Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Emptying the Ocean with a Spoon

Valerie says:  All it takes is one brief moment of courage. You look into your closet and point. YOU: stay (if only till the next time). YOU: go. I pulled out the biggest bag I have, and began to fill it. When the clothes in your closet are packed so closely together that some of them literally disappear from view, it's time to make some decisions, and neither the brand names nor the sentimental favorites can be spared. (Well, okay, one or two sentimental favorites can be...)

First to go was this hooded boiled wool cape, bought around 1982 on a sale rack in Osaka. It was exactly the shape I needed back then, since I was wearing big sleeved kimono jackets (haoris) at the time, and the tube sleeves of my coat made it impossible to wear my beloved haoris. Years later, I stopped wearing it because a heater burned a hole in the leather piping, but I kept it because I had visions of needle felting a HUGE bewigged stark white Andy Warhol face into the back of it. I never figured out how to do that, though. So this wonderful coat - which I still love - was an ideal candidate.

Before sending it back out into the universe for a new person to find and love it, I painstaking cut all the piping off (see above), so it wouldn't look ragged to the new owner. It took close to an hour to do that. Boiled wool will not unravel easily, so it's safe without the piping, and now looks a bit edgy. The piping on the sleeves got abraded during dry cleaning, so now it looks like blue suede, and adds a nice contrast. The new owner can decide what to do about that herself.

[Jean says: I just wanted to focus for a moment on Valerie's theory regarding donating clothing. Her characterization of "sending things back out into the universe" is intriguing, but hasn't grabbed me yet.  Since I just haven't been able to subscribe to her theory, my closets remain packed to the gills. Methinks my husband would love it if the downsizing urge were contagious.  I must have built up immunity after so many years of hoarding, er, collecting and will try to refrain from further comment.]

I bought this raincoat two years ago at a second hand shop with the intention of decorating it with masking tape. Another project I never got around to. Now that I've passed my - um - change of life, my thermostat is erratic, and this material makes me perspire. It's good for younger women with the kind of highly disciplined thermostat I used to have. I have another, far lighter raincoat now, and hope to decorate that one instead.

I LOVE this jacket with its round pockets (look closely), uneven Comme des Garcons-like sleeves, and the tails with their polka dotted lining, but it's meant to be worn snapped up. I like wearing it snapped up (it doesn't quite look the same when left open), but I've found that too arouses my erratic thermostat, so I can enjoy looking at it, but not wearing it. This also came from a thrift shop, a little over a year ago, so I can let it go more easily than if I had spent a fortune on it.

Here's another jacket which I loved, in theory, but I felt it made me look boxy in reality. I'm boxy enough without any help from my clothing, thank you very much. This was also second hand, so I can view it as a fun experiment, and send it on to the next person to enjoy.

Since I have neuromas, shoes are always a crap shoot. For me, these suede Calvin Klein flats came up snake eyes. You can never really tell if they'll work till you've worn them on concrete for about half an hour, and then, of course, you can't return them. These too were from a thrift shop. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I wore them once -- briefly -- and now hardier feet than mine can wear them.

I always knew I'd never get any wear out of these transparent plastic shoes, but there seemed to be a collectors' fad for them, so I thought I'd gotten away with murder when I picked them up for $10. In fact, I later discovered, the fad was for vintage transparent shoes, and these, by Nina, were relatively new. As some readers know, I bought several pairs of new shoes recently, and since the price of closet real estate is high, the plastics are gone in favor of shoes that can pay their way.

How often have you seen platform sandals? I think I know the reason I've seen very few -- it's because sandals provide no stability, so feet move out of place. (Ask your podiatrist about foot stability.) Even on the relatively flat sidewalks of New York, I kept on losing my balance and nearly falling in these shoes. They're wonderful to look at and fun to be seen in, and I have nothing against enclosed platform shoes, but I'm steering clear of platform sandals. I actually thought I'd broken my toe the last time I wore these, and visited my podiatrist. He pronounced me unbroken, but that toe was uncomfortable for the next month. (Unsurprisingly, I did not show the shoes to my podiatrist for his reference, as I sometimes do.)

[Jean says:  I can attest to this phenomenon, brought on by these otherwise innocent looking gladiator platforms. Needless to say, Valerie looked fabulous wearing them, but her foot would suddenly just sort of veer sideways off the side of the shoe, causing her ankle to turn inward. Walking along side her trying to carry on a conversation was a positively hair-raising experience. It was only a matter of time until she broke an ankle.]

This pair also did not pass the thirty minute sidewalk test. I'll miss the stripes, but not the brown strap. Why a brown strap on a black and white shoe? Well, they were $20 at a discount store, so I can't complain.

These jeans - with a green hue you can't see here -- would not have fit me past the age of 10. They were about a size 5, but I fell into paroxysms of ecstasy when I saw them over two years ago at a thrift shop. Take a look at the triangular pockets. There's a small pocket sewn on the larger one. Since there was no label, I can't hope to find them -- ever -- in my size on Ebay. I had an idea that I could get a sewing genius to recreate them in my size, so last year I bought the huge vintage jeans below, made of really great denim, to remake them with. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone willing to undertake the project. So out they both go, freeing up hangers and closet space. The green jeans will look sooo enviable on someone!!!

That was everything, although not as much as I would have liked to take. I noticed though, in the short distance I had to carry the bag, that if it had been any heavier, it probably would have broken my other wrist, so that persuaded me that I'd put in enough. The picture below is meant to give some scale. It's as high as my knee, and longer than it is high. Not counting the obsessive cutting of the coat piping, it took probably 20 minutes to go through my closet and fill it with the most obvious candidates, then about 20 minutes to take the bus to the thrift shop. My closet doesn't look any different. It's like emptying out the ocean with a spoon, but ya gotta start somewhere. (And I'll be doing it again - maybe next weekend.)

Oh, and when I asked a young man sitting opposite me on the bus to take the opening picture for this post, the woman next to him advised him, "Be sure you get the socks in." Honest!!!


  1. I do this periodically throughout the year. Just look through my closet to see what hasn't been worn in years and what really needs to go. After I do this it feels so good, almost like a cleansing.

  2. I would have happily taken the pinstripe jacket off your hands, and paid you for it....the next time you purge, talk to me first, ok ;)
    I think we need to do a clothing swap the next time I'm in NY, what do you think?

  3. I do not understand people who love shoes and collect them as I find very few that pass the 30 minute test. I am so glad to hear it described that way as I thought I was alone in that one. Love to see your suggestions on shoes that can be worn and lived in and still look fabulous.
    PS I too have an erratic thermostat and I am struggling in the middle of summer down here in NZ!!

  4. The most entertaining downsizing event that has ever been described, at least in my lifetime. My adventures in emptying the ocean with a spoon are ongoing!

  5. I am a newbie to all things blogular, so hope this response reaches you. (Never sure what goes with this gizmo) I LOVE YOUR BLOG! What a delight! Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful adventures and wardrobe experiences! PLEASE, would you consider running one last photo of yourselves at the end of each post, just above your ensemble descriptions? This would be such a help....right now I go mad scrolling up and down on my tiny laptop screen, reading about a piece of your ensemble, then scrolling up to see it again, then scrolling back down to read about another piece, then scrolling back up...again and again. You get the idea. You are FABULOUS inspirations to us all! Rock on!