How to let go of your wardrobe


In May, caught in the adrenaline rush of a lockdown eviction, I followed Marie Kondo’s step-by-step clean-up process, thanking and saying goodbye to almost a third of my wardrobe. My collection, built up over 20 years as a fashion editor, was now neatly folded in bags and on its way to the next Oxfam. However, instead of the promised glow of a clear-out, regret crept in immediately.

Gone is the once-loved box-shouldered Yves Saint Laurent jacket found in a Seattle vintage store. The Marc Jacobs floral dress I bought in lieu of groceries when I was an intern at Vanity Fair in New York. The black silk dress by Dries Van Noten worn by a model during a shoot in a swimming pool; It was too damaged to return and was given to me. My life stories poured out of black garbage bags – a fashionable phantom limb.

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Kondo’s best-selling organizational philosophy, KonMari, based on Japanese Shintoism, values ​​clear space and what “enjoys” over nostalgia. But what about clothes that used to bring so much joy even though we don’t wear them anymore? Do some pieces have an inherent value that makes them worth keeping for posterity?

If a piece doesn’t work for you anymore, move on, says my former colleague Lucinda Chambers, who served as fashion director at British Vogue for 25 years – “If you don’t have it in your closet, [making you feel] guilty.” While that philosophy has generally served her well, she regrets giving away, for example, a Prada skirt she bought in 2012. “It was an unusual piece. While it’s not right for me now, I probably would have had it for.” to keep a future daughter.”

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Decluttering is never easy, but it helps to think about the joy those pieces might bring to others. “I don’t want sacks full of clothes that I never wear,” says Chambers, “I love to see all the younger generations enjoying them and seeing the pieces carry on.” A tradition started at Vogue, where she gifted clothes to young editors, and more recently used a cloakroom clearance to raise funds for the Museum of the Home.

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Lucinda Chambers at a clothes sale. “It’s not about fashion or trends, it’s about [usually pieces that are] really wonderful,” says Chambers

Chambers recommends hiring a good seamstress to extend the life of your clothes, alter or repair them, and even adjust the fit before wearing them. She works regularly with London seamstress Maria Londono. “I have a Mango handbag that I take care of like it’s my firstborn child,” she smiles. “I know I’ll never find another.”

Knowing what suits you is also essential when deciding what to gift, notes Chambers. “There are things I keep coming back to; I know they have no time frame or expiration date. I never tire of wearing weird earrings and stripes; Or print and color in. It’s not about fashion or trends, it is [usually pieces that are] actually wonderful.”

Savile Row tailor Edward Sexton – the designer of Bianca Jagger’s 1971 wedding suit – believes clothes can have many lives. He suggests that if you’re not ready to let go of a piece but it’s not quite working for you, consider having it remodeled. “I often get people to bring their father’s clothes to me to have them remodeled. It’s nice to see how clothes that were made for a certain person, for a certain life, find a second or even third life.”

Sexton assures me that these personal style developments are part of life. “We can fall in love and fall out of love with a statement piece,” he says, “but then we can go back to it and wear it differently, from a different perspective.” made to fit me, with the help of the seamstress at my local dry cleaner for £150, a fraction of the cost of buying a new tailored suit.

“We should remember that fashion is cyclical,” fashion archivist Keesean Moore says when we chat on a Zoom call from his adopted hometown of Philadelphia. “After all, what you think is old always comes back.” The ultimate test of any piece should be how you feel in it and the craftsmanship behind it. Take a closer look at the details of your designer and vintage pieces before giving them away. Vintage pieces are often more carefully constructed than modern, mass-produced garments.

Bella Hadid wears a Tom Ford-era Gucci dress in Cannes in May © Getty Images

Still wondering what to do with that dress you wore to your engagement party 25 years ago and aren’t wearing anymore? (Yes! Mine was a white bias-cut slip.) Colomba Giacomini, a stylist who helps clients switch up their wardrobe, sums it up. “You have the picture [of yourself in the outfit], and at this point it’s just stuff and clutter.” So far, so Kondo. But knowing what to let go of is not an exact science; There are other considerations beyond portability. Some brands and rare pieces — like the Tom Ford-era Gucci dress worn by Bella Hadid to Cannes this year — can appreciate in value over time. Originally worn by model Carolyn Murphy for the Tom Ford for Gucci show in Fall 1996, the dress has gained a cult following among fashion archivists and collectors. Nostalgia and storytelling also play a role.

In many cases, a curator’s strict criteria provide a blueprint. “[Think] about how the garment would look if displayed in a gallery or exhibition,” says Sonnet Stanfill, senior curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum. “Does it have artistic value? Can you fall in love with his story?

“It’s also about the provenance or history of who wore the clothes, where they wore them, and what societal meaning that story reveals,” she continues. Another factor to consider is whether it captures a “unique turning point in design history or in the designer’s life.”

Stanfill points out that clothing can forever reflect our identities and alliances; They are scrutinized when a person dies or experiences a life change. Those who donate to the V&A want to commemorate their own or someone else’s life in style.

Lesley Cunliffe’s distressed punk jacket donated by her family to the Victoria and Albert Museum © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Stanfill’s favorite item in the museum collection is a distressed punk jacket donated by the family of American-born fashion journalist and author Lesley Cunliffe, who died in 1997. “This jacket reflects her personality perfectly. I’ve never met her, but I feel sorry for myself [reading her work] that I have a sense of who she was and what she was about,” says the curator. “I love the wit, humor and irreverence of this literary character that completely unsettles this very tailored jacket. It looks pretty disheveled. But it is a record of a woman’s wardrobe. And I find that strong.”

If I inevitably resort to the idea of ​​a wardrobe clearance, I will do so through the eyes of someone who loves a good fashion story.

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