Lights, Binbags, Action!

Watching Strictly Come Dancing last weekend I started to worry, and not for the first time, about all the hundreds of costumes the show generates, the space they must surely require and where on earth they put them.
I would like to think somewhere in telly land there is a giant warehouse with all the dresses from past seasons, carefully logged into the world’s largest sequin and crystal back catalogue out of which the Victoria and Albert museum will eventually produce an exhibition (fyi, yes I would pay to see it and I know at least one bloke who would too, so there).

Most of the dresses on SCD are of course garish and unflattering. My stylist self who knows better (repeat after me: black is ageing and minimiser bras maximise) gives in to my meringue-loving, asymmetric hem obsessed, anything-with-glitter ten year old self all too easily on Saturday evenings at home in front of Strictly Come Dancing. As new mums to baby boys born within a fortnight of each other, friend Erica and I enjoyed many a Saturday glued to Strictly. We scoffed pizza and wine in between breast feeds and nappy changes while our little cherubs were propped up on cushions on the floor transfixed by the antics on-screen. Ahh the joys of motherhood! Who knew primary colours and highly flammable fabrics could be such an effective childcare provider?
It doesn’t end there; since discovering the celebrity ‘dancers’ have little or no say in what creations they are sewn into each week, there is a whole new amusement factor. (Excuse me a mo while I have a little aside to old school pal Sophie who last week told me she wanted to be famous simply so she could compete on SCD – bet you don’t want to do it now do you?)

Storage is not cheap and so I hope the BBC has thought this through. Last week I moved house for the second time in nine months. There has been a lot of packing and unpacking. This time I was determined to de-clutter, to scale down and embrace a life of minimalism. There is just me and one very small not-even-female person after all so it seemed ridiculous that so much stuff with our names on was being carted around south London. When it came to moving day and I expressed my embarrassment at the number of shoe boxes unloaded from the transit, I was assured there couldn’t be that much as it all fitted into a storage space only 30 square foot. What they didn’t know was that the other half of our stuff – the summer shoes and clothes – had already been stashed away at my mum’s the week before. My mum doesn’t know either.

Shoes Glorious Shoes - I can't deny it, I keep all mine in their original boxes

Shoes Glorious Shoes – I can’t deny it, I keep all mine in their original boxes


Now I don’t consider myself a hoarder although I admit to having a lot of clothes and shoes. At the start of each new season I do an edit of what I have and get rid of stuff that feels a bit old, is no longer a good fit or those pieces I simply don’t like anymore. The same rules could be applied to identifying a relationship past its sell by date if you think about it. Taking the bull by the horns is easier said than done, I know. At least with relationships it’s probably not on the ‘To Do’ list twice a year although both tasks create space in the wardrobe. In the long run though, it’s a relief and before you know it you are up and out searching for something new to fill the gap.
Keeping cupboards, drawers and rails crammed with clothes, many of which will never see the light of day is counter-productive on every level. You’ve heard the saying about wearing 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time, right? Well think of the waste of space, time and money. How much better to have a more streamlined closet made up of things that complement each other and which you know look good, fit well and feel comfortable giving you confidence you might otherwise lack.

Think of spring cleaning your wardrobe as fashion feng shui. One door closes, another one opens, out with the old, in with the new and any other cliché that fits. The smugness is immense – after I had my colours done and was told that black was not my colour, I set about stripping my wardrobe of (almost) everything in black. Cue massive eBay session where I earned back a not insignificant amount. Another binbag went to the charity shop; remember they don’t take any old crap these days, it’s got to be in good nick but hey, they don’t turn their noses up at a bootcut jean from Asda or a Per Una cardi. Well, they might later on but you just dump the carrier bag at the counter and run don’t you, so you won’t ever know what they say about your cast-offs. Having said that, is it just me or does anyone else feel slightly put out if their recently donated items don’t make into the shop window?

I love a good wardrobe detox and never more so than when it’s someone else’s stuff I’m clearing. It’s a different kettle of fish because much of the need to cling to hoarded items is emotional. We attach a great deal to what’s in our closet and there are many people I’ve spoken to, both men and women, who are reluctant to get rid of things clearly unsuitable simply because it feels too painful to do so. This is completely normal. Clinical hoarding – where sufferers store up stuff to the detriment of their health and safety – not so much. ‘Pathological collecting’ to give it its correct medical label, is a serious medical condition and unlikely to be as clear cut as binning a smiley face t-shirt with ‘1989’ printed across the chest kept because that was a really nice hot summer with lots of parties.
I have learned to be ruthless because it is part of my job but I can find it hard to let go sometimes. I have a dress that has never really been the right shape and is uncomfortable to wear and yet because my dad said he loved the colour, it stays. Conversely, the outfit I was wearing the day he died went straight in the bin the very same day.

We all do it, we keep things for when we’re thinner, or bigger, or pregnant again, or (and this is my favourite, sited mostly by men) “for decorating.” Let’s be realistic though people. If you’re retired then you probably won’t need maternity jeans again and one stained t-shirt and one pair of holey jeans is quite enough for this big paint job you insist you will one day embark upon (you know who you are).
There is no excuse. With several shops offering incentives for bagfuls of unwanted garments for recycling and eBay at your fingertips, you could even be quids in. If however you are reading this piece through a small hole you have made by burrowing your way through piles of old newspapers and egg boxes so you can watch Strictly Come Dancing on your laptop, then I’m afraid I can’t help you.

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About aftercarrie

I help people refine their wardrobe to suit their shape, colouring and lifestyle. I am a style consultant, personal shopper and colour analyst working in London. Be the loveliest possible you. My first book SHOPPED was released on 5th July 2016 (September Publishing). www.emilystott.net
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