Monday, December 9, 2013

Wardrobe Update, Part 1: Where do I start?

I've posted a few times about my weight loss and subsequent wardrobe loss.  That process has now gone on for more than a year, as I slowly ceased to fit into most of my old clothes.  Or, more accurately, I slowly stopped being able to convince myself that each piece was fitting anymore.  I've now taken at least 3 international suitcase loads of clothes to the thrift store.  There's another grocery tote full in my room right now waiting to be donated.  (I still don't know I managed to own that many clothes to begin with.)  The process has been cathartic, but also terrifying.  I've had many pieces for a long time, because my height and weight haven't changed much in ~10 years.  I had a set of conference clothes I was confident wearing.  A set of sweaters I could stand by in winter.  I don't like change.  And I don't like shopping.

Clothing and fashion frustrate me, and always have, because I don't understand the rules (and I have some, um, choice opinions about the attractiveness of many 'fashionable' styles).  I explain my lack of a fashion sense by the fact that I wore a uniform to school for 13 years of my life.  I didn't have a big social life, so after school I'd either wear my uniform to things like piano lessons or choir rehearsal, or I'd throw on a baggy t-shirt and jeans.  That slowly changed in high school, but not by much.  The t-shirts just got less baggy.  In high school, we used to joke about wearing our uniforms in college because then we wouldn't need to think about clothes in the morning.  I ended up wearing a "uniform" anyway - most days I wore sneakers, jeans, a t-shirt, and a hoodie.  On a SLAC campus, that worked fine for me.  It doesn't work so well for grad school in New York City, so I've worked on adapting, but I'm still mostly mystified.

The one thing I've learned in the last 5-6 years is that most current fashions do not suit a petite, pear-shaped woman whose BMI sits around the border between 'normal' and 'overweight'. Skinny jeans? Not my friend. Cropped pants? I look like a hobbit.  Loose, slouchy tops? I lose all definition on my upper half, and look bigger than I am.

So I tried to do research.  I had in my head that I wanted a capsule wardrobe.  Simple and small, right?  I spent time compiling wardrobe tips for capsule wardrobes in my size and shape.  I learned a lot about what I should and should not wear (boot cut/flared jeans! empire waist dresses! focus attention at the waist and above!), but most of those capsule wardrobes were geared towards women in business and women who already had an eye for fashion.  Plus, it involved finding 20+ pieces that were all different (2 pairs of pants, 1 skirt, 1 dress, etc) but that all magically go with everything else.  Great for those with a closet base for that wardrobe, and the eye to make the combinations work.  But the shopping and the combining were too daunting for me.

Then, I found Into Mind.  She blogs about taking "a minimalist approach to personal style", and creates a capsule wardrobe via a different method.  She mentions the "Modular Approach" described above, but she focuses her capsule wardrobe around the "Uniform Approach".   Basically, about 2/3 of the clothes in her primary wardrobe are dedicated to her 'uniform' for the season - a particular outfit outline where she owns 3-4 versions of each part of the outfit (4 pairs of shoes, 4 tops, 4 bottoms, etc, where each category contains similar items of different color and/or different style).  Most days, she mixes and matches the 'uniform' items to create her outfit for the day.  The other 1/3 of her capsule wardrobe provides variety, either through mixing with 'uniform' pieces or through a completely different look.

Hey! Sounds like the way I work! I (sort of) know what I like, I don't want to think too hard in the morning.  I like the idea of having fewer things in my closet, but knowing that what I have suits my lifestyle and my body.  I just need to update my 'uniform' to grad school life in NYC, and then maybe I can stop thinking about this quite so much.

What did I decide on for my uniform? Did I survive my shopping trip? Did I break the bank? All this and more to come...