The wardrobe declutter

Faced with pile upon pile of grey jumpers and black trousers – all so elegantly restrained and yet so mirthless – Juliet wondered when she’d forgotten about fun. By Clare Naylor

Image: Getty Images

Juliet sat on her bedroom rug, overwhelmed by the memory of a man she’d known intimately but whose name, suddenly, escaped her. In her hand she held a lipstick-pink French negligée. Last worn? She cast her mind back. And back. Probably in Venice 10 years ago. The memory sideswiped her on an inhospitable January morning as the entire contents of her wardrobe lay on the floor around her.

As she confronted the sartorial story of her life, Juliet observed for the first time that almost everything she owned was a grey sweater. Admittedly in many guises, envisaged by elevated designers in all four fashion capitals – but grey sweaters nonetheless. And the black trousers. Capri. Boyfriend. Pyjama. Jeans. So many black trousers.

Thank God, then, for the streak of lipstick-pink slip she was clutching. Given the mirthless austerity of her palette, she was amazed she’d ever managed to attract a lover at all. Why had she never been drawn to butterfly brights instead? How differently her life might have turned out.

Juliet had determined that, with the New Year, she would assume a fresh eco-outlook, a mantra of recycle, re-wear or repair. As this had caused her to view most of what she owned as mere landfill, from now on she resolved to shop only from her own wardrobe. But first, in order to curate a boutique experience for herself and to make her cupboards as near to a saunter down Bond Street as she could, there must be a cull.

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Juliet’s fingers slid one last time over the silk in her hand. She smiled to herself, transported to the marble halls of a Venetian palazzo with Whatshisname. She’d have to keep it. If only as a memento, a heritage piece to be archived in the Museum of Herself. Opening her eyes, however, Juliet noticed the hem was motheaten and tattered. So, goodbye it was. Juliet prepared to ritualistically consign it to history. Thank you, she told it. Then thrust it headlong into a recycling bag.

At first Juliet felt ridiculous speaking to her clothing. But as the floor began to clear she shed her inhibitions, along with the beige trench she’d practically remortgaged her flat for. Thank you, she said, to the white jeans that were older (and dirtier) than her new boyfriend; to the floral prairie skirt that always made her look faintly deranged; the cowboy boots that didn’t match her personality; the designer briefcase that caused people to mistake her for a GP on call.

Juliet was on a roll, giddy with sustainability and the chemical high of so many bin bags destined for the charity shop. Goodbye. Thank you. Goodbye. Until she came across a pair of midnight-blue velvet cigarette pants that stopped her in her tracks. She couldn’t remember when she’d bought them or why; there was no unforgettable party to link them to in her memory. They simply made her happy. She was struck with the urge to slip into them.

How had she never noticed their understated beauty before, she wondered, as she stood before the mirror. Had she ever even worn them? With a few stitches on the hem and a steam, she and her cigarette pants would be back in business. It was pre-love at first sight. Juliet ran a hand along her thigh, thrilled with her find. There was just one problem… what on earth, she wondered, with a pious smile and a familiar rush of adrenaline, was she going to buy to go with them?

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