This Is Why You Need To Go Shopping

When I was three, I wore the same dress every day for a month. My mother, who was working from home at the time, figured it was easier to hand wash the dress each night than suffer through yet another tantrum from a tiny person who was constantly saying things like, “There’s a snake inside my brain!” (God, I was precious.)

Twenty-six years later, I found myself in a similar rut. As I’ve mentioned here, I’m currently working from home on a soul-crushing deadline. I’ve realized that actually getting dressed every day makes me happier and more productive, but even when I’m not a ball of stress, I’ve tended to revert to my toddler-age practice of wearing the same article of clothing frequently, for a short period of time after getting it, and then never wearing it again – because I feel like I just wore it, even if I haven’t actually put it on in months.

Under stress, this problem got even worse.  I was bored of my wardrobe, so I wouldn’t put much thought into what I wore, which would defeat the purpose of getting dressed – which, as far as I’m concerned, is to feel good about yourself.

I decided it was time to go shopping… in my own closet.

The first thing I did was make my closet an appealing-looking space. When a room is cluttered, I don’t want to spend time there, and the same thing was happening with my closet. I invested in matching hangers and hung my clothes in order of shade, from white to color to black, like a boutique (I know, but trust me, it looks terrific). I refolded my T-shirts and underwear neatly. I put off-season items out of the way.

As I rearranged my closet, I discovered clothes I’d forgotten about. I also found some clothes that didn’t fit well and that I didn’t like, which I bagged for Goodwill, or that were permanently stained, which I threw out.

Suddenly, my closet was a visually appealing space full of things I actually wanted to wear. When I look at it now, I feel both relaxed and excited.

Then I started taking pictures of my outfit every morning. Cher Horowitz was right about many things, but in particular, seeing how your clothes look on you is both useful and enjoyable. Sometimes, studying my picture, I realize that my blouse would look better with my black jeans, for instance, instead of the ones I currently have on. Or I see that the same blouse could look both radically different and equally good with these jeans or that skirt.  Violá: better outfits, and more of them. Taking pictures of my outfits also inspires me to spend another five or ten minutes on my hair and makeup – to try a different style, a new color of eye shadow, and so on.

It’s something I’m doing for myself. I don’t feel the need to share my fashion photo stream any more than I feel compelled to post pictures of every meal I cook (though I do send pictures of my home-prepared meals to my eternally patient mother). I don’t even look at my outfit pictures after checking them once – they’re all hanging out on my cloud, untouched. But that’s just me. I enjoy the exercise, not the product. And though I get a huge kick out of, say reading responses to my essays here, I don’t need to provide an official forum for others to critique what I’m wearing. My approval of myself is enough.

And by the way, I feel great. As I type this, I am out at my favorite local coffee café, having just had a lovely conversation with several new friends at adjoining tables. Feeling well put together, I think, makes me more outgoing, and more open to new people and experiences. Which is awesome.

That said, this could easily devolve into me wearing the same blouse with every single pair of jeans and shorts I own, day after day. So to ensure that I’m actually wearing all the clothes in my closet after I put on a top, I turn the hanger it was on backwards in my closet. Because my clothes are organized by color, it’s easy for me to put the top back where it belongs after I wash it.

The moral of the story? I have way more clothes than I thought I did, and I’m willing to bet the same is true with you. After a month, I still haven’t made it through my whole closet – even as I’ve gotten rid of additional items along the way.

Also, being creative with my outfits doesn’t require nearly as much effort as I thought – I just needed to make it easy for myself to have fun getting dressed.

Give my little system a whirl and see what you think. Or else, if you happen to stumble upon a real-life clothes matching software program, a lá Clueless, send it my way.

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