No New Clothes: Jan-Mar 2018

One of my big goals this year is to not buy any clothes (or unnecessary home decor/trinkets) for at least six months. Right now, the only thing I can think of that I might need is a water-repellent/windbreaker jacket for working in the field and frequent travel. Realistically, I could probably go a year or more without new clothes; I’ve purged a lot and could probably get rid of more.

But, not wanting to get rid of a whole lot more just yet, I’ve pulled about half of my clothes out of circulation and put them in storage, so I have about 35 items in my wardrobe to wear currently, and I’m going to try hard not to add anything (even from existing clothes) to that until the end of March (unless summer arrives freakishly early, in which case, we’re all screwed). Yes, I am three years behind this trend, but this is me writing about a capsule wardrobe.

I think I’m missing a couple shirts, and I generally don’t count scarves, shoes or handbags in my capsule (since I feel like they all have a distinct purpose), but this is pretty much what I’m wearing these days. After editing my clothes, I’ve noticed they disproportionately come from a few places:

  • Uniqlo: 8 items (3 pairs of pants, 5 blouses). I think I’d be content if I only shopped there, but we don’t have them in Amman.
  • American Eagle: Much as I derisively looked down on “preppy” girls in high school who shopped there, I’ve gone there a few times in recent years when they’re having a sale and stocked up on ALL THE SOFT THINGS. So far, their clothes seem to last a while for me.
  • I also have more sweaters than a Gap sale. And I painstakingly parted with quite a few a few months ago.

Other favorites:

  • Zara black and white striped shirt: I’ve had this shirt for about 6 years and it’s still going strong
  • CK black and white cowl neck sweater: cozy, yet still tailored-looking enough for an office
  • Ann Taylor coatigan: heather grey heavy cardigan with a lovely straight silhouette. Good for lounging in pajamas or wearing to work.
  • Tommy Hilfiger grey blazer that my husband talked me into buying last year
  • Indigo scarf from the Bangkok airport
  • Black sneakers. Amman streets chew up all my nice shoes, so these are my go-to things for walking that still look cute.

There are a few reasons behind this decision:

  • A desire to choose higher-quality, ethical, eco-friendly brands when I do need to buy something. Yes, most of the stuff in here currently fits in the “fast fashion” category. I’m working on it. Right now the goal is to not buy anything.
  • A need to save money (and time spent browsing in shops)
  • Clothes in Amman are ridiculously overpriced
  • I wear the same 10 things all the time anyway
  • Making my life easier when I pack for trips or eventually move again
  • Breaking the psychological pattern of browsing for things I don’t need, so that I don’t even want anything new
  • Coming to terms with the fact that I will always be uncomfortable in the summer in Amman, and I will get harassed no matter what I wear

When starting new jobs, or moving someplace new, I’ve always found myself buying things I think I need for that situation: three pairs of nice trousers for an office job, when in reality, it’s fine to wear jeans to work. Outdoorsy clothes made for hiking when I moved to the Middle East, when in reality it just made me feel frumpy. Dresses that I only get to wear once every two years in Amman. Fabrics that require me to wear another layer over or underneath, making me even more uncomfortable in the summer heat.

I don’t think of myself as someone who spends a lot of energy thinking about clothing, but similar to personal finances and data analysis, I can become interested if there’s a visual component.

Enter the Smart Closet app.  I started using this when I was trying to figure out what to get rid of. You add pictures of your clothes (or similar things), use the calendar feature to track what you

wear each day, and after three months you can see what stuff you wore every week, and what you never wore at all.

For me, this also goes back to learning how to value my time better. When I was younger, I used to shop at thrift shops (I still don’t have anything against buying used stuff) and would wind up with “cheap” clothes that never fit me quite right. I would end up buying more and more of these “cheap” things until I finally broke down and bought something good that fit right. And ultimately that adds up to hours and hours spent in shops, and hours of time working to pay for these things, that could be used for something more productive or enjoyable.

I’ve also been purging clutter more generally in my house, and I think once you go through the process of getting rid of so much stuff, you never want to have to do it again – and that helps a lot with the urge to buy things.

Good luck to anyone else trying similar experiments!

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