What’s your wardrobe age? * To work this out, cast an eye over all your
clothes and roughly work out how long ago you bought them. Or the
majority of them at least. My wardrobe sheds its skin like a snake
virtually every year. I wonder if this means I’m an ineffective
shopper or just an enthusiastic one.
When stylish women in magazines are asked about their wardrobe secrets,
they invariably talk about investment dressing. Especially if they are
French. Investment dressing is the art of buying something slowly and
carefully. It is the opposite of the impulse buy, the enemy of the
quick fashion fix. An investment piece (they’re always called ‘pieces’,
like furniture, possibly because they cost as much as a couch) should
be of good quality, very expensive and timeless. It should embed itself
purposefully in your wardrobe for many years. You should wear it often
and feel csmug and superior every time you do. Investment dressing is
my worst nightmare. The wardrobe age of an investment dresser would be
very old. High quality but old.
Me? I’m more of a quantity girl. I like new. I like now. I like saying
‘what’s next?’ and then going shopping for the second time in a week.
Partly because of my fashion ADHD and partly because I have become ruthless at culling, there aren’t many items in my wardrobe older than a toddler. One to two years is how long I hold onto my purchases before replacing them. Donald Trump takes a similar approach to wives.
A few exceptions? A twelve year old pair of Sergio Rossie metallic strappy wedges which are absolute staples and don’t seem to date. A seven year old orange leather jacket which inspires one friend to shriek “not that bloody orange jacket again!” each time I wear it. A six year old pair of lolly pink men-style Zimmerman pants which have come thisclose to being culled many times but have had second and third and fourth winds and continue to work. And a bright blue printed Plein Sud shirt that I bought 15 years ago for $200 and was, at that time, the most outrageously expensive item I’d ever owned. Everything else? Toddlers.
But that’s really quite mature compared to one friend who guestimates her wardrobe age in weeks not years. “My wardrobe sheds its skin every six weeks or so, when I enter a new phase of cheap, disposable fashion” she admits. “I’m a crap shopper and scour the shops forever and never seem to find anything. So when I do stumble upon something that fits / looks good / is affordable, I go a bit stupid and buy it in three or four different colours. Then I alternate the colours every second day for about a month – thinking no one will notice. One day I’ll wear something different and everyone asks me if it’s ‘new’. I suddenly realise that the whole office has noticed I’ve been wearing the same stuff on rotation for the previous six weeks and am then too embarrassed to wear any of it ever again. Then the cycle starts anew – I scour shops, eventually find something, buy it in three colours, wear em til people comment, feel like a fash loser crap crap crap.”
How fantastic. Curious to discover exactly what she binged on, I demanded a list of her latest purchases. “Sixties cotton Supre dress in blue, white and black; chiffon pleated dress in blue and black; Moneypenny floral dress in yellow, brown, red and am just about to get in purple; Shoobiz wedges in black, brown and cream; vintage sequined butterfly tops (I have 7 – so noticeable was my love of them that my mother-in-law even sent me 2 from Perth)”.
Ah, this is even worse than fashion RSI (repetitive shopping injury) this is “I’ll take it in every colour” shopping. The problem of course is that if you buy one item in three colours, you’ll be sick of it three times as fast. No wonder she’s shedding her wardrobe skin so frenetically.
But wait, there’s more. “Argh, I fear I may be a snake too” admits another friend, cringing. “Sometimes my wardrobe age feels like two weeks although it’s probably about six months. Certainly no more than one season. Evening clothes are older – maybe two years old in wardrobe age terms. I think every season I buy everything I like and already have all over again. Like denim jackets and grey suit pants and white shirts. I’m constantly turning over new versions of the same pieces. I may still be working the same denim-jacket-over-a-dress look I’ve been wearing for ten years but I will have shopped through ten different denim jackets.”
But there is something worse than shedding your wardrobe skin too often. That is shedding it not often enough. For some, this may be due to investment dressing. But for others? It’s just clutter and a lack of vision.
“I so so want to shed my wardrobe each year and renew myself,” sighs one stylish 43-year old I know. “And each year I stand in front of my wardrobe with high hopes and each year I come to the brink and falter then creep away discouraged. Of course I discard a lot and I buy a lot but my wardrobe is utterly choked with clothes I’ve had for years from past lives or future ones. What I aspire to is mostly new and a small number of beautiful classic pieces from up to five years ago. Which would make the average age very easy – say, two years old. But in reality, everything is a mish-mash of ages from 1-15 years and the old stuff isn’t old because it’s classic and brilliant, it’s old because I’m hopeless.”
Hopeless? I can relate. But think how boring it would be if we were all investment dressers. What would we do with all those lost shopping hours?
*Note: this is different to your Fashion Age, which is calculated on how old your clothes make you look. That requires a column all of its own. Watch this space.