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A Tailor’s Thoughts on Clothing and Wardrobe

Here are some of my thoughts on wardrobe management and maintenance. If you have multiple pieces of clothing in your closet that you have *never* worn, take note. If your closet is full of items that just don’t look right on you, have heart. If you freak out every time you have to get dressed for a special event because, in your overflowing closet you realize you have “nothing to wear,” read on to learn how to create and maintain a versatile and flattering wardrobe to make daily dressing a joy.

Step 1: Assess your current wardrobe. What do you enjoy wearing and what just sits? If you don’t like a particular piece because of the way it drapes or fits your body, a skilled tailor may be able to help you. In my experience, most people make use of only 20% of their wardrobe while the rest just takes up space. People seem to like one thing about each of the items they don’t wear (its fabric, pocket location, cut of the neckline, etc.) but they don’t wear it because it doesn’t fit them correctly. Decide whether the clothes you don’t wear are clothes you could love if they fit you correctly, or if there is a more unalterable reason you don’t like them (e.g. if you don’t like the fabric, you won’t love it no matter how well it fits!). Then, get rid of the clothes you don’t LOVE. If you’re going to put clothes on your body, you should love them. This is an important rule to remember when buying clothes (or anything else): If you don’t *love* it, don’t buy it. If you ever find yourself in a store thinking, “It’s red and I wanted blue, but it *is* a really good deal…” then chances are you don’t love the piece you’re considering. Ask yourself whether you love it and listen to the answer. Donate or dispose of anything that fails the test.

Step 2: Call your Tailor. After you have purged your wardrobe, make an appointment with your tailor to have your torn clothing mended and your ill-fitting clothing altered. Remember that, when you go to a tailor, you are paying not just for his time spent at the sewing machine but also for the years of experience that have given him the eyes to see how to make a given piece of clothing flatter your given body. Good tailors know how to make you look great!

Of course, having your clothes tailored is not cheap. It is an investment, and that is why the “purge” step of this process needs to be honest. Do not spend money altering clothes that you never liked anyway. It is also not worth getting poor-quality clothing altered. It costs just the same (or even more, if the original construction was shoddy) and the items will wear out before you can get your use from them. Here is a secret: I buy 95% of my clothing used. I can’t afford to buy a $2000 suit at Sak’s, but I can manage a couple hundred to buy it in gently-worn condition on eBay. I buy my shirts at local thrift stores for about $3 apiece and invest $15-$30 in alterations in each of them. The end result is a shirt that costs about the same as if I had purchased it new but that fits me perfectly. A man in an expensive and ill-fitting suit looks like a clown. A man in a cheap, well-fitted suit, looks pretty darn good. A man in a tailored, high-quality suit purchased used, looks just the same as the man who bought that suit new, except that he has $1000 more in his pocket.

Remember that a small wardrobe of items that you love and which coordinate with one another will serve better than closets full of clothes you can’t wear.

Step 3: Keep your clothes ready to wear. By regularly rotating through my clothing, I’m able to discover loose buttons and stains before I need an item for a big event. If your body size is prone to fluctuation, you will also avoid the problem of needing a certain pair of pants, only to learn that they no longer fit you. If you do need the seat of your pants let out, it will be cheaper if you do not have to hire rush-service.

Step 4: Practice wearing your “nice” clothes – and have fun! It was only four months ago that I gave myself permission to wear my “nice” clothes on a daily basis. Now I start my days by choosing an article of clothing that I haven’t worn for a while and try to create an ensemble around it. This way I get regular practice coordinating different pieces, patterns, colors, and textures. Regularly trying out new combinations also helps expose our wardrobe’s shortcomings. For instance, A shirt and pant combination may require a particular color or pattern of vest to tie them together. By identifying these needs, one can shop with a very sharp focus, ensuring that new acquisitions fit into the overall scheme of the existing wardrobe and avoid impulse purchases.

Everyone can relate to the experience of trying to get dressed for a special event and having a difficult time putting together an outfit. Nothing seems to look right. We all grow up learning to put clothes on our body, yes, but “getting dressed” is a different sort of thing that many people never think about more than a handful of times in a year (or decade). With a little bit of practice and attention, I am no longer getting my clothes as dirty as I used to; I am having more fun getting dressed every morning; and I am enjoying the confidence and positive attention that come from being well put-together. Your clothes were made to be worn. If they rip, I can fix them for you. If they get dirty, the dry-cleaner can get them clean for you. Live a little, and look good while you’re doing it!

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