A streamlined wardrobe

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Twenty sacks and counting.

My massive declutter continues and I’m beginning to see light and space in the house. Twenty 100ltr sacks of clothes have now hit the kerb one way or another. 

Organiser Marie Kondo recommends that you do your clothes first, because these things definitely belong to you and are easy to make decisions about, though I confess I am also doing it in a light way with books from time to time, just to take a break. For instance, I just boxed up all my remaining classics books from college and gave them to a friend (it felt great – haven’t looked at the damn things for 30 years).

When it comes to clothes, though, this process been a lot less painful than I thought. Instead of weighing up the pros and cons of each item – is it useful, how often do I wear it, etc, I simply picked up each garment and felt it in my hands. Your fingertips tell you the truth – this is too old, this is too stiff, this is too tired. Or this is snuggly, this feels delicious, this is silky and delectable.

I’ve found that quite coincidentally, the process has narrowed down my wardrobe to a palette of grey, black, taupe and teal, with the odd very dark brown piece, and pastel colours such as pale pink and light, leafy green and soft blue (mainly thin sweaters) for summer. There are one or two white things and some brighter coloured scarves and winter coats for a jolt of energy in a dark season. 

I still have too many clothes – my ultimate aim is to get them down to a single standard wardrobe’s worth – but it’s an improvement. I’ve taken 18 100 sacks to the charity drop-off point, given a shedload to friends and put aside a small pile for Ebay (is it worth the hassle, I ask myself, and the answer is no for anything worth less than £20, which is the vast majority of my stuff).

My vintage clothes, I’ve packed separately, as other than cashmere sweaters and coats, these are really more about inspiration than wear these days, when my clothes lead a hard life of mud, dogs and woodburners. Meanwhile, for daily wear, there is a handful of brands I rely on:

* Finisterre, for merino thermals, tees and hoodies, knitwear and my new Pipistral coat – the best coat I’ve ever owned.

* Lands’ End, for fleeces and walking shoes – their cashmere is also good.

* Wall, for Pima cotton dresses and wool trousers.  

* Boden, for grey cotton crewneck tees, which are 27 inches long, and linen and silk dresses for summer.

* Armor-Lux, for thick cotton Breton tops, which I own in navy and grey.

* M&S, for plain black denim jeans with black stitching, which I much prefer to a contrast stitch. 

* Sloggi, for cotton full briefs – the only knickers I now own.

* Bali, for minimiser bras, which converted me to underwires for the first time in 20 years. 

* Aran Crafts, for traditional knitwear, including my favourite long hooded coat. 

* Woolovers, for simply everyday knits in lambswool and merino.  

There is also a sprinkling of other brands: Orvis, Pringle, Braemar, Adini, Woolpower – mainly country or specialist clothiers rather than high street – and most of the unique spark is provided by vintage items: a lemon-coloured wool bouclé coat from the 60s, a bright pink 1950s coat in bouclé mohair, a cream polar-bear coat, a grey Persian lamb by Calman Links, etc. 

This Christmas was wick with social occasions, but with a trimmed-down wardrobe it proved sartorially easy. I mainly wore black cotton drill baggy trousers from Wall that look and feel like the finest wool, black leather ankle boots from M&S and a range of different tops and wraps – a silver textured fabric vintage jacket that my sister calls my ‘panscrubber’ jacket; a black wrap I made myself from silk fabric covered in shaggy beaded fringe; a scarlet Chinese silk embroidered vintage jacket from the 50s; a vintage sequinned cardigan with cream and black harlequin pattern; and a screaming magenta velvet vintage coat. 

This is how occasionwear looks in this neck of the woods – a nice coat that makes an entrance, some long, baggy trousers you can get your thermals under if need be and a top that looks interesting over the dining table.  

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