Wardrobe Architect Week 14: Overcoming Editing Hurdles

It’s fitting that the final assignment of the original Wardrobe Architect series would be about editing. As a writer, I’ve heard all the aphorisms and pithy advice about the importance of revision, that the real work—and real success—comes not from writing but from re-writing. Once you have both the idea and the raw material, you have to lay one over the other and trim away all the little bits that don’t line up. You change one to fit the other; in the end, you’ve changed both. It makes sense that cultivating a wardrobe is much the same: you’re continually trying to shape what you have to match what you want, or reconsidering what you think you want in light of what you’re actually buying/making.

I know these things, but man! is it hard to live them. This is probably because, as a writer, I am a terrible editor. Wait, I retract that statement in favor of this one: I am a terrible self-editor. I can be absolutely brutal when I’m revising someone else’s work, scratching out words and rearranging sentences or paragraphs with cruel efficiency, with no regard for the author’s feelings. But when it comes to my own work? I’m basically useless.

You would probably assume—completely understandably—that this is because I think my work is too precious to be changed, or because I can’t take criticism. Not so! (Okay, a little bit so for the second one, but I’m working on it.) Really, it comes down to how I write. I’m a slow writer. A really slow writer. (The last time I clocked myself on a creative writing assignment was in college, but I remember that it took me an hour per page. The pages were double-spaced.) I deliberate over each sentence, each word, because I crave coherence, and I need each part to hang together with all the rest. I can’t move forward if something doesn’t make sense or doesn’t flow. I tend to edit as I go; in fact, I tend to edit before anything actually makes it out of my brain and on to the page screen. So when I come back afterward to do that all-important second pass for revision, it’s hard to imagine things written any other way.

It’s a little bit like that with clothes, for me. I don’t shop for clothes very often. I never have. I usually buy things in small groups: a pairs of slacks and a couple tops for work, a handbag and a pair of shoes to match a dress I own, or a sweater in three different colors. The items in these bundles usually work with each other, but they don’t always work so clearly with other things I have. Sometimes I’m in a pinch for something specific, like warm tops in winter, or there’s a sale, so I buy something that’s not quite right. I don’t usually fall prey to trends (at least not in the sense that I-must-have-this-only-because-it’s-popular), but I’ve certainly bought things I didn’t love to fill a hole or score a deal without a lot of consideration for the long-term.

And because I don’t buy clothes very often, it’s hard to get rid of things. It took time to accumulate what I do have, so if I give something up, my brain reasons, it will take a long time to replace them. It’s faulty logic, of course. If I’m barely wearing something anyway, and I don’t particularly enjoy it when I do wear it, it’s no great hardship to give it up. Even if it were, if I have a clearer idea of what I want instead, I can deliberately seek out or make a well-made, well-fitting replacement, rather than hoping to stumble upon something or continuing to fill up my closets piecemeal with whatever seems important in the moment.

After repeating these things to myself a few times, I scoured my closets and drawers and came up a little pile of clothes.


The only thing I’m really bummed about are the two pairs of light grey slacks toward the bottom. They’re two different cuts and fabrics, but they’re identical to several other pairs of slacks I have in black and brown. But for some reason, they’re just tighter in the waist and shorter in the rise than the other colors, which makes them just too snug for comfort. I can only assume that they’re on the extreme end of the sizing tolerance. If I thought I could let them out I would, but they’re not exactly a high-end brand, so they don’t really have seam allowances to work with.

To be safe, I’m not going to get rid of these garments immediately. Instead, I’ll let them marinate in the Outbox until I have a chance to go to a used clothing or thrift store. That will give me a chance to rescue anything if I change my mind. But most things that go into the Outbox don’t come out again, so I’m pretty confident I’ll finally be letting these go. It feels a bit tough now, but I know it will be a relief later. I’m looking forward to things that will take their places, because they’ll be thoughtfully planned and carefully sewn me-mades.

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