Monday, June 1, 2015

update on People-Colored Clothing

Two summers ago, I decided to try to declutter my clothing collection in an unusual way:  I decided to keep only a few sets of colors of clothes.  In August of 2013, I wrote these words.
So here was my rule. I would toss all my clothes, EXCEPT for clothes I like in these three categories:
  1. Black clothes, white clothes, black-and-white clothes.
  2. Brown clothes, yellow clothes, (segued to include some hot-pink clothes).
  3. Personally meaningful clothes.
The third category let me keep, for example, the blue Jackie-Kennedy-esque dress that my grandmother made for my mom. I admit there's a bunch of wiggle room in category 3, but I don't think I abused it.
I realized after I'd cleaned out my closets that I'd pretty much chosen "people-colored clothing."   I wasn't sure whether I'd find the rule overly constrictive (Debbie M. said she could never live this way, which I completely understand), or whether instead I'd find it freeing (one of the Grumpy twins told me that she lives happily on only one basic color of clothes, which I could sort of envision, but not really). Well, now I've had two years to live with color-restricted clothing, and I have to say it's actually been kind of nice.

Lately, I've been realizing just how helpful (and even how much fun) this self-restriction has been.  For one thing, I've been doing a bunch of traveling, giving math talks here and there, and each time I pack my suitcase, I pack light by choosing only sets of clothes that match.  That's a whole lot easier to do when I only have a small set of color choices to choose from:  Will I dress in black, white, and gray?  Or do I pack my  browns and yellows?

Because of my travel scarf, I've increasingly been going with browns and yellows.

Rozy describes a "pashmina" -- a wool version of a scarf.  Mine is a cotton beach wrap that my sister got for me years ago.  It's light enough that it can tie up like a scarf, . . .
 . . . but large enough that I can wrap it around myself like a shawl or blanket in cold airports and cold committee meeting rooms.  (Why do hotels chill their meeting rooms so much!?!)
Plus, it's sort of pretty.  

This spring, I keep reading bloggers who've been sucked into the giant vortex of "The Life Changing magic of Tidying Up".  Although I'm not sure I'd agree with the book myself, I've always admired people who go to extremes -- if only because their uber-extreme-ness gives me a chance to defend my own moderate extremeness by pointing at how much nuttier they are than I am.  To wit: I love love love, but do not want, to fold my socks so they stand up in the drawer.  Totally amazing.  Thank you, Erica!

Still, having enjoyed my three-category clothing experiment, I decided it was time to take it one step further and get rid of the blacks and grays in my drawers.  Here's what my drawers look like now.

Lest you mistakenly think I've become a Marie Kondo clothes folding convert, I'll point out that I'm really of the "roll clothes into cylinders and mush them together" camp.  My clothes are all visible, but not crisp and neat.

The current criteria is that my clothes -- with the odd exception of these hot pink shirts that just keep elbowing their way back into my drawers -- all match my travel scarf.  Now anything I pull out of my drawers will match.  Sort of.

My mom had a 1950's cookbook on our shelf growing up called "To the Bride".  It had remarkably (unintentionally) funny and dated advice.  One of my favorites was, "The cookie jar is the most important part of the kitchen.  You can either purchase a cookie jar to match your kitchen, or you can design your kitchen around the cookie jar".   As for me, I've designed my current wardrobe around a beach wrap.

If I decide in the coming months that I hate this restriction, all I have to do is enjoy my usual summer open-air entertainment (yard sales) and restock my closets and drawers with other colors.   But for now, I'm having fun having even fewer clothes, but more chances of successful and quirky combinations, than before.  


  1. I really admire people who can edit their wardrobe down to a few basic colors. I just can't because I'm too moody. Some days I feel professional and want to dress in something severe and tailored, other days I'm a free-spirit dressing in an Indian print skirt and a peasant blouse; most days I'm just a frumpy homemaker which is sort of in between. But the fact is I love colors and choose a color to match my mood! Hence my supply of clothes is rather large (though not as large as some other people who blog about clothes), and rather varied. If I could just get rid of my moods, I'd be able to pare down my wardrobe. Also, I don't wear scarves--I am rather large in the bosom and putting on a scarf just draws attention to that area and makes me feel even larger. I have a whole bunch of beautiful scarves but feel too uncomfortable wearing them now. (I think most of them are from my pre-baby days when I was thin and boob-less.) I can sure understand building a wardrobe around a favorite piece, and I love yellow and brown.

    1. I hear you! Part of the reason I could get down to the brown/yellow combo is because even though it's all in one genre, there is still a LOT of variation -- enough for me (but I know not enough for everyone). It's not like wearing all black and white -- not that I think other people shouldn't, but because I wanted to feel like I'm colorful and bright. Or not. Depending.

  2. Heh, people-colored!

    Yea! I love when these kinds of experiments work. I love your scarf thingy, too.

    For the record, I COULD live with restricted clothing colors; I just strongly prefer not to! Interestingly, after I retired, I defaulted to wearing only stuff that goes with blue jeans. Now that it's getting hot (and I don't have blue jean shorts), it does take a little longer to decide what to wear!

    In other news, I changed how I fold my knee socks so they can stand on end and I can see them all. I can fit more in the drawer too. I love it! However, my short socks still get rolled up and my shirts and shorts are still in stacks.

    1. Hmm . . . okay, maybe I need to try the sock-fold-thing . . . someday.

      And if I'm going to go all the way with this brown/yellow obsession, I'm going to need to find pants as comfy as jeans, but that are tan/brown. That hasn't happened yet. For now, I'm pretending my blue jeans are brown jeans. Shh! don't tell anyone! - MM

    2. I wouldn't worry about the socks!

      And most people read jeans as neutral, so you're probably good there, too!

  3. "one of the Grumpy twins told me that she lives happily on only one basic color of clothes"

    I don't think this is either of us. I just don't wear a lot of patterns. I have a lovely spring palette. (Though I do currently have a pair of houndstooth pants and about three patterned tops that one of my friends picked out. About half of my skirts are patterned.) Almost everything goes with everything else because they're all the same color family (+ universals, like black, grey, brown etc.) and not a lot is patterned. So I can easily do pants, a shirt, and a sweater just grabbing at random. (Most of my sweaters are universal neutrals, though I have a few in pinks and purples.)

    1. Whoops, I misunderstood. You said "I'm the most boring person... I have clothing that can all be mixed and matched, mostly solids (from the "Spring" palette, to complement my coloring).", and I read that as one pallet. But the non-pattern thing makes sense, too.

  4. Palette like the thing that artists use to mix paint colors, in this case with paints from "spring" like pinks, purples, light greens, light blues. It's a colorful wardrobe, but mostly solids.