the numbers game

Photographer: Jake Rosenberg for The Coveteur

My friend recently moved back to Singapore after an extended stay overseas. In the process of moving back, she threw away a good number of things, only to find herself wishing she hadn't sold/given away as much clothing as she did.

Her mistake, she said, was that she mistook "purging" for "getting organised". I thoroughly agree; I recently found myself missing a black skirt from my university days, which I threw about about two years ago, thinking that I was "over" skirts and no longer needed so many. I was also driven by the allure of owning as little as possible - it seemed to clean, simple, serene.

I now know better and understand why I have almost 20 pairs of shoes for some who claims not to be a "shoe girl". The definition of a well-planned wardrobe is someone who never says "I have nothing to wear". It isn't about having the least amount of clothing possible. Kali of The Nife en L'air says it much better than I do here and I encourage everyone to have a look at her well thought-out, very sensible check-list.

Basically, you make room for those odd occasions where you need to wear something you don't normally wear so that you don't need to shop at the last minute and settle for something less than perfect. You rotate between 3 pairs of ballerinas instead of just wearing one so that you don't wear out the perfect pair so quickly, and so that you don't get bored and run out to buy something regrettable just for fun. You make room to "collect" the things you are passionate about and consider your "signatures", like scarves, a certain print, a certain style of clothing. That to me, is a well-planned, well-stocked wardrobe.

 That said, I'd say this guy on the Coveteur may have a blue/denim shirt problem...


Pictures from the coveteur


Eileen said…
Hello Lin! This sounds like what I am going through right now. I too am missing a black skirt which I thought I have overgrown and hence, culled. Now I am in desperate need to find one for my sister's wedding and the current shapes are not working for me.

Regarding the certain "signatures", I totally agree! I like to call them personal elements. Besides relying on my staples (plain cotton and linen tees) I do love collecting items that bear my fav favourite elements (fleur laces, broderie anglaise, cuffed sleeves, certain ornate prints).

Thanks for the link! Will check out Kali's blog.
Petya K. Grady said…
This is also on my mind recently. I used to pile on prints and knits and that was my signature. Recently, I find myself reaching for simpler, more classic pieces: oxford shirts, slim pants, high-heeled pumps. As I keep purging unworn items, I keep wondering if I am making a mistake. Is this just a phase I am going through or is my taste truly changing?!
Ammu said…
Words to live by. I was joking with a friend the other day that she and I could run a scarf shop out of our homes, given how many we own. Then again, when I consider the fact that I wear a scarf every single day and that it's the easiest way for me to add a jolt of surprise to a usually predictable outfit, the collection doesn't seem so excessive. It reminds me of your post on the golden mean - everyone has to figure that out themselves. I manage with two pairs of jeans, but others need many more pairs, since they wear them much more often.
jamie-lee said…
I have to say that this happened to me a little after reading a number of posts on Dead Fleurette. I felt inclined and inspired to purge my closet of all the excess, and in the process got rid of a number of things which I regret, and have since been trying to find again on eBay. As you rightly say, you never know what occasion will come up, so it's safe to just have all bases covered. You never know when something will come in handy - although there's a difference between that mindset, and hoarding for the sake of not getting rid of anything.
Fleurette said…
I completely agree with you! Haha, I just hope I won't regret that I once got rid of an item that could work today - but I doubt so. I guess that the reason why my shirt and crew neck sweater collection is ever-expanding is because I don't want to wear out my favorites so quickly, hence I need a bunch in rotation.
Nomadic D. said…
Very interesting. I am constantly trying to pare down my closet but I have a hard time because of the paralyzing fear that exactly what you describe here will happen to me. I own many pieces that, while I don't even like them now, I recognize as totally valuable and good garments, and I think I may come around in the future. But as someone who's moving around quite a bit, I also realize that keeping things "just in case" is not necessarily a realistic or smart strategy. It's all about balance in the end. In our lives, in our minds, and in our closets...

I saw this quote just yesterday and loved it, seems kind of relevant to this discussion:
lin said…
Eileen: I know what you mean about the current shapes - why is everything peplum, maxi, or clingy???

I love your personal elements, they really bring a look to life.

Petya K Grady: Such a tricky spot to be in. I truly believe that only time will tell - some things look unexpectedly wonderful 2, 3 years from now. My theory is that if I am still in love with that version of myself now even though I no longer dress that way, I keep one or two pieces from that "phase" in case of a comeback.

Ammu: Exactly, we should allow a little more leeway for the things that make our looks more "me".

jamie-lee: Agreed, and I think we all come to acquire enough experience to know when we're just hoarding versus saving wisely.

Fleurette: For the most part I'm not missing much either, except that damned black skirt! I forgot how difficult it is to find bottoms that fit...

lin said…
Nomadic D: I cheat a bit and give/loan things to my sisters for months, even years, so i have a few things I can reclaim if I turn out to miss them, haha. So far it hasn't been the case though - except for that damned black skirt I'm at peace with the things I've parted with.
Kali said…
Thank you very much for mentioning my blog Lin, it's always nice to see people finding value in whatever I write about.

I agree with you on the signature part, I guess that only works once you've found a style you're comfortable with. The "just in case" is tricky, I tend to cull things that I feel I "might need one day" because my closet is too small for this.

One technique I have used to avoid regreting to have purged something is to pack it away for a year (so all seasons). If you don't miss it after that time, chances are you can now donate/sell it.
I’m minimalist in other areas of my life, and my wardrobe is not one of them. As long as I buy things that are practical or soul-stirring, I don’t mind how much I have. Also I need duality, I wear my work clothes enough at work, that I want to wear something different in my downtime.

And I have no problem with clearing out things that I don’t want anymore. I have less clothes than my mother, who doesn’t care about these sorts of things, because she doesn’t get rid of anything. She has clothing that has never been worn for over 20 years, because she thinks she’ll use it one day. (She won’t—she’s retired and does yard work, what she needs a trench coat with gigantic 80s shoulder pads for I don’t know).
miss sophie said…
hear hear! i don't think i could ever truly count as a minimalist just because i like options too much. a well planned closet should definitely allow space for you to indulge a bit and collect! :)
Anonymous said…
Iif this is his whole wardrobe, I think he probably has a brilliant and very simple uniform. He has choices, a wide selection, within a narrow paradigm. It is how I operate too, to a smaller degree, but only because I fear committing to that extent, to a uniform. Some day.
Maja H said…
Awesome post Lin! I usually do the one year quarantine before I get rid of something, and 95% of the time I have forgotten that I even owned the garment by the time I take it out of storage. Off to the salvation army it goes.

I love the fact that you acknowledge the fact that we sometimes need items that we don't often wear. I own a floor-sweeping green goddess-style maxi dress, not because I needed one but because it made my heart skip, it fit me perfectly, and because I know that when my friends start getting summer weddings I won't have to go dress shopping. Same with the flowery 50s style dress with the big skirt - I've worn it maybe twice, but it is perfect for those occasions when I need to look grandma/toddler-friendly in churches and other large family gatherings. They serve a purpose even though I don't exactly wear them to the office :)
Kate said…
I've been feeling this way lately - I'm into month 3 of my first full-time job and I'm really enjoying buying some nice clothes! Not having to survive on one pair of jeans or a cheap, worn coat is lovely.

I'm considering throwing out my dresses, but this post has changed my mind. I don't own many - I'll put them in a box under the bed.
Sue said…
This is a fabulous post - I read it word for word and all the comments from all the readers. It kind of sums up everything I've been going through with my wardrobe since I started reading blogs. Along with yours and Dead Fleurettes and the Cats Mieow - I felt compelled to streamline my wardrobe. What resulted was less in the wardrobe but lots in several boxes in the spare bedroom which I am not sure what to do with. Some items were ebayed out but there are still a lot waiting their turn. I also have some boxes of clothes which I take out according to season but there are some lurkers which fit neither here not there - like the sequinned bolero - just because I love it but have nowhere to go in it and the fully beaded gown which I have not worn for 10 years but still do not want to part with because one day, there may be an occasion for a full length beaded gown. And yes, I have also come to the realisation that I am guilty of buying several things and seldom wearing them for fear of wearing things out. It also explains why so many of my clothes have lasted for so many years. Again - a post which I thoroughly enjoyed reading - I saw it first thing this morning but didn't have the time to sit down and peruse it thoroughly and so have been waiting till the evening to sit down with a cup of tea to enjoy.
Anonymous said…
Alas, I followed the link and my wardrobe hero is in fact a total clothes horse.
Well, I will take inspiration from just the one corner then. :)
lin said…
Kali: It was my pleasure!

I think it takes time to figure out the "just in case" part; it comes with knowing what's difficult to shop for. For instance I find "corporate" looking things difficult to shop for so I have two pairs of trousers and a dress I refuse to let go off even though I haven't worn them or even looked at them in a year.

The storage idea is a good one; the trick is not to forget about the after a year...

Pret a Porter P: The duality part is so true; I remember I would yearn for weekends so that I could put away the work stuff.

I'm not sentimental either, I just go with my gut when I'm clearing my wardrobe. Of course, one does make mistakes..

miss sophie: Agree...i just never want to look at my wardrobe and feel bad.

editor: Haha! Like you, I do admire the simplicity and certainty of his uniform. I don't think we'd never know the motivation behind his collection without questioning him ourselves...

Maja H: Almost all my dresses fall into this category! But I'm always grateful that I have something to wear for all those weddings. I don't care if I repeat myself.

Kate: I'm sure in time it will be clear whether those dresses are worth keeping.

Sue: Thanks!

I'm personally not a big fan of purges, I prefer to just throw out the odd piece every now and then - it helps that I'm not snowed under clothes and short of space. Sometimes I wear something I haven't worn in years and spend the whole day feeling awkward, and getting rid of it at the end of the day is easy.
After living with hoarders for decades, I became the other extreme. I have a habit of chucking things out and lived to regret it. I hold on to my accessories longer though because some are collector's items and are difficult to find.
lin said…
I grew up sharing a bedroom, so I got rid of the hoarding instinct young! Space was precious so I never wanted to take it up with stuff I no longer loved or needed.
Hi Lin, First thanks for your comment on my men's magazine article. I'd love to see how you use socks as a special outfit detail, being very lazy myself in the sock department.
I've done the extreme purging thing, being very seduced by the idea of, as you put it, the clean serene closet, but now I'm ending up looking more for a sort of moderate minimalism.
Also, I have to concur with editor: having a uniform of sorts (à la Tonne Goodman) seems such a peaceful place to be.
lin said…
jeanne-aurore: In Singapore I rarely wear high socks since it is quite warm, so it's more of a once-off but I often wear long socks under my jeans and let peek at my ankles when I roll my cuffs, so that I stay warm even when my jeans are up. That's went I get to break out my little collection of polka-dotted and striped socks! Sometimes they match my shirts.

In Singapore, I usually wear lower "invisible" socks but sometimes I wear ones where the rim of my socks peek over, for a flash of colour. Shall post pictures some time..

Over time it feels like a uniform works for me. Even though I have options, I seem to be ignoring them and going with the same formula quite happily.
Thank you for the sock insight. I wear a lot of chelsea type boots so get away with basic grey socks as they don't really show.
When you think of very stylish people, they do have a formula for dressing. Take Andy Warhol: wig (!!!), blazer, jeans, lace ups. I don't think anyone ever thought of calling that boring. Yet we often worry about repeating outfits... Jeanne-Aurore
LN said…
such great thoughts. whenever i read style blogs that are of the minimalist mindset i get the urge to purge. one good thing that i've grown in is trying to buy quality v. trend so that i don't have to purge. but i think you are hitting on something there about having a good closet without being a minimalist.
lapindelune said…
Ha, the final image made me laugh! I thought that I possessed too many check button downs until I saw this. I think that I currently own 6, which seems rather excessive to me.
Agree so much concerning the shoes: I have recently discovered damage to my most cherished pair and wish that I had rotated more, perhaps purchased two pairs when they were still available...and now it shall be so difficult to replace them. I find the right footwear as difficult to locate as the perfect jeans, sadly.

I haven't yet missed any previously purged items, although I did allow them to sit for 6 months in the spare room prior to letting them go.
lin said…
LN: I think the idea of just clearing out and starting over is always tempting. I do find it tempting, because I feel overwhelmed when I have too many things.

lapindelune: I agree! I love certain patterns and am always tempted to buy more with slight variations...but at a certain I realise that having one more did not make me happier....I think that's when I know I've hit a magic number.

petrichore said…
I think it may be more global than that: perhaps a jeans problem as well, or a denim-on-denim issue?

Ha ha!

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