sweater in a current neutral tone – again, if it’ll make it possible to update and enjoy everything I have? It’s worth it.

In any case – there’s a part of me that wants to do a giant closet sweep before I move to San Diego, and take with me only the essentials of my totally-functioning closet. (To be honest, this attitude has swept through my entire life – I just cleaned out the box of ex-boyfriend memorabilia this weekend too.) (And let me tell you, there was some stellar twelve-year-old poetry in there.)  My more practical side tells me this isn’t really going to be doable; I’ll be barely halfway through the challenge, and I’m going to want as many option as possible to make sure I can dress comfortably for my new environment. But I’m think it may still be possible to shed a few odds and ends on the way.

Finally – I alluded to this earlier, but – I do, and always have, firmly believed that the commitment to changing and bettering your life (and yourself) is one of the most powerful forces I know. For me, it always seems to spread through your whole life in a ripple effect, opening doors and shaking loose parts of yourself you never imagined possible. I knew this project was going to be challenging, and difficult, and exciting; and I think the bravery I gained from learning I could do this only fed my sense of adventure and risk, and my willingness to take bigger chances. Life can be, and has been for me (and everyone too of course) very hard on us sometimes; I’ve spent many a month in recovery and mourning. Now I’m trying to ride this wave of chances, and see where I get, and battle to keep growing and learning while I feed my best self and keep my head and heart about me.

All of that pretentious nonsense is just to say – if you’re looking at renovating your life too, if you feel at the mercy of some compulsions you can’t totally control – you can do this. You’re strong enough to do this. You can find a way.

And – just to highlight my high-falutin-hippie-talk – I’m gonna leave you with one of my favorite-ever quotes (by Goethe – and given to me by my senior-year-casting director teacher in undergrad.)

 Let’s begin it now, y’all.

*Expect some peasant blouses and some hardcore beading this fall. Oh yeah.



Leave a Comment
  1. erica / Mar 14 2011 5:51 pm

    I have a ton to say, but here’s the most important: an in-unit washer/dryer you will not find cheaply in San Diego. I foresee many visits to the lavanderia in your future! 🙂

    • Danielle / Mar 14 2011 6:43 pm

      Sigh. A girl could dream . . . . but I’m game for lavandering 🙂

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