I have felt a summer closet rummage coming on ever since the weather changed from off-and-on spring to undeniably summer. For me a closet rummage happens when I begin to think that there may be untapped potential in my wardrobe. So I drag a bunch of stuff out of my closet, lay it out on the spare room bed, and see if there are new ways to wear some of my favourite pieces.
Here’s how it works.
I start by hauling out one piece in particular. Or, sometimes a category. This time I worked with casual pants. I pull on whatever it is I’m hoping to restyle with whatever top or bottom, jacket or sweater etc. that I prefer to wear with it. Then I work my way through a variety of new and different combinations. Pairing the piece in question with different tops, or bottoms, and shoes and accessories. I don’t have a plan, usually one piece leads to another, to another. Sometimes I end up way off track from where I had originally envisioned. Sometimes I even move right away from the original piece. But that’s okay. That’s the serendipity of a good closet rummage. Sometimes I even end up back where I started. And that’s okay too.
So yesterday I had it in my head that I needed some new ways to wear my casual summer pants. I have two pairs of casual pants that are not jeans. A pair of black cotton, drawstring cargo pants I bought in 2014. And my cream cargo pants from Aritzia, bought last year. As you can see below, I often have a formula that works best for me. In this case, casual pants rolled up, Birkenstock-style sandals, loose tee shirt, blazer. If my pants are contrasting, I usually prefer colour blocking on top. White tee under white jacket, black tee under black jacket.
Yesterday, I tried the “column of colour” idea with my black Vince tee shirt and black cotton pants. Then I pulled on my white Theory jacket. Yech. I didn’t like this look at all. The proportions were okay, but I didn’t like the black tee under the white jacket. Not at all. Too stark a contrast, I thought.
The white tee under the jacket is much better. Plus the looser Everlane tee shirt is better with the really casual pants than the slightly more fitted black Vince tee shirt.
Next I tried the black tee and black pants with my red Uniqlo chore jacket. No, no, no. That one was so bad it didn’t even make it out to the deck for a photo. Ha. I do, however, like the loose white Everlane tee under the chore jacket with the black pants. This outfit would look good with my white sneakers too.
And now that I’m wearing these black pants for the first time this season, I see how they are getting a teensy bit snug. And how thin they’ve become. I may consign them for wearing around the campsite on our next trailer trip. But then I will be in need of a pair of black casual pants. Ah well, I’ve been thinking I need a new pair of black pants anyhow. See? A good closet rummage can help you assess how to wear what you already own. But it can also highlight gaps in your closet. Note to self: add black casual pants to my shopping list.
While I was rummaging, I spied these old jeans, below, from Elie Tahari. They may be really old, but they still fit and I still like them even if they are basically a skinny pant. This is what I mean about one piece leading to another. So I tried the black tee and jacket with the pink jeans. Oh dear, no, no, no. This combination is too 2015 for my liking. This is how I wore the pink pants back then. Except with a more dainty, strappy, flat sandal. Everything in this outfit, with the exception of the sandals, is too fitted for the way I want to look now. The tee, the blazer, and the pants… all slim fitting. And looking a bit dated, in my opinion.
So off came the black tee and jacket and on went this puffy cotton blouse from Everlane. No. Just no. This experiment simply elucidated why I have NOT been wearing this blouse. I hate the neckline on me. End of. And while the proportions of the COS striped shirt looked okay with the pants, the shirt and sandals look way better with my white Frame jeans. Which means that even if I planned to wear the stripes with the pink pants, I’d probably switch to the white jeans before I even got to the door.
You can clearly see below, how the outfit on the right is a better look for me now. I don’t mind that the tee and jacket are slim fitting if I’m wearing the loose cargo pants. But I’m not ready to ditch the pink pants just yet. I’m thinking that I may wear them in the early fall. With my old black Max Mara jacket, which is more oversized that the collarless Helmut Lang one, and my black Stuart Weitzman loafers. We’ll just have to see.
So what have I achieved with my summer closet rummage? Not what I had hoped. Instead of expanding my outfit options I have limited them. Ha.
However, I will no longer gaze gulitily at that black puffy cotton blouse. Into the storage drawer it goes until next year when I will no doubt consign it or donate it. Similarly the pink pants. I’ll pack them away until I can think how to wear them so that they don’t look so dated. No need for them to hog my limited closet space if I’m not going to wear them until September.
And as far as wearable outfit combinations, I have simply reinforced how much I like the way I usually wear my black pants and my cream cargo pants. Which is fine. Even if it does put me back at the drawing board. Wearing the exact same outfits that I started with.
I have learned a couple of other things. I would like to have a looser black tee shirt. Perhaps the black version of my white pocket tee from Everlane.
And I have ascertained that I need new black casual pants.
On a post last year about my then new Aritzia cream cargo pants, Wendy from York said that I had done well not to have ordered them in every colour. At the time, I felt virtuous that I’d limited myself to the cream. Ha. Except now I’ve just ordered them in black. Just this second.
Of course, in my defense, we have established that I do need black pants. I knew I needed black pants, but I thought I’d make do with the old cotton ones. I’ve changed my mind. How often do you know exactly how a pair of pants will fit you? And how often does it happen that the brand offers exactly the same style pant a year later? And how often is said style in the size and colour you want… and on sale? Not often enough, I say. So I clicked and ordered them.
I do wish that more brands offered the same good basic pieces year after year. But so many brands are chasing the cult of the new that they fear offering pieces in exactly the same style as the year before will lose them sales. And maybe it would do. But it might also gain them devoted clients who come back year after year. I know that’s why I continue to buy Vince tee shirts and sweaters. And even Everlane tee shirts. Their box-cut tees are perfect for me. And I can safely order one in black knowing that it will suit.
So my summer closet rummage was a bust in some ways. At least with regards to finding new ways to wear my two pairs of casual pants. I merely reinforced my current outfit choices. And that’s okay. Affirmation is good. Even with one’s outfit choices.
Besides a previously completed closet rummage could save precious time on a day when you think you know what you’re going to wear, loggygag when getting ready because you’ve been listening to a really good audio book, and are now suddenly late. And when you throw on your chosen outfit, all freshly ironed and ready to go… you hate it.
Ha. Been there. Recently, in fact.
Last week to be honest.
And if I’d done a closet rummage before then. And tried the outfit that I’d decided to wear, I’d have known it looked dreadful. Or at least not as good as I’d hoped. But because it was all ironed and ready to go and I had no time, I still wore it and felt off all afternoon. Wishing I had a sign on my back that said, “My other outfit looks way better.”
So let that be a lesson to us all. Closet rummages are not just playing dress-up with one’s clothes. They are a vital part of a well-organized, and well-dressed person’s efficient use of time. Anyway… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Are you a closet rummager, my friends?
P.S. Here are some links to pieces I tried today. Where the exact piece is unavailable, I have tried to find similar pieces: Vince tee shirt. Everlane box-cut, pocket tee. Theory blazer. Birkenstock sandals (mine are look-alikes, these are the real thing.) Aritzia “modern cargo” pants. The Uniqlo chore jacket is not available. Here and here are similar ones.
P.P.S. The above links are affiliate links, except for the link to the Aritzia pants. If you make a purchase after clicking an affiliate link I will earn a commission which helps to pay for the blog.