As a teenager, I wanted to be more fashionable than I had the courage to be in real life. I would hoard dresses and coats and pants and suspenders and high-lace Nikes thinking to myself, what a find! One day, I will force myself to wear them. And then they collected dust in my closet.
I would glance at them sadly, feeling guilty every time I brushed past them looking for something to wear. I didn’t have the guts to wear them out in public, and so they gradually got pushed to the back of the closet. I can’t say what was stopping me. In high school, the edgiest I got was pulling up fishnets to my navel and pairing it with ripped jeans (authentic tears, not pre-ripped) and a shirt exposing my midriff. But I hadn’t quite developed the self-esteem to wear something outside of that rigid comfort zone. I hated wearing dresses, thinking they dwarfed me into looking like a little kid because of my small frame. So my collection grew larger, and in turn, so did my sense of guilt for what I couldn’t bring myself to wear.
Often times, when it comes to clothes, we accumulate a wardrobe based on the person that we want to be, not the person that we are at the present moment. Some of us hold on to clothes that we hope we’ll lose the weight and fit into again. Some of us buy clothes that don’t suit our body type at all, but that we use as motivation to achieve the body we want. In my case, I bought clothes that I thought I could grow into. In my Napoleon complex, I was waiting for a level of puberty that never quite arrived. I clung to clingy dresses and pencil skirts, thinking that I would eventually possess the curves to pull them off. That never happened, but I kept the clothes anyway.
My advice to you is this. If you’re keeping a plethora of your clothes out of a sense of self-inflicted heavy conscience, or as a means to force yourself to achieve something (working out, losing baby weight, waiting for puberty that’s not coming, etc.), you have two options. The first is to get rid of the clothes. Every time you see them in your closet, you’re just making yourself feel inadequate. Cleanse your conscience, and realize that beating yourself up for your imagined shortcomings isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds. Keep things that make you happy when you see them, that make you happy when you wear them. The second option – wear them anyway. Look past the insecurities that might be holding you back, and say fuck it. Wear them out. In public. Out to dinner, to a party. Where people can see them. You’ve held onto them for some reason, and they deserve to be worn. Even if it’s only once. And then you can decide from there if you want to keep them.
I’m a lot better now, ten years later. I have a hell of a lot more courage than I did as a scrawny sixteen year-old waiting for a fairy godmother to grant her big hips so I could look like Mad Men‘s Joan Holloway. But even still – as I was going through my wardrobe and taking inventory in order to downsize, I realized that I had more dresses than any other type of clothing. And dresses are the things I wear the least, which is silly. So this is what I did. I decided that all the items that I hadn’t worn enough were going to be worn, and they were going to get the tribute they deserved. As I’ve always loved photos and fashion, I gave them a photo shoot. That way, I could release them without guilt, and do so in a way that would preserve them and memorialize them in accordance to what I enjoy doing. I have since learned that I am never going to get rid of those blue shoes.
Here is my tribute to my wardrobe.
Photo and Perfect Composition Credits: Rebecca Tillman-Young