Are you a Doomsday Prepper, a Secret Shopper or an Impulse Buyer? Identifying your type can help you get the kind of wardrobe Zen we all strive for. Stylist and fashion journalist Annmarie O’Connor thinks she has the answer to working to a wardrobe calm.
Ella de Guzman is a typical Impulse Buyer, or so she tells me. I have yet to inform her she’s also a Doomsday Prepper, especially after discovering her extensive collection of designer bags. I know what she’ll say: she needs them or they’re collector’s items. She does one better and quotes the sign outside of her Temple Bar consignment store, Siopaella: “I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I buy Chanel.” She’s good at this.
It’s not just the multiples of arm candy that blow her cover. The 36-yearold Canadian boasts three wardrobes stockpiled with clothing including but not limited to, printed 80s shell tops, roller skates and a pair of bell bottom Levi’s shorts fashioned from neck ties. So far her Schnoodle Louis hasn’t been lost in a freak avalanche but that’s only because he’s got his own stash of American Apparel doggie hoodies to contend with. It’s official. Ella needs some closet therapy.
This is where I come in. How am I qualified to do this? I’m a fashion journalist and stylist by trade but, more importantly, I’m a reformed hoarder by habit. For years, I lived with the ironic dilemma of having a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. Behind the doors of my wardrobe lay a drag queen pile-up of sequin kimonos, studded bra tops, turbans and anatomically questionable drop crotch pants. Capsule dressing was a futuristic styling tablet as far as I was aware, not a way of life. Until I got real.
My closet wasn’t happy. Much like a magpie, my brain seemed wired towards amassing the shiny and showy, with little regard for how it fit into my lifestyle. Been there, done that, bought the metallic T-shirt (two sizes too small) and never wore it. Dressing became a chore; not least due to the random volume of clothing I had accumulated. It was clear that my fashion infatuations were causing me pain. As is the case with most toxic relationships, wanting it to work just wasn’t enough. If I were going to take the stress out of getting dressed, I had to treat my closet as less of a stashing unit and more of a lifestyle extension.
And thus The Happy Closet opened its doors. Granted, mindfulness and fashion aren’t the most obvious twosome: one commits to the soul’s urge while the other commits to a pair of Charlotte Olympia calf-hair wedges when the rent is due. That said, their paradoxical pairing could take one from collecting to curating with limited fashion FOMO.
A closet is more than just a sartorial deposit box; it’s a deeply personal space containing layers of old energy which, when coupled with an evolutionary gathering instinct, can create chaos. That’s what makes a simple de-cluttering process an emotional minefield. Old attachments, a fear of change, regret and compulsion are the hang-ups that keep us locked into repetitive patterns – the majority of which play out in how we shop and why we hoard.
[blockquote type="center"]FEAR OF CHANGE, REGRET AND COMPULSION ARE THE HANGUPS THAT KEEP US LOCKED INTO REPETITIVE PATTERNS – THE MAJORITY OF WHICH PLAY OUT IN HOW WE SHOP[/blockquote]
Which brings me back to Ella. In order to properly diagnose, I first need to examine the evidence. “I made that when I was in high school,” she says pointing to a 20-year-old DIY top. “When was the last time you actually wore it?” I ask. “Erm, high school,” she admits. I take an embellished party dress off the hanger. “That’s way too small,” she confesses, “but I’m hoping I’ll fit into it one day.”
Ella is a textbook case – her sartorial stash acts as a security blanket but, in truth, it masks the emotional baggage we are all prone to carrying.
I ask her what she wears most days and she shows me a rail of identical COS dresses and another rail of vintage frocks and tops. The repeat purchase, classic Doomsday. Having a style default is not uncommon but when the buying pattern is connected to a feeling or a state-of-mind (I look professional; I feel comfortable), then the habit becomes self-perpetuating and, over time, difficult to kick. What’s more, decluttering simply reinforces the prospect of loss and emotional vulnerability leading the Doomsday Prepper to procrastinate and rationalise why she should continue to hoard.
“When I buy for Siopaella, stockpiling is instinctive because vintage is a one-off; especially designer vintage which can increase in value. These patterns have definitely trickled into my own wardrobe; so when it comes to culling, I find it really hard to let go.”
To clean up Ella’s act, I prescribe her a personalised closet health-care programme and after-care tips. The focus is to divest her closet of repeat and unconscious purchases – a by-product of her many annual buying trips for her shop. From there, I prescribe a week of exposure therapy called the Capsule Wardrobe Challenge: an exercise that helps clients understand how excess interferes with the should-besimple- task of getting dressed.
Ella must choose 12 items from her closet to mix and match for an entire week (one coat; one jacket, one dress, one skirt, one trouser, two tops, two shoes, one bag, two accessories), consigning everything else to the attic. Keeping a diary of what she wears each day, I ask Ella to note how each outfit makes her feel, any items she thought she would miss and how she managed without them. After the process finishes, I have her continue the diary for another week with a view to recording how she now feels about the returned excess baggage.
“When you consider that Siopaella’s tagline is: ‘recycling + restyling’, it really is crazy that I’m such a hoarder,”
Not crazy – just a standard Doomsday Prepper. After all, clothes do more than simply conceal; they also reveal. Every closet has a story to tell. What does yours say about you?
What's your closet type?
[block_grid_item] Impulse Buyer...
is an image-conscious and socially driven creature for whom capsule dressing is a futuristic styling tablet, not a way of life. Shopping is hedonistic, spontaneous, and subject to frequent bouts of buyer’s remorse. [/block_grid_item]
[block_grid_item] Secret Shopper...
is fashion’s MI6 agent. Purchases are made with separate credit cards, online parcels are sent to a PO box and all newly acquired swag is stashed so carefully it risks never being found – not even by her. [/block_grid_item]
[block_grid_item] Doomsday Prepper...
is the original stockpiler. Operating on a survivalist instinct, she believes in being prepared for all wardrobe emergencies. Large stocked walk-in closets are her signature; so is the odd clothing avalanche. [/block_grid_item]
[block_grid_item] Tired and Emotional...
is the proud owner of a love-worn wardrobe. A closet nostalgic, she holds onto clothes well past their sell-by-date in the hopes that she can somehow make them work. She never does... [/block_grid_item]
[block_grid_item] Black Widow’s
wardrobe bears all the hallmarks of the Twilight costume department. The idea of testing a bright colour or print scares her half to death. That’s why she’s fashion’s undead. [/block_grid_item]
[block_grid_item] Split Personality...
is the ultimate fashion player: afraid to commit to one particular style in case she misses out. Determined to keep her options open, her closets multiply according to her many moods, resulting in ever-decreasing space and a chaotic personal style. [/block_grid_item]