Yesterday I was commiserating with my friend and colleague, the Practical Cranberry Nut Roll. We felt betrayed because some of our clothing and shoes were wearing out. There's no reason this common occurrence should necessarily be a cause for alarm, especially when the items in question are things we've worn frequently, perhaps near-daily, for nearly two years! But these were among the first things we purchased "intentionally" after our Color Revolution and other wardrobe-related revelations. We were careful with these purchases: they met new, exacting standards. They were, perhaps, the culmination of lengthy searches. When we found them, we thought, "Ahhhh. Here is it is." Done, we thought. Don't have to think about that wardrobe need anymore. And now, here it is: proof that nothing lasts forever!
Now and Then
I definitely have a "before" and "after" feeling about my wardrobe. There's the Bad Old Days, when I bought things at random because I liked them on the rack and they were inexpensive. Then came The Great Reboot, where I donated almost everything and practically started fresh. While there has been some significant churn since then, especially with thrift store items, there have also been great successes. I have found the perfect of several things. This has spurred my belief that The Ideal Wardrobe is an achievable goal!
The Ideal Wardrobe
The Ideal Wardrobe has many exciting properties:
I love everything in it.
Items are specialized and absolutely perfect for their intended purpose: work clothes look crisp and professional; casual clothes look cute and fun; lounge clothes are deliciously comfortable; performance gear is rugged and, well, high performing.
Items are versatile, comfortably crossing capsule boundaries (e.g. the Little Black Dress that can be worn to work or dressed up for a night out).
There is enough of everything. I never ask, "WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR?" I never moan, "EVERYTHING IS IN THE WASH." There is enough variety that I am not bored.
There are no extraneous items. Everything that can be decluttered, has been decluttered.
I no longer feel the need to make substandard purchases or really any purchases at all, because I have everything I need and no more. Nothing needs to be added because everything is there. Nothing needs to be upgraded because everything is ideal.
There is just one problem with The Ideal Wardrobe. It is a myth.
Clothing Doesn't Last Forever
As Nut and I are beginning to discover, even high-quality items wear out over time. We actually have not had that much opportunity to notice this in our wardrobes in the last few years, because we've had so much new and new-to-us stuff, and we've grown dissatisfied with things and decluttered them before they had a chance to wear out. It's only now that we're accumulating wardrobe workhorses that we're actually pushing them to the breaking point.
The more you wear things, the faster they wear out. But the more perfect your item is for you - the less you want to wear anything else in its place - the more you wear it! True, high-quality items will not wear out as fast as cheap "fast fashion" items, even if you wear them a lot. But they do wear out eventually. And most likely, that will be before you have achieved The Ideal Wardrobe. This can lead to the feeling we're having now: "I thought I was done thinking about that type of item forever! Now I have to think about it again!"
The other downside of the minimalist approach is that you have no backup if your Perfect Item wears out suddenly (say, an elastic snaps in your Perfect Pumps and they begin to fall off your feet in the middle of the street NOT THAT THAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME). And you don't want to rush to the nearest store and grab anything-that-works. You want to take your time with each addition to the Curated Museum of Your Closet. So, you have to be okay being without things for awhile… or you have to be okay with owning a backup!
Some of the "churn" in my post-revolution wardrobe has been expected and built in: I donate things I hung onto from The Before Times, even if they are not ideal, because I have yet to find suitable replacements. Or I buy things cheaply from Goodwill to fill a need quickly, intending to try it out and see if I like it, then replace it with the Ideal Version some other time.
But some of the churn has been unexpected: things I thought were perfect, perhaps spent some real money on, but that didn't turn out to match my Ideal Wardrobe as much as I expected them to. Or things that seemed perfect, but then I found an even perfecter thing and jumped up to a whole new perfection bracket!
The goals of the Ideal Wardrobe are clear, but the specific methods to try to achieve them can change. I thought A-line skirts were perfect for me, then it was pencil skirts only. I thought aqua was one of my best colors, now I think it's too "Light Summer" and I should stick to darker teals.
The refinements come from Time and Mistakes. There's no shortcut.
No sooner had I found perfect size-6 jeans when they began to feel tight on me and I thought, "Why did I think I was a 6? I'm clearly an 8." A few months later, my size 8 jeans were baggy on me, and I thought, "Why did I think I was an 8? I'm clearly as 6." If your weight fluctuates a lot, you might need to have more clothes than you use at any given time, because you have a couple of different sizes in reserve. Or maybe your weight or body shape has changed permanently; that may mean bidding a painful goodbye to what may have been near-Nirvana in your previous-size wardrobe.
Suppose you achieved The Ideal Wardrobe and in 1987, and magically you got all perfectly infinite-lasting clothes so that they still looked as new today as they did then. You'd still probably be gagging for an update, if only to get rid of some of the linebacker shoulderpads that looked so hot and professional when you first got them!
Some Perfect Items Are In The Future
Sometimes you're looking and looking for a particular type of thing, ready to spend big cash if you find it, and you end up settling for something that's, maybe, 7.5 out of 10… and then you find the perfect thing. Maybe it's something you couldn't possibly have found earlier; it's a brand-new design or it came across your path serendipitously.
I want to be ready for these things, and the only way to be ready is not to "settle" in the meantime. Which means being okay with "not quite there yet." Maybe indefinitely.
The fact is that The Ideal Wardrobe is a moving goalpost. This means that even if you achieve The Ideal Wardrobe for now, it won't be ideal forever.
So I need to let go of it as a goal or an expectation. I need to be okay with the fact that my wardrobe isn't, and cannot be, perfect, even for one moment in time. I need to love those items that are perfect for me right now, and wear them fearlessly, without worrying that they'll wear out or stop fitting or not look good in 5 years. Of course they won't last forever, they're not meant to. And I need to love with them without thinking about all the other things that aren't perfect.
Oddly, I think this acceptance might take some of the pressure off to get Everything Perfect Now! And Finish With Clothes Shopping Forever! There's no urgency because I'll never be finished no matter what I do. So I might as well just be content with what I have now, which is honestly pretty darn good.