Less is More: A Wardrobe Edit

A couple of weeks ago, our dear friend and number one supporter Adrienne hit up our Facebook page and said, “You guys, I really want a capsule wardrobe, but I have no idea how to go about designing one that works for my life? Work, weekend, going out, hanging with my kid, etc. But I really want to streamline. How?!?”

As fate would have it, I had already booked a trip to visit this lovely lady (and her equally lovely kiddo) in Chicago, which meant I got to be a REAL LIFE FASHION CONSULTANT for a weekend. I’m not going to lie: I might have gone a little mad with power. (I seem to remember whisper-shouting at least once, “Adrienne! That’s fucking ugly! Get rid of it!” which, while it makes for good TV, actually just made me feel like kind of an insane asshole in real life.) But Adrienne’s reward for my tyranny was a wardrobe that actually functions–and although our original plans included shopping, it turns out our girl already had a chic, fun, and versatile capsule lurking underneath a bunch of shit she never wore.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, we have to talk about the closet. While its lack of light source prevented me from getting a picture, please trust me when I tell you it was a sight to behold. My own closet is due for a serious purge, so I’m not throwing shade, simply stating a fact, when I say my boo’s cupboard was overflowing. THIS MANIAC HAD 24 PAIRS OF JEANS! Just jeans! It took us an entire morning and most of an afternoon to go through everything, and we had the best time. Tip one: clean out your closet with a lady you love and it won’t feel like a chore.

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The first of four similarly-sized stacks of pants. A MANIAC I TELL YOU.

We’re going to get to the fabulous pieces Adrienne has later on, but first we need to talk about some of the not-so-fabulous misfires we found along the way. Example one: These pants from Gap.

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The picture does not do them justice. These MFs are straight-up awful. They are khaki-weight and have light-blue pinstripes that make it look like you’re ready to hammer a rail tie at any second. And they’re distressed. Why? Like, I could maybe see these having a crisp, preppy vibe if it weren’t for the random knee hole.

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Adrienne’s been waiting for this train her whole life.

When I asked Adrienne why she’d bought these, she told me she didn’t know, and that’s the beginning of the problem. We’ve all done it. You’ve been shopping for hours, you’re tired and demoralized, and somehow you make it home with something totally weird that you’re never going to wear again. These pants are that thing. But if you think they’re the only piece of fuckery we found lurking in the depths of this closet, you’d better prepare yourself, because…

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To clarify, this is not an outfit Adrienne has ever or would ever wear. But she did own each of these things, and the cognitive dissonance is crazy. Who owns both a fedora and this “I want to speak to the manager” shirt?

“I bought the hat to wear to the apple orchard,” Adrienne told me, which is not a metaphor for anything. This beautiful treasure from heaven thought she needed a fedora to go apple-picking. A) No one needs a fedora, for anything, and B) everyone knows you wear a straw hat to pick apples.

The shirt is whatever. It’s fine. If you’re about twenty years older than Adrienne is. In this same vein, I made her sacrifice some Tahari “jeggings” with a snake-print panel on the sides that Adrienne described as “hip,” to which I replied, “Only if you’re a fifty-something lady who lunches.”

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I mean, SEAMED LYCRA. Why.

There was also this offensive sweater, which she let her mom talk her into buying…

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…and these pants, which would be fine if they were made out of real fabric.

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“This is where my baby was.”

The rest of the closet’s contents were less notable, but they don’t fit Adrienne’s lifestyle anymore. There was lots of Ann Taylor, which is great for a job like the one she used to have, where dressing up is required, but which has no place in her new, more relaxed marketing job. There were also many well-made but boring designer blouses.

Of course, just as important as what we got rid of is what we kept. We came up with some rules: nothing with a mock collar or smocking, no florals, no straight-leg pants. Any kept item of clothing had to be functional, something she’ll get a lot of wear out of in the four big areas of her life: working, momming, performing, and dating/going out. We narrowed her jeans smorgasbord down from 24 pairs to seven, and we identified what Adrienne really likes: skinny Paige denim, geometric shapes, fun accessories, and good quality T-shirts. We also kept one pair of tailored black pants for work, which she can mix and match with some of the fun and interesting blouses we kept. (She’s got some Diane von Furstenburg, y’all!)

After hours of work, we were left with less than half of what we’d started with, and a lot of empty hangers.

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Frankly, we were exhausted, so it was time for a roadtrip to Evanston to go sell all of the expensive shit we purged. You guys, Adrienne made $250 at the resale shop! I’ve never made more than $25, and the $25 was only once. Because she’s a generous and loving friend, Adrienne took me to lunch at Chili’s with her spoils, which I did not deserve. (Really, you guys. I was kind of mean about some of her clothes. *shame bell*) Side note: Chili’s basically lets a computer wait on you now. It’s just a hair shy of the actual dystopian future.

I can’t stress enough how genuinely fun this process was, though. And the best part was that we eliminated all the clutter, so it’s a cinch for Adrienne to put together fabulous looks with all of the great stuff she already had.

Exhibit A: Werk

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Trina Turk top, Topshop shoes. Ring from Ad Hoc Chicago.

Exhibit B: Weekend Fun

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“I’m not like a regular mom. I’m a cool mom.”
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You may remember these Adidas beauts from our first installment of Ask TST!

Exhibit C: Center Stage, aka Performing Lewk

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Jeans by Paige, shoes by Ellen DeGeneres, necklace from Ad Hoc Chicago.
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Literally by Ellen DeGeneres. I thought Adrienne called them her “Ellen shoes” for aesthetic reasons.

Exhibit D: Athleisure (Obvs)

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Sweatshirt by Michael Kors, pants and shoes by Adidas.

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Exhibit E: Date Night

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DKNY dress, Blanc Noir jacket.

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H&M earrings.

Now, obviously Adrienne looks amazing, and I had a great time, but how does she feel about this whole thing? I asked her, and here’s what she said.

How do you think you ended up with a closet full of things you don’t wear? Are there any “mistakes” you find yourself making over and over? Why do you think that is?

I’ve got a few reasons.
  • I had like 20 pairs of jeans (shame) because they were a few different sizes and some would get moved to a “don’t fit” pile and then I’d just leave them there. The too big stuff I kept “just in case” and the too small stuff I would avoid trying on because what if they were still too small? HOW WOULD I SURVIVE. So just like, I had a pile.
  • I changed jobs in February and in my previous role my clothes had to be more formal. A lot of Ann Taylor. BLOUSES EVERYWHERE. And as soon as I could, I stopped wearing those. But then like, what if I needed them again? And they were expensive. So they just got moved to the back.
  • I’ve been guilty of buying things that fit because I was just so glad they did? I think my body is sort of hard to fit so I’m always thrilled when I find something. So I think I’ve bought stuff that was ugly or not my style because of that. I’ve also bought things that I thought were a good deal (I love Nordstrom Rack!) even though they weren’t actually great items for me. And oh my god, I’m susceptible to marketing. I’m the dummy that goes to the Gap and buys one million things at once because it’s 60% off and WHAT A DEAL I’LL PROBABLY WEAR IT (NEVER).

 

What do the things you get a lot of use out of have in common?

Ugh, functionality. I used to think functionality equaled “old” or “lame.” But another reason I’ve found stuff languishes in my closet is because its functionality or comfort is off. A blouse that’s just a little too tight over the chest. Shoes that slip too much. A coat that is a weight that is appropriate for approximately 2 days between winter and spring in Chicago. Things that are comfortable and functional and I already know what to wear them with, I will wear them all the time.
What does a streamlined wardrobe have to accomplish for it to work for you?
It has to make decision-making easy while still serving some cute!
Did you “discover” anything in your closet that you love but had forgotten about? 
The amazing $400 DKNY dress that I bought for $69. That’s because I first tried it on at a Nordstrom Rack in DC and they didn’t have my size and I was devastated. Then I found it in Chicago and bought it! But it was March and freezing so I hung it in the back of my closet and forgot all about it. We also discovered a lot of ugly stuff I’d forgotten about? The train conductor pants. JK I KNEW THOSE WERE THERE.
It’s been a week and a half. How’s the edited wardrobe working for you? Have you learned anything that will help you make decisions moving forward? How do you feel about the experience of paring down?
I already love that it’s easier to get dressed in the mornings. Fewer options. I love that we developed some rules for when I go shopping. I went out with my girlfriends to dinner last week and said I wasn’t allowed to buy florals and they were like “Why not?” and “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a floral!” and I’m like EXACTLY BUT MY CLOSET WAS FILLED WITH FLORALS! I think I’ve learned I can like a shirt or a look and that still that item might not be for me. I think at the end of the day I want to wear t-shirts and jeans and cute shoes and accessories. And build around that.
That’s it for us this week, lovelies! We hope you’re inspired to do some spring cleaning and editing of your own — I definitely am. As always, you can find us on Facebook and Instagram. Also, because I want you to have joy in your life, I’ll leave you with this picture of Adrienne’s hilarious and wonderful son Max striking a pose for the ages. C U Next Tuesday!
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xoxo
TST

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