A wardrobe in forty-plus pieces

So, the big cull has been competed, and I got myself down to about 45 items. Not so bad. Not 30, but not so bad. As I said, I wasn’t about to throw out perfectly good items that I am wearing. Of course now that I took the time to consider and justify everything I am keeping, I may not replace all 45 pieces when they wear out.
What made it hard was not knowing my job situation yet. The two most likely scenarios are going back to school, or working from home. Neither of which requires the work clothes I have packed. But I am still applying and hoping for a full-time salaried job, so can’t just pack it all away.

Since so many seemed to enjoy the photos last time, I logged into Polyvore.com to create an approximate version of my new leaner wardrobe for you.

Wardrobe in 40+ pieces

These are not my actual clothes, but the closest approximations I could find in colour and shape. I love you guys, but not enough to photograph and collage everything I own. A couple of pieces are missing as I couldn’t find anything even resembling them in the database… and I ran out of patience.

One thing you may notice after looking at the above picture … this is still a lot of clothes. Seriously. This represents about a third of what I had before this process began. I am embarrassed. Will I think twice before buying more? That remains to be seen.

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But I have nothing to wear… (Minimizing the closet)

Well, the kitchen is done, and we are eight days away from moving to a new home, with less than 1/3 of our dishes, gadgets and appliances. But along with a lack of kitchen cabinets, the new apartment has a decided lack of closet space and bedroom storage  Where we currently have a closet and dresser each, and keep overflow in the spare room, I will be sharing a closet and a 3 drawer dresser with my husband. I have no idea where to put everything, and can’t possibly bring all of it. Which is fine, because like most women I know, I have a tonne of clothes, yet never have anything to wear. Clearly something needs to be fixed.

There are a few things that I just won’t need and so I am leaving them behind: fancy dresses bought for weddings or other events, the extra winter coat, etc. But then there is just a lot of stuff I know I don’t need and so should really just toss.

I started the process last week with the initial culling of the closet and dresser. All the things that were easy to toss. The things that didn’t quite fit right, or weren’t flattering, or were no longer in style. The stuff I just hadn’t bothered to toss yet. That was two large bags worth of clothing. Cringe-worthy. Especially because I know I am not done.

Phase two starts tomorrow. Maybe even tonight if I finish procrastinating researching. The next decisions will be tougher. As I did with the kitchen, I have been online, looking for tips on building the ultimate minimalist wardrobe. There are lots of tips out there, usually complete with helpful images:

Could I live on just 30 items? Maybe. But limiting myself to one Batman shirt will be hard.

Could I live on just 30 items? Maybe. But limiting myself to one Batman shirt will be hard. (Source: The everyday Minimalist: http://www.everydayminimalist.com/)

Could I live with just 22 pieces? Less likely.

Could I live with just 22 pieces? Less likely. (Source: A Geek Tragedy http://www.ageektragedy.net/)

Could I live with just six items? A bit extreme for me - though I would love to try the one month challenge!

Could I live with just six items? A bit extreme for me – though I would love to try the one month challenge! (Source: The Dernier Cri http://www.thederniercri.net/)

My first realization is that I will not meet any of the definitions I found. Mostly, because it would require tossing perfectly good clothes to replace them with neutral basics. If I were starting from scratch that might work, but I am not. I have to work with what I own. Also, most post which suggest a limited number of pieces are not designed for the Canadian climate. I can easily justify another 5-10 items for seasonal variances. My life requires a down winter jacket for the really really cold months, a regular winter jacket, a dressy winter coat, a fall/spring jacket, a spring/fall dressy coat, a rain coat, and a summery jacket/coat.  I also have a running jacket. And that’s just outerwear. Then there are summer vs. winter dresses. Lined wool trousers and linen ones. (I walk to work, in all seasons. I have summer pants and winter pants.)

If nothing else, the research has been fun and inspiring. I will be applying it to my closet tomorrow, to see how close to 30 items I can come. This will not include shoes, underclothes or accessories, though I am trying to cut back on those categories as well.

The bride wore McQueen

And I wore H&M and a home-made hat. But my shoes were Ralph Lauren and my bag a Kate Spade. So are we really that different? I don’t think so. Plus, as I pointed out in a previous post, I am descended from royalty.

Simple, classic and gorgeous. I could do without the train, but these royal types seem to like them. (Photo courtesy CBC.ca)

But seriously, the wedding was beautiful and breakfast was fantastic. I was not pleased to discover that I had been bumped from my table by some fault of over booking, and was sitting with strangers, but at least I make friends easily.

From here on, I think that every day should start with pretty dresses, and mimosas. At least two of them. And those mimosas should not be spilled into the lap of the woman beside me and all over my nice white bag. They definitely should not. It was an accident. The offending server apologized profusely. For the first two minutes I was too busy helping my poor neighbour clear her lap of the cocktail to realize I was also covered. But I escaped to the restroom and I think the poor bag will survive. I thank you in advance for your concern.

To the lovely couple: congrats and best of luck.

Fashion show!

If it wouldn’t make me sound ridiculously shallow, I could refer to this as the “Eat. Shop. Love.” trip. But I like to think I am deeper than that. Which does not change the fact that I have seriously enjoyed the shopping.

I have never been so excited to purchase textiles. I am taking home more kangas than I know what to do with. They are the perfect accessory: shirt, shawl, wrap, baby-carrier. Not to mention tablecloth, cushion cover, etc. I am throwing out clothes to take home kangas.

I'm not kidding. This is what my suitcase currently looks like.

And then of course, there is the fundi. Fundi might be my favourite Swahili word. When it was first taught to me, it was defined as “someone who does something,” which I thought was an awesome definition. I have since discovered it is more accurately translated as craftsman or skilled worker. In this case: the tailor.

Much of the clothes worn by staff here are hand made, not store bought. And beautiful. The fabrics and patterns here are unmatched anywhere I have yet traveled. With help from the mamas, most of the female volunteers here this summer have had an out fit or two (um… or five!) made by local tailors.

Off the shoulder blouse from Maristella's fundi. (Sorry, this is not flattering as a set, so you don't get to see the whole picture.)


First, Maristella, the headmistress, to me to her fundi, in Dar es Salaam. Here I had one a dress and two blouse/skirt sets made. The dress was a simple black flowered pattern, in a tank style that is entirely functional and western looking. Only I know where it came from. The sets are significantly more Tanzanian in flavour. The styles are similar to Maristella’s clothes: practical, comfortable, and very smart looking. I like them.

Next, Josephine wanted to take me to her fundi, to try something new. She has a very different sense of style, going for brighter colours and tighter fits. Generally more striking. Also very fun.

Bibi bought me this fabric, and asked me to make a pretty outfit for myself with it. Not sure about the trim on the blouse, but generally like it.

I should also mention the prices. Each piece of fabric costs between 4,000 and 7,000 shillings, or three to six dollars. It is an additional 10,000 to 15,000 shilling for the tailoring. The dresses I picked up today cost me approximately $15, tailored to fit.

So suddenly here I am, a white Canadian girl with not one but FIVE Tanzanian outfits – two of which are rather decidedly African looking. I tried to be practical with syles and patterns so I can wear them at home, and I am confident I can: just perhaps not as sets. I anticipate getting lots of wear from the skirts, and perhaps less from the blouses. Still, well worth the money, and the experience.

My favoutite outfit. Love the colours. Love the fit. And at $16, love the price.

* I did say five outfits, didn’t I? You’ll have to wait till I am home for the other two. (a) they have been worn and are too wrinkled for decent photos, and (b) I quickly became bored with the photo shoot. Modelling is not my cup of tea.