Living Lent: Wardrobe Reduction

As many of you may recall, my lenten practice this year was the intentional reduction of my wardrobe.  I had the lofty goal of reducing my wardrobe by 50 percent.  After these forty days of Lent, I cannot say that I completely accomplished this goal.  However, let me tell you what I did do…

This, friends, comprises my Lenten wardrobe reduction.  I wish I had been more systematic; I wish I had taken better notes along the way.  But it seems that getting rid of half of my wardrobe has been a remarkably personal process… one that has been difficult to confront.

Clothing is such an enormous part of who we are.  We’d like not to think that is the case, but I’m afraid it is.  Clothing is our public face to the world–just as much as hair style and body shape, clothing lets the world know who we are.  It tells the world our gender identity, our sense of being like other folks or being unlike other folks.  Clothing, for being so public, is also very personal.

I can remember clearly one Easter years ago, when I wanted to wear a pair of jewel-toned leather ankle boots with my Easter dress.  My father had a fit.  But instead of making me change those boots, he took a picture of me.  I wish I knew were that picture was, because he remarked to me at the time that this picture would one day remind me of how silly I was.  Now, I think back on what a personal decision it was for me to step out of the house, audaciously wearing a pair of boots that I knew he wouldn’t let me wear.  It was a statement of personal identity, shucking the norm for a more true expression of myself.

Clothing is remarkably personal, because it not only tells the world who we are, but also who we want to become.

So, the four bags of clothes you see there contain 70 pieces of clothing, 4 bags, 4 scarfs, 2 hats, 6 pair of gloves, 16 “other” items (bras, tights, slips, etc.), and perhaps 5 pair of shoes… all that no longer say anything about who I am to the world or who I want to become.  Like I said, I wish I had been more systematic.  I wish I had taken stock of all my clothes, marked the donated items off the list, and reported back to you here (“I retained 75% of jeans, but gave away almost 90% of casual khaki pants…”).  Unfortunately, when Holy Saturday dawned, the first thing I did–before breakfast, before shower, even before morning caffeine–was rush to my closet with a 13-gallon bag.  I tore at my closet systematically… from one end to the other.  I asked myself, “when was the last time you wore this?” And if the answer was vague, or if it was clearly more than 1.5 years, into the bag it went.  Even with clothes that I have never worn (like that Old Navy jean jacket, purchased almost 8 years ago), into the bag it went.  When it was all said and done, I had these four 13-gallon bags.  Immediately, I drove them to Goodwill.

As would be expected, I feel a little bit lighter now that I have the weight of all those unused clothes off my shoulders… now that those clothes can go to better use in someone else’s closet.

Clothing still tells me a great deal about who I am, especially now that my wardrobe is so much lighter.  It tells me that I am a person who takes comfort in the usual, the repetitious.  But it also tells me that I am a person who loves color and vibrancy as much as I love neutrality and even tones.  And it also tells me that I am a person who loves my fuchsia pedal pushers.


2 Replies to “Living Lent: Wardrobe Reduction”

  1. I love the way you write about this! I am only sometimes conscious about my wardrobe projecting my image of myself into the world, but last night was a clear example and reading this today puts words on my feelings.

    It was Easter Vigil, and Easter to me is a great reason to wear a white dress, even though I really haven’t done so in previous years. The white dress I own is my mom’s wedding dress that we altered into a party dress for my wedding rehearsal and dinner. I was hesitant to wear it last night because I was not getting baptized or confirmed with the candidates. And I thought maybe it was too formal for my church? But I wore it, and I loved it. I realized that I still see myself as a bride, and the white dress with its symbol of purity will remind me both of the new name I received on my wedding day, but also of my given name, Catherine, with its Greek origin meaning “pure.”

    Happy Easter :)


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