Cleaning Out the Closets
As each decade has clicked into the next, one thing in my life has remained constant: lack of adequate closet space.
Not long ago I was invited to a 65th birthday party. It was a blast, but I’ve since been paying the price. No, not the price you think – though the wine was excellent and flowed freely.
The theme of the party was the ’60s, and guests were expected to dress to theme. Women showed up in glitzy sequined miniskirts and spike heels, emerald-green leather hot pants with platform boots, and prim Jackie Kennedy-style pillbox hats. Men were in pants with wide front pleats, belt buckles off to the side, pointy-toed shoes and ruffled shirts with ersatz gold cuff links the size of Oreo cookies.
Flowing hair, on bald heads or worked into grey bobs, was everywhere, not to mention a fabulous pink chignon. Cat’s-eye glasses were as ubiquitous as peace symbol medallions.
From the get-go, blistering dance music had some guests making moves that could easily have resulted in a trip to the emergency room. Favourites from the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, John Denver and Elvis kept the beat pounding and the bodies gyrating.
Today, my back demands that I move gingerly, or it will make me pay. Funny, I don’t remember having any problem dancing all night in high heels when I was in my 20s.
But perhaps it’s time to come to grips with the fact that I’m no longer in my 20s, or 40s, or even 60s for that matter.
As each decade has clicked into the next, one thing in my life has remained constant: lack of adequate closet space. Even making the transition from career clothing to more casual retirement duds didn’t seem to free up closet space.
Now, rather than weekday and weekend clothing, my closets overflow with gardening clothes, lunch-with-the-girls clothes and clothes for dinner and the theatre, the golf course, the fundraiser, the travelling-afar attire. Then there are the memory clothes, the hanging-around-the-house duds, hiking and biking wear and trips-to-the-city outfits.
And of course, there are clothes that don’t fit at the moment but will, I’m sure, be fine after I lose a few pounds, clothes I’m plain tired of but haven’t yet recycled, and clothes I’m amazed I bought in the first place.
If the item hadn’t been worn in the past two years, it hit one of three piles: recycle (on its way to a consignment store), reuse (heading for Bolton’s Chez Thrift) or the refuse pile.
My friend Barb Goodhand, for many years the owner and operator of the Clothes to Perfect consignment store in Bolton, has been recycling her wardrobe, consistently and consciously, her entire adult life. She always looks chic, classy and up to date.
“We hear a lot about dressing ‘age appropriately’ these days,” says Barb. “Knowing your own style and sticking to it is vital at every stage of your life, but it’s even more important as we hit our 60s and 70s.”
Dressing our age means feeling comfortable in our own skin and working with what we’ve got. By the time we reach our retirement years, we have usually threaded our way through the various uniforms of childhood, the rebellious stage, stiff career conformity, and perhaps we’ve even made an environmental statement by choosing 100 per cent wool fabrics or hemp.
But as we head into our final decades, it’s time to relax our style choices a bit. “I think we have been guilty of trying to please others with our fashion choices,” says Barb. “If we now look for the winning combo of both chic and comfort, pieces that complement our lifestyle, our age and our body, we’re heading in the right direction. If we please ourselves with colour and texture, always strive for comfort, and perhaps add a blowout accessory or an exquisite blazer, we’ll hit the mark.”
With this in mind the two of us spent a rainy afternoon tackling my closets. Barb was brutal and stuck strictly to the two-year rule. If the item hadn’t been worn in the past two years, it hit one of three piles: recycle (on its way to a consignment store), reuse (heading for Bolton’s Chez Thrift) or the refuse pile. One of these three fates also applied if the colour no longer flattered, if the item didn’t fit properly, or if it was simply tired looking. Three hours later, we were ready for a glass of wine and a gloating look through organized closets with actual space between hangers.
Barb also plays a role in ensuring that her 92-year-old mother, who lives in an assisted-living retirement residence, dresses for comfort, in clothes that are easy for her to manage.
“Adaptive clothing, designed for people with handicaps or physical limitations, can be stylish and comfortable, and most are easy to launder,” says Barb. “Hook-and-loop closures, snaps or Velcro are so much easier for Mum to handle than traditional buttons and shoelaces. We are finding ways to compensate for her limited dexterity, while keeping her looking beautiful and comfortable.”
Though we may have left behind the pink chignon and the spike heels, with a little help from our friends, we can be at ease with our own comfortable, vital and timeless style as we venture into the future.