the golden mean

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These shoes from Clarks, purchased in 2009, got a lot of wear in 2009 and 2010, before I unconsciously put them in 'cold storage' - I just stopped.

I think I wore them maybe twice last year, but this year, I've been wearing them a good 2-3 times a week, sometimes more. I revel in how comfortable, and solidly made they are. The creamy, pearl-y hue of the leather, soft as butter. An old friend.

It used to bother me to own stuff in perfectly good condition I didn't wear any more. It felt wasteful and made me feel bad buying new things.

But this is different. It's things that I don't wear or even look at for nearly six months, and then without thought, they effortlessly come into regular rotation again. They're good investments that just needed a little "fallow" period.

If you live in a country with essentially one season (as I do), you wear the same things all year round - there are no seasonal changes to force you to switch to a different set of clothes. As a result maybe we lack that feeling of giddy anticipation at seeing a beloved coat or sweater again when the temperatures change. The joy of the new only comes from buying something new. Which is not how I want things.

Perhaps acquiring a number of things, reaching your perfect golden mean, is one way of scratching this itch. Have five pairs of shoes instead of three, and wear three of the pairs regularly while the other two take a break. Then switch over to give two of the regularly-worn pairs a rest and bring out the ones on the shelf. Bonus: your favourite shoes last longer, because they get to rest.

(This probably only works if you pretty much wear a "uniform" every day. Also, take time to check on your shoes and pamper them so that they last - see here for tips.)

So now I don't feel uncomfortable when I "neglect" a pair of well-loved loafers. I know it's not because I've permanently tired of them. They're just lying fallow, waiting for the right moment for their place in the sun again.

What do you think of this theory? What are your "fallow" items?

P.S: Thanks for the warm reception towards the Question Time series, and thanks of course to my wonderful interviewees who made the Q&As come alive with their thoughtful answers. Look out for the next one this Friday.


drifterqueen said…
Long time lurker...hope you don't mind my popping out <3 I always enjoy reading your thoughts on style but was a little too shy to comment till now...

Love how you addressed the problem related to living in a single season country! (Living in Malaysia, I could completely identify.) Your theory has me sold: I tend to leave certain tops and cardigans untouched for months and then suddenly make them solid favorites for weeks on end. Jewelry goes through very much the same treatment. Thanks for putting this into words! I used to feel that every single item in my wardrobe needed to be worn in fair rotation, and, if I didn't do so, I'd be "under-utilizing" my wardrobe. Now that I know how to properly remedy my need for novelty, I'll be able to better refrain from any unnecessary shopping....(I hope.)

Looking forward to your next Question Time!
Interesting concept. Can't say I do this intentional, but I go through my phases too.
Quinn said…
For this reason I don't follow the closet culling rule that says to get rid of things you haven't worn in a year. My exception is if there was ever a time that I wore something all the time, then I keep it because I know I'll want to wear it again at some point.
editor said…
You just made me very grateful for my seasons. They absolutely effect not only the wardrobe but my attitude toward that wardrobe. I get to love and wear my coat until I am so ready to just wear a blazer, and then, conveniently, it is blazer weather.

I love to have less, and use more, but definitely it is a state of mind. I could see why imagining you have even less, by resting a few pieces temporarily, would make it easier to use the other items more.

Speaking of numbers, I recently counted the labels that I have in my closet. Excluding all outerwear, I have 12 brands. I wonder if other people are more loyal/consistent, with possibly/probably more clothes, but fewer brands, or if people tend to be more diverse, with loads of clothes from loads of different designers.
Maja H said…
Living in a country with all four seasons intact I don´t really have this problem - I absolutely loathe my winter parka by March, and when October comes I take it out from storage again even though it is still bit too warm to wear it just because I have missed it so much. I can definitely see how it would make sense to "fake" the same effect :)
Amanda said…
I have the unfortunate habit of never falling back in love with something once I fall out of love with it. That's why I make sure that I keep things in rotation all the time. I have a set amount of clothing that I wear each season (cold vs. hot) and I make sure that I DO wear them when the time comes or else I'll probably never want them again and they'll just be clutter. Does that make sense? Probably not to anyone but me. Oh well.
Sonia said…
I agree with your theory of giving our items some period of "fallow". I always make sure I give my shoes, in particular, some period of rest and therefore I tend to alternate between 3 or 4 pairs per season.
Actually, now that I think about it I tend to do the same with winter coats. That way I can keep my favourite coats in good state for a few years.

My main concern, however, has to do with my Summer clothes. I moved from Portugal to London a few years ago and since them most of my Summer clothes have been in a forced fallow... because it's never warm enough here in London to wear them. It really breaks my heart :( But I keep them with the hope that one day I'll move back to a warmer climate and I'll start having proper summers again.
materfamilias said…
I really like this concept as it does away with the shame of rediscovering a garment and wondering why one is so poorly organized not to be wearing something one likes. I definitely find that I give different items some fallow time, albeit often accidentally. Truly, it pleases me to know that my aesthetic sensors are solid enough that something that pleased me two years ago still does, despite fashion passing . .
lin said…
drifterqueen: Of course not! I'm a major lurker myself.

I hope I can better control my impulse to buy new things too... I really love the moments when I'm temptation-free and simply inspired by what I already have. This is not say I don't enjoy checking out new things but I prefer contentment.

Pret a Porter P: I didn't do it intentionally as well, but I'm starting to see the benefit of phases!

Quinn: You're right. I haven't felt the need to cull things in a while, and I realise that I really like the things I have, and I'd prefer to enjoy them more, than buy new things.

editor: I've always been envious of seasons! Beyond clothing, I always feel like seasons help you "pace" your life and make time for different things as the temperatures change - slowing down, and picking up the pace again, eating different foods, and doing different activities.

Hmm I've never thought to count. I tend to stick to certain brands even though I wouldn't say I'm loyal. I think I'm particular about the vibe a brand/store gives me and I need to feel comfortable and "into it"before I;m willing to buy something.

Maja H: Yep in my case it would be one blue shirt vs another blue shirt, haha.

Amanda: Hahaha don't worry it makes sense. How are the things you fall out of love different from the things you're still in love with?

Sonia: Shoes are a sensible place to start...and also with my jeans because I have similar cuts in different washes so I don't keep all of them in rotation at the same time.

materfamilias: I agree..I feel like I made a wise investment it's always nice to have a bit affirmation!
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