An Open Letter to My Closet
What is the secret to curating a perfect wardrobe?
I used to think there was one.
Perhaps, like me, you've been told that by following steps x, y, and z, you'll discover how to create the perfect closet -- one you'll always be happy with, for years to come.
But do you feel satisfied? After you bought that perfect gap-filling piece, was that enough? Could you stop there? Or did a new gap magically appear, not long after?
Perhaps you're frustrated that your selection of garments just doesn't measure up -- and consequently, you don't measure up. I've often succumbed to this mindset, my self-perception stuck within the simmering gloom of social media and inspiration boards. Like anyone else, I internally complain about my wardrobe, about my failure to make it into something flawless, about how closet curation seems to be so much easier for everyone else.
And I've decided that enough is enough. Enough energy wasted, enough disappointment felt. Fashion should be fun, functional, and freeing. Not frustrating.
So this is a much-needed love letter to my closet. And to your closet. I hope you'll read it along with me.
They say that if life can't be perfect, at least our clothes can be. And I believed that.
On the good days, you made me feel a little better about myself. When you helped me put together that perfect outfit, I felt more confident, more gracious, more content, more successful. I twirled and laughed, I sashayed and stood up straight. But on the harder days, I've put a lot of pressure on you. I've stared bleakly at your hangers, heavy and sagging with all the garments I've added, and wondered why you had nothing to show for it. I've believed that you were the answer to a lot of things; for all the areas in which I sorely lack, I looked to you to cover them up. I believed that if I couldn't be beautiful enough or intelligent enough or liked enough, perhaps I could at least be dressed well enough.
You've been a quick pick-me-up, a comfort, a source of shame, a burden, a blessing. I've filled you with things that I thought had value, but gave little thought to the lives of those who made them. For as many days as you've helped me feel well-dressed, there were as many that I felt like I didn't measure up. I've made you into a thing that you were never meant to be.
I've looked to you to fill a void in myself that I never wanted to examine.
I've used you as a mirror; I've peered into you, straining to see a flicker of my own worth and beauty within your rows of fabric. All you wanted to do was dress me so that I could focus on pouring myself into the world, with all my inherent energy and passion. But I made you my focus, allowing you to be my source of empowerment. You never wanted to be that for me, because you know it's just an illusion. I've placed too many of my hopes on you, I've drained my bank account for you, I've been hopelessly bored with you.
I've told you, "You could be the perfect closet if I just added __." And "If I could just afford __, then I'd have enough clothes; I'd be content with you." But nothing was never enough. With each purchase meant to fill a gap, I thought of a new area in which you lacked. And with each purchase of a garment someone else had, I saw another person with a garment better than the last. The cycle never ends, never will. And somehow I expect you to keep up.
But somehow, all the while, you dress me.
Despite all the complaints I throw at you, all the ways I tell you that you're not as good as ___'s closet, I still leave my bedroom warm, covered, and perhaps even lovely -- although I don't always have the eyes to see it.
I don't want to make you something you're not. I want you to be exactly what you should be: that thing that allows me to live my life to the fullest. The thing that allows me to express my personality, the thing that keeps me comfortable in both sub-zero temperatures and sweltering summers, the thing that helps me feel brave in a job interview, the thing that protects my feet on long walks, the thing that is fondly passed on to siblings and children and grandchildren, the thing that provides income for seamstresses. But not the thing that makes me feel ashamed because of all the items I didn't fill you with.
Now I know that the perfect closet isn't a destination; it's an ongoing journey, one that requires me to be gracious with myself and always content, because the idea that I will ever 'arrive' is an illusion.
Even if you were destroyed in a fire, even if I no longer had the finances to extravagantly fill you the way I once did, you would still be enough. Because the one thing I know is that I will always have clothes to wear. Whether you're comprised of four garments in a backpack, or fifty in a grand wooden wardrobe -- whether it's clothing someone donated, or something I bought secondhand, or an expensive piece I treated myself to -- I will be dressed. I don't want to take that for granted any more, because there are countless people who can't afford to.
Because life is more than clothes.
Because I hope people know me, and remember me, for more than my clothes.
Because I am dressed, so I can go focus on what matters.
Because the secret to curating a perfect wardrobe is realizing that I already have one.