I started a new job with a dress code for the first time in over a decade. Eventually, I’m going to need clothes.
Right now, we have the great good fortune to be working from home. That’s policy, and we can expect that it may continue this way for the rest of 2020, or possibly forever. Technically, though, we may have to start going in to the office in person with only 48 hours’ notice.
So... could be January 2021, could be... this Wednesday?
There are a few issues with this possible timeline for me.
This is why my strategic plan for a new work wardrobe has to start with a way to acquire appropriate clothes on short notice.
First I need to assess how many days I can look pulled-together while waiting for anything new to come in. What’s in my closet right now?
From what I’ve seen, most people hang onto clothes that they almost never wear - or may never have worn, since the tags are still attached - and have ‘looks’ in the closet that are not their usual style. These items should be tried on for fit. They may also turn out to work in different combinations that the owner has never worn together before.
Laying things out on the bed or stacking them next to each other can sometimes reveal interesting new matches, based on color and fabric.
The second step of my plan is to sign up for a subscription box and hope that they have a decent selection in my size. Expedited delivery options would also be good.
This matters because I’m in a situation that a lot of others probably share. I don’t identify with the size that fits me today. I have no intention of going out and buying an entire new work wardrobe that I would fully intend not to fit any more within a couple of months. Renting clothes that I can send back seems like a good way to at least pretend that my current size is temporary.
I just finished reading Project 333, and I’m intrigued with the idea of having only 33 seasonal items. This definitely seems more cost-effective when starting from scratch! Does it work, though?
Where we live, there are three seasons as far as I can tell: hot, windy, and chilly. For the hot season, I could easily base a wardrobe around three pairs of shoes and 30 short-sleeved dresses. That would make 30 outfits that could be worn from April through November, and in those nine months, each dress would appear only nine times. (Including weekends).
I like to do these arithmetical exercises, because in my experience, most people can’t believe that only a few items could possibly give them enough variety.
In my work with hoarders, I like to give the exercise: How Many Shirts? If you woke up one day and suddenly all your clothes had vanished into an alternate dimension, how many would you need to replace to have all your needs met? What is the right number? Then we count what they actually have. I point out that 55 is way more than they just showed on their worksheet. They keep them all anyway.
Let’s say that instead of buying 30 dresses, which seems like a bonkers excessive amount (no repeats for a month, really?), I decide to go with interchangeable skirts and tops. I get 15 of each, and stick with the three shoes.
15 skirts x 15 tops would make 225 possible combinations, or enough to go over seven months without repeating an outfit!
Part of why this doesn’t make sense to my people is that almost none of their clothes actually are interchangeable. There are two other factors, which are that the bulk of their wardrobe may no longer fit, and a lot of it may be part of the ‘laundry carpet,’ so they are really only wearing the same few t-shirts over and over again. In a way, 55 t-shirts is really only one outfit, a uniform of sorts, where only the image changes slightly each day.
Another way to plan by the numbers would be 10 bottoms x 10 light tops x 10 outer layers, like a skirt, shell top, and cardigan. That’s actually worse, at 1000 possible combinations, or nearly three years with no repeats.
Strangely, the way to get the most possible variety in a wardrobe is to have modular pieces that don’t necessarily seem all that special by themselves. My people will choose a garment because it seems so unique, usually due to the pattern or fabric. The result of that is a lot of things that don’t go with anything else and never get worn. It creates an illusion of variety that is not borne out in reality.
Personally, I don’t want people to notice my clothes or remember what I wore. I want to be noticed for my contributions. When people think of me, I want them to think of how much I get done, how easy I am to work with, and how reliable I am. Not that I look great but that they want me on their projects. If my clothes have a message, I want it to be: competent.
This is what I’ll probably go with:
Pants and skirt, black (2)
Pants and skirt, navy blue (2)
Pants and skirt, gray (2)
Pants and skirt, white (2)
Sleeveless shell tops in white, light blue, red, purple, and black (5)
Short sleeve tops in white, light blue, red, purple, and black (5)
Long sleeve tops (blazer or cardigan) in white, light blue, red, purple, and black (5)
Dresses in light blue, red, purple, gray, navy blue, and black (6)
Three pairs of shoes and a pair of boots (4)
2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 5 + 10 + 6 + 4 = 33 items
Any pants or skirt with any sleeveless or short-sleeve top, with or without a warm layer +
Any dress with or without a coordinating warm outer layer
[(8x5)+(8x5)+(8x5)+(8x5)+6+6] = [(40x4)+12] = 172 combinations, or enough for nearly 6 months with no repeats.
Who’s counting, anyway?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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