Your Closet Has to Grow Up

Practical Magic For Healing Your Closet

I generally don’t walk into my client’s home with a plan in mind. I often get a strong vibe from a first meeting—a sense of who they are and how they present themselves, the changes they’re putting off and the ones they’re embracing—but it’s not until I see their closet that I know what I am there to do. Closets are to me what a camera lens is to a photographer: I look at them and see the future artistry patiently waiting inside. It gets me SO excited.

So it was on the day a client showed me a closet that hadn’t changed in ten years. Why would it need to? After all, she still had the body that could fit into those clothes… and since she could wear them, it was obvious to her that she should still wear them for as long as they lasted.

I took one look at that perfect closet full of still-fitting clothes and told her: “Your closet has to grow up.”

The clothes were beautiful and they fit perfectly. But they were the wardrobe of someone in her rear-view mirror: the woman she’d been ten years ago.

Growing Up Doesn’t Mean Giving Up

Our bodies change with time. In a culture that prizes youth, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that your best self was whoever you used to be, and that your unending challenge is to hold onto that image of yourself for as long as possible. Entire industries have grown up around sustaining this belief.

And it’s so entirely untrue.

You are older—yes—but you are also NEWER than any version of yourself you’ve ever been. Your dreams are new. Your wisdom is new. If you want people to see that newness, you have to let your look evolve… just as you have.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to tell a client that a piece is too young for them now. There’s no shame in it: they’ve simply outgrown it, spiritually if not physically. So our closet has to change to reflect the change that’s in us.

I have a colleague who loved to wear clubbing clothes back in her party days—even after she became a new mom, she wasn’t willing to part with them! She really loved those clothes. They were still beautiful to her, hanging in her closet, reminding her of fun times. Some could argue that they could also be making her feel bad about herself, that she can’t fit into them anymore, that she isn’t in her twenties anymore. That they are sitting there holding old memories and not truly serving her or anyone else for that matter. She is still young… but she is no longer the person who can pull off wearing her club outfits every weekend! Her lifestyle has changed and her along with it. This is a woman whose closet I suggested definitely needs to grow up and those fabulous “clubbing clothes” we talked about? Well they need to be passed onto a fabulous youngerwoman who will enjoy them NOW.

This is not about “acting your age” (never!) or accepting your inevitable fate as a mannequin for dull and frumpy garments. Age is NOT the be-all and end-all of who you are. I know incredibly stylish women who, deep into their golden years, have developed a rare taste for bursts of color and flights of irreverent fancy. My dear grandmother—“Gaag” as we knew and loved her—was living proof that you can keep reinventing your style throughout life. Just make sure it’s true to who you are today.

When I say “your closet has to grow up,” I mean just that: it needs to GROW up to reflect everything you are today. Think of all that can mean! You may take life’s problems less seriously than you used to. You may have found new purpose, new influences, and new inspirations. Perhaps you’re a mother now… or even a grandmother. It’s very possible that at a time in your life where everyone around you seems deeply rooted and settled into their lives, you’ve just started a wondrously mad new adventure.

Letting Go Doesn’t Mean Starting Over

Once upon a time, I thought I knew the path I was destined to walk and could see it clear to the end. My entire style and wardrobe were a reflection of that person. As my life has taken new directions—some of them very unexpected—I had to let old things pass on to other people so that new discoveries could come into my life. Your closet is a reflection of your life as a work in progress.

Letting go doesn’t mean starting over. You don’t have to haul your entire wardrobe down to Goodwill! But look at your clothes with open eyes. When I do a closet edit, more often than not I’m not trying to discard clothes so much as help my client see each piece with new eyes. Does this still reflect who they are? Does it still offer new possibilities for their style? Is it still part of the story you’re telling… or does it belong in your nostalgia scrapbook?

Some pieces are timeless and I may tell you never to get rid of them. But a lot of pieces—particularly the trendier ones—might be ready for a trip to someone else’s closet.

Is your closet aligned with YOU and your life now?