Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Clothing Organization part 3: Detachment and Appreciation

The first part of organization is ineviably, paring down. And that brings with it the sometimes heartbreaking exercise of detaching yourself from things you once loved. (Yes, loved in the lower, materialistic sense, but nevertheless, loved.)

So, in my effort to cut down my wardrobe, I gathered all my clothes from off-season storage and the cranies of the laundry basket and heaped them on the bed. I did the same with all my accessories: purses, scarves, shoes, and jewelry. Then the winnowing began: ruthlessly purging the unfit: clothing that was stained or getting straggly, clothes that really didn't fit me except in my fantasies, clothes that I never got around to wearing, and so on. Then I further winnowed out the remaining spring and summer clothes (farewell blue and green, till summer when we meet again!) as well any clothes that won't fit my third-trimester-pregnant figure. Also excised were maternity clothes from the last baby that were just too worn or out of style.

I continue to ponder how some expensive garments really do last longer than cheaper ones: a red sweater turtleneck I begged my husband to buy me despite the price is still going strong and unstained, while an nearly-identical blue one of a cheaper brand has become dingy beyond repair, and I sadly retired it. I know that not everything expensive is well-made: but figuring out further criteria is difficult...

I had to make a special post of this particular shirt, which I sewed in high school. When I was about seventeen, I walked into a fabric store, beheld a fountain of patterned green-and-plum flowers on a background of palest pink, and fell instantly in love. I approached, I dug out the price tag -- and flinched. But before I left the store, I gathered my courage, put down the earnings from my waitressing job, and bought three yards of the floral challis, while cringing at the price. That evening I sewed it into a boat-necked, loose-fitting shirt. I still remember how easily the fabric yielded to being cut, folded, and sewn. And it was beautiful. I loved it. I kept it in the back of the closet, and pulled it out for special occasions and fun occasions. I wore it to dances with patent leather heels and a black satin poufy skirt. I wore it to church with a forest green sweater and plum skirt (ah, the colors of the 90's). I wore it with maternity jumpers, matched it with different shades of green and burgundy and purple, and it always worked with black. I just wore it yesterday with black maternity pants and mj shoes.

And the shirt still looks fresh and intriguing and not discernibly dated, even after nearly a decade of use. How often can you say that, especially about a homemade sewing project?

So in a burst of anthropomorphic sentiment, I want to honor this shirt with its own picture and congratulate it on surviving yet another round of wardrobe reductions. And despite the fact that I'm nearly twenty years and six pregnancies older, I rejoice that it still fits me. :)

This reminds me again how Catholic life and love is such a delicate balance between appreciation and detachment. The Catholic soul feels free to delight in the sheerly material: in the color and texture and sheen and grace of fine fabrics and leathers and jewelry.

And yet we understand that even the dearest treasures need to be set gently but firmly in their place: when they come between us and God, or our husbands and children, or our friends and family, or the needs of our poorer neighbors, or even if they are simply interfering with our ability to handle our duties more efficiently -- we need to decide in favor of the higher good.

But as usual, the apparent conflict can become a paradox: complete detachment can peacefully co-exist with complete appreciation.

As an example, this morning my pastor spoke warmly of the beauty of fine, classic clothing -- this from a man who never wears more than a simple black cassock! But even though he himself had detached himself from this particular kind of earthly concern, he could understand how it occupies so much of the mental energy of his female parishioners -- and could applaud the results.

So the struggle goes on -- but sometimes it's worth remembering as you fight to give away that special blue turtleneck that is, nevertheless, stained in a conspicuous place -- that the goal isn't puritan spartanism, but freedom to love the beautiful more fully.

More later...


Anonymous said...

I am SO enjoying this series, Regina. Thank you for your insight as well as your practical tips for simplifying my wardrobe!!

Oh, and congratulations on your pregnancy!

Lara said...

Thank you! I know God led me to your post because I have been struggling with whether to purge my wardrobe or not for months. The clothing chaos of our whole family is getting in the way of more important things in our life. You've definitely inspired me to start the process! God bless you!

Kristyn said...

Aren't you glad you didn't use that lovely fabric for something that was so helplessly faddish that you could only wear it every thirty years or so!? There's something to be said for classic styles that are always "in" (or at least reasonably in). There is always a balance in life if we're willing to find it. My three fashion laws from which I do not depart are:
1. Be feminine
2. Be modest
3. Be yourself
Have a great day!
PS I am really enjoying this series, too!

Catholic Wife and Mother said...

Thanks for this post!

I'm going through a happy-to-be-purging phase right now, but I can identify with the "appreciation" side of "detachment and appreciation."


Mary Poppins NOT said...

Once you give this system the thumbs up, I'll take the plunge. I am a thrift store junkie, and thus end up with too many clothes. I break out in a cold sweat when I have to make too many decisions at once, so a little structure to help would be great.

Are you using the same scheme for your children's clothes, as well? I am being eaten alive by laundry, and realize if I got rid of many of the clothes, life would be easier.

This is a great idea for a series of posts!

Kitty said...

i was just going to ask the same question that MPN did - how do you deal with children's clothes?

This series is great, by the way! I am taking notes....

regina doman said...

I'm still trying to figure out what to do with kid clothes. I remember one mom had a system of 5 outfits per child that seemed to work -- when I do organize their clothes, I promise to report!