Fellowship of the closet—casting off the power of my work wardrobe
Precious no more
It’s officially spring when I empty my closet and pile everything on the bed. Underwear, t-shirts, shoes and scarves avalanche onto the floor.
One by one, I consider every piece. Does this stretched-out sports bra spark joy?
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Bwahahaha!! Be serious. Who’s got time to thank every stained t-shirt for its service? Marie Kondo, I’m not.
I perform the biannual ritual in my underwear—easier to try things on as I go. This is no dressing room movie montage, with Roy Orbison music in the background. It’s more like a crossover episode of Hoarders and What Not to Wear.
Most of my sweats and leggings are in the wash, but I’ll keep every pair. What used to be work-out wear turned to work-in wear during the pandemic. But since I’ve primarily worked from home since 2016, I think of these stretchy delights mostly as my cheese-eating pants.
I’ll let my daughter paw through all the too-smalls and what-was-I-thinking sweaters and blouses (a few with their T.J. Maxx price tags still attached, I’m ashamed to admit). Anything wool or flannel will summer in the cedar chest. The rest, I’ll cart off to Goodwill.
After putting t-shirts, jeans, hoodies, and flowy cotton dresses back in the closet, what’s left on the bed are the few remaining sartorial traces of my former career—two silky blouses, one tailored suit jacket, a classic pencil skirt, and a pair of red-suede heels.
My strategy wasn’t “dress for the job you want.” If that had been the case, I would have been a pioneer in bringing loungewear to the office.
I dressed for the job I was supposed to want. I chose my clothes not for comfort but for battle—pointy-toed shoes and (in the 80s) shoulder pads like armor. I mostly shopped to fit a mold—think Ann Taylor and Calvin Klein suiting—not for comfort or creativity.
So I wonder, despite being out of the fitting room that is corporate life for over four years, why do I still hang on to clothes that are more imitational than authentically me?
I hook myself into an underwire bra (underwire!), slip a sleeveless silk tunic over my shoulders, and pull on the pencil skirt, which I can no longer zip. And there she is in the mirror—the previous version of me- all straight lines, goals, and accomplishments.
I jam my feet into the high heels and sense the black gaberdine suit jacket calling to me like it’s the ring of power.
“My precious,” I whisper, reaching for a sleeve.
The wind shifts just as I’m about to get captured by the familiar but uncomfortable past. Spring air, fresh over the meadow below my little farmhouse, billows the curtains and wakes me from the trance.
Wearing smart outfits used to boost my confidence in the office. With the right look, I could excel in an environment that never truly suited me. I knew who I was supposed to be and what I should do on any given day.
I can’t wriggle out of the ill-fitting clothing fast enough. I toss the garments on top of the giveaway pile, like the ring into the fires of Mount Doom. I no longer need their protection or symbolism.
I open the window wider to the new season in bloom, then slip on my cheese-eating pants and return to my writing. I don’t need to look in the mirror as I pass by. I know who I am and what I am meant to do.
Prompts to reinspire your next chapter
Oh, you know where this one’s going … Drop a few lines of writing in the comments, and I’ll share mine too. There is only one rule. Be kind to yourself as you write and to others as they trust us with their words.
Reflection: Select an item from your closet. Hold it in your hand or try it on. Describe it great detail. What memories does it conjure?
Inspiration: Does this item spark joy? Why or why not? What would it mean to keep it? What would it mean to let it go?
Work hard. Be Brave. Believe.
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