The Closet Chronicles: Purging

I’m in the process of purging my closet. It’s full of stuff I don’t wear — even some things I’ve never worn — all hanging there assaulting me with guilt every time I look at them. So I’m getting rid of them. Take that, you traitor! Off with your hanger!

How am I getting rid of them? A friend has shown me how to sell items on eBay, and it turns out people really like L.L. Bean stuff. Which is good, because I’ve got a lot of L.L. Bean stuff to sell. Also Doncaster. And Chico’s. Even some Lands’ End, Hanna Andersson, and Eddie Bauer. Ouch. If I start to add up the dollars, I’ll have to go flay myself. Okay, deep breath. Let’s move on.

It’s weird. I look at all of these clothes and wonder who I was when I bought them. Why did I think I needed two identical wool blazers in two different colors? Why did I think I needed two wool coats — one black and one brown? Actually, I know the answer to that one: I used to think that everything had to match. Exactly. If I was wearing a black skirt and black shoes, then I needed the black wool coat. If I was wearing a brown skirt or slacks and brown shoes, then I needed the brown wool coat.

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I’m selling both blazers. I never wore either one of them. I’m selling the brown wool coat and keeping the black one. Why? I only need one dressy coat, and black is more versatile.

But it turns out I’m not just trying to figure out my closet — I’m trying to figure out who I am. Or rather, who I am now. I’m still a mom, but my children are all taller than I am at this point. They don’t need me like they once did. So while I’m still a mom, I’m now the mother of young adults, not little kids.

I’m divorced, so I’m no longer a wife. One of the biggest purges is the dressy clothes, because not only am I no longer a wife, I’m specifically no longer a businessman’s wife. The clothes that I bought to wear to dinners, fundraisers, political events — out of here. The clothes I bought because I felt like I had to maintain a certain appearance — definitely out of here. Getting rid of them is actually a huge relief. Cathartic, even.

I’m keeping a couple of favorite pieces — a classic black dress, long-sleeved, v-neck boucle wool. A pair of black chiffon palazzo pants. A short-sleeved black velvet top with a sweetheart neckline. Black Tahari pumps with little velvet bows on the toes. I might one day again be invited to a dressy dinner party. Add some pearls, and I’ll be good to go. Some things never go out of style.

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It’s the everyday I need to ponder. I’m 53. I want to dress fashionably, but I really, really don’t want to be one of those women who dresses so completely inappropriately for her age that people cringe when she shows up. I know that I like classic, but I feel like I’ve been going too classic — preppy to the point of boring, even. I’d like to change that.

I’ve been a journalist, a stay-at-home mom, and a nurse. As a newspaper copy editor, I didn’t have to dress up because I didn’t interact with the public. Stay-at-home mom — definitely jeans and t-shirts because, well, dirt, food, blood, vomit — it’s a messy job. And nurse? I wear scrubs to work. Solves all of those problems.

So — who am I now? The clothes I’m keeping and the ones I’m buying to replace what’s going will possibly let us know. Stay tuned.

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