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Finding the dependables in your wardrobe

By Staff | Sep 4, 2015

The initial sound was more of a shriek than anything else. It wasn’t human or even animal. But it was high-pitched and tortured, surely a sound of protest. It was the sound of a wooden two-by-four being torn into splinters.

Then came a fluffy thud. A far less ardent sound, but meaningful nonetheless. It was the sound of everything in my closet hitting the floor.

It all happened in the middle of the night. “What was that,” my husband questioned.

Too sleepy to care I mumbled into my pillow, “Who knows? We’ll find out in the morning.”

At dawn’s early light I saw every stitch of my clothing collapsed onto the floor, like a covey of debutantes overcome by a swoon. While the closet bar swayed uselessly, hangers lined up across the closet floor like a row of Rockettes.

“Maybe there was too much in there,” my husband offered, helpfully.

Too much? From half a lifetime of serious thrift-store shopping, fabulous coat collecting, fat-pants-to-skinny-jeans storing? Surely he couldn’t mean it.

But when I started dragging clutches of hangers from the closet floor, making room for a repair of the ruined rod, the truth was revealed. Clothes came out in bunches and were stacked into toppling piles, and still more remained on the closet floor.

I suddenly knew two things: there were a lot of clothes in there. And not all of them were going back.

My bedroom floor looked like Gettysburg after the battle. Clothes laid about like casualties. Shirt sleeves and pant legs, all akimbo. My job now was triage. What would be rescued?

The domestic organizers say that if you haven’t worn something in a year, it needs to go. It’s either out of style or never really fit in the first place. In either case, it’s history. Time for the consignment shop.

But they have no heart. They don’t know about the dress I bought in the ’70s with the embroidered, bibbed front and little tucks at the empire waist, that is probably fashionable again, even though I’m too old for it now.

And they must be skinny. How can you streamline a closet if you can’t streamline a body? Anybody who keeps fat clothes for emergencies knows what I’m talking about.

Also, they live a faithless life. I have faith that someday I will once again wear the sleeveless sheath I bought for the summer cocktail party at the museum estate. I will. I will.

So, here is what absolutely had to go back into the closet: The Dependables. The pants I live in. They’re black. They’re stretchy. Also going back: The tops that go with them. Easy enough.

Definitely not going back: the vaguely Superfly denim jacket with extreme lapels and double-breasted styling that I bought on clearance and wore exactly once. The look on my husband’s face when I emerged in that ensemble was enough to never attempt it again.

The devil was in the rest. The stuff still bearing the sales tags it wore home from the store. Although only heaven knows when that was. Most likely in a former millennium. That pile took a lot of consideration.

Next came shoes. A woman may be persuaded to part with an outdated blouse, a too-tight skirt, a dusty blazer. But a pair of bubblegum pink mules on lucite heels? Green suede ballerina flats that ought to be far more comfortable than they are? A pair of Dr. Scholl’s sandals purchased on a college graduation trip to Europe?

Slowly the floor began to reappear from beneath the litter. The closet is now noticeably emptier than it was before the crash. I’ve evaluated every stitch I own. There is a fine pile of items assembled to go to the consignment shop and if not accepted there, the thrift store. None of it will be returning home.

Shoes on the closet floor are neatly organized. The closet rod has been repaired and reinforced. There should not be another crash.

Not anytime soon. Not until there are too many shoes beneath it and there’s another half-a-lifetime’s worth of clothing weighing it down.