Catlin Gabel: what education can be
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Imagine how naked and vulnerable the emperor felt when he discovered he had no clothes….? Now imagine the total opposite feeling when the empress discovers she has too many, especially of clothes that might have fit a decade ago or are just inappropriate enough they’d perhaps belong on a 15-year old with a Hello Kitty fetish. Yep. That’s me, or my closet, rather.
Although after much anticipation the day had arrived for Stacy London’s Style For Hire’s stylist Tracy Pendergast to perform the ever-important closet audit with me, I had spent weeks getting ready. Sort of like cleaning before the maid comes over, I weeded out garments that had no business hanging in my closet. This is a tough thing to do. The idea of what looks good, or once looked good, and what actually looks good, are two different things.
We are stuck in images of who we once were. The 25-year old size four me I picture and cling to, is gone. She’s long since given birth to two currently pre-teen children, tacked on a couple of decades and survived music and fashion trends of grunge, hip-hop and alternative rock. She can’t wear the things—such as Hello Kitty hoodies or torn flannels–she once wore. Putting that stuff in the Goodwill pile was obvious.
It was the second and third rounds of questionable taste and style that were a bit more painful. This is where Tracy and Style For Hire came to my rescue. I had a lot of stuff and needed decision-making intervention. We spent four hours pulling things out, trying things on, discussing what I liked and didn’t like about certain garments or styles.
A practical place to start helping me even see what I had was to separate and then coordinate clothes by color (which is not at all how I was used to grouping my clothes. I had sweaters and shirts with sweaters and shirts mixed up in a random “type” order of chaos.) Tracy then pulled all sweaters, coats, velvets and wool into a “winter” pile to be neatly stored away for the next several months. That alone freed up a good chunk of closet real estate.
After that we saw how certain clothes fit, or as was mostly the case, didn’t fit. She gently allowed me to keep the one or two things I know that 10 more lost pounds will allow and let go of the rest. These went into the winter pile. While doing this we talked about colors that were good for my skin tone and always changing hair color, and how clothes should legitimately fit if they are made well and proportionately appropriate to my body.
This includes necklines, shoulder pads, sleeve lengths, breast shape of dresses and blouses, bra measurements and hem lines for skirts, jackets and shirts. A great example of this were the many of the Forever 21 shirts I have which are designed for barely developed teen-age girls. The cuts just don’t fit me—a curvy over 40-year old mother—right.
Another thing I noticed I had done over time is that I would buy not one or two of a similar style of clothing,–such as a hip-length tunic with swirls and rhinestones, but like eight or nine. Once it was discovered that this style was cool 10 years ago, I almost felt foolish that I had held on, and had so many, for so long. And was still wearing a few of them.
Now all this is to say Tracy and Style For Hire have no intentions of stripping me of who I am, my identity, or how I like to express myself through my clothes. Just as Stacy London always touts in her hit TV show, “What Not To Wear,” Stacy and her Style For Hire stylists are not looking to create a monochrome version of women; they are looking to unearth, reformulate and help me and other women rediscover a more refined, confident version of ourselves as we are today. No matter the weight, pant size, budget or status, it’s their goal to inspire a truer version that you and me.
I’d say together we cleared out over half of my closet. The to-go clothes are on a rack ready to be sent off to consignment stores, Dress for Success and Goodwill. Next steps will be to decide a budget and figure out the gaping wardrobe holes I have such as a refined suit, a nice pair of black pants and some in-between work and play pieces, and Tracy will go with me to shop and pick out some new clothes. That will be fun.
In the meantime, the question I’m currently mulling over in my mind as I move through this process is: Who am I today? Do I like myself? Do I love myself? So I truly see me? Who is the 45-year old version of me, that I see in the mirror, both within my self and how I present myself to the world?….