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What ARE you wearing? Part 2

Culling your useless clothes can be a satisfying experience - here's how to do it.

In Part 1 of this article I looked at how to work out which clothes you're actually wearing. Your clothes have now had a month to prove their usefulness and it should be pretty apparent which ones you're NOT wearing, so we'll now look at these.

Sort it out

Leave aside anything you didn't wear for seasonal reasons (linen dresses in winter, leather jackets in summer, etc). Then take out one set of summer-weight and one set of winter-weight scruff clothes, in which you can dye your hair, shave the cat or do whatever other rough work you need to do. What else is left?

If you're anything like me, your hanging rail of unworns contains mostly tailored items and evening wear - suit jackets, skirts and pants, velvet shirts and skirts, lightly beaded items etc, coats hung for storage. So, get out your notes and ask yourself the following questions of each garment:

* Does it fit me?

* Is it comfortable?

* Do I love it?

* Does it suit my lifestyle?

* Does it flatter me?

If the answer to ANY of these questions is 'no', my advice is to chuck it. And I know that's hard (because, like Mark Twain, I've done it hundreds of times...). So get yourself two big cardboard boxes and label them 'chuck now' and 'pending', plus have a third one (preferably smaller) labelled 'sentiment'. Into the 'chuck now' box, obviously, go all the things that are definite no-nos. Into the 'pending' box go things that you think are wrong but that you're not quite sure of - this you will throw away in a year's time. Into the 'sentiment' box go the things that you'll never wear again but that you really can't bear to part with - we'll deal with this issue another time.

Now, get going.

It doesn't fit you

If you haven't worn something because it doesn't fit you, is it because you're gaining weight, or losing weight, or because your weight is fluctuating? Or are you hanging on to an idea of yourself that isn't real?

* If you are gaining weight, you need to deal with that as a separate issue if you're not happy with it. Meanwhile, DON'T hang onto, and especially don't WEAR clothes that are too small - not only does it look terrible, it's very depressing. You itch, you're sore, you're cut about. It is far better to accept your real size than to squeeze yourself into clothing that is too tight.

If anything is two sizes too small, chuck it. You can't make this stuff work even if you alter it and by the time you've lost all that weight like you're planning to, it won't be in fashion anyway. If you really do feel that you've only gained a pound or two temporarily and you're going to lose it (yeah, 'course you are), the clothes in your wardrobe that will give you mileage are knits, fabrics with stretch and skirts or pants with an elastic waistband at the back (at the back only, please). Chuck out the rest, especially anything with zips you can't do up or buttons you can't fasten.

Now, instead of whimpering about what you can't wear, invest in some decent modern shapewear, including bras, and Spanx pants if you fancy them, which will take pounds off you while hoisting your bust and backside into the right positions.

* If you're losing weight for no apparent reason and are not either desperately in love or terribly active, a visit to the doctor might be in order. But if you are losing weight because you're dieting, don't continue to hang onto clothes that are too big - this is the person you were, not the person you are now and you'll just depress the crap out of yourself. No, of course most women can't afford to replace an entire wardrobe in one hit, so again invest in simple knits and fabrics with stretch while you're dieting, which will tide you over a size or two either way. As a tip, garments should fit at your shoulderline - if they're dropping down your arm, they're too big - throw them away.

* If your weight fluctuates, as it does for many women with their period or seasonally, then take account of this in your wardrobe. If you gain weight in winter, consider simply buying your winter clothes a size bigger than your summer ones. If you retain water before your period and just need tiding over the odd 'fat' day, invest in a couple of skirts and a couple of pairs of trousers in dark colours made from either stretch fabrics such as jersey or with an elasticated waistband at the back.

It's uncomfortable

Uncomfortable clothing is like a stone in your shoe. If you're not-wearing this stuff for any of these reasons, chuck it out:

* It itches.

* It restricts your stride.

* It cuts you up the crotch.

* It cuts your waist when you sit down.

* It gives you a muffin top.

* It hurts your feet.

* It leaves marks on your skin.

* It gives you thrush.

* The cuffs get in the way.

* You're constantly adjusting yourself and pulling yourself about.

Life is too short to be uncomfortable - especially when you've PAID for it.

You don't love it

This is a really tricky category, because all of us have clothes that are fit for their purpose and that we may even wear a lot, but that in our heart of hearts we don't really like. But hanging onto clothing that you don't love is a first-class ticket to a fashion rut. Brenda Kinsel in her book 40 Over 40 says that when you open your wardrobe, everything in it should say: "Wear me, wear ME!!" It should all compete for your attention.

Over time I've come to agree with her - you need to be excited by your clothes. After all, they cost time and money to acquire, and time and money to maintain. It is truly disheartening to yet again wash, and iron, and put away a pair of trousers that you only wear because they don't show the baby sick. For starter's that's probably costing you several quid every wash cycle, which would be better invested in new trousers.

If you have a low income, and you truly can't afford to replace those trousers, then they just have to stay, but anyone above this level, think again. If it doesn't excite you, actually excite you, chuck it.

It doesn't suit your lifestyle

In many ways, lifestyle appropriateness is the key criteria for clothing. For no matter how beautiful, how gorgeous, how flattering and how well made something is, if you have no occasion to wear it, it is a waste of space.

I fully admit to being a sucker in this category. I LOVE fine fabrics - thin batistes and linens, silk velvets and soft suedes. I love high heels and kitten heels and my entirely transparent wedding-day shoes. I love vintage clothes with their intricate detailing, complicated seams and fabrics that no longer exist. And this is not my life.

My life is practical - walking the dog, lighting fires, cooking, getting the wood in, working at a desk in an underheated office. My deep gravel driveway strips the leather from high heels and if I don't wear my Uggs, my feet freeze in winter. I never go out except to dinner.

Getting rid of my inappropriate clothing was very hard, but it was also liberating, and if I can do it, you can do it too. Much of it will go in the 'pending' box rather than the 'chuck it now' box, but after a year, take that box to the charity shop without opening it and you probably won't be able to remember what was in it in the first place.

It doesn't flatter you

Again, we've all got shedloads of this stuff. Stuff we bought because it was on sale, stuff we bought when we were a lot younger and cuter, stuff we heard was a classic and wouldn't date, stuff we got because we needed something for a specific occasion and couldn't find the right thing, so the wrong thing would do in a pinch.

So again, think for a moment what this clothing is saying about you. "I'm sick. I'm tired. I'm fat. I'm out of date. I'm - frankly - mutton dressed as lamb. Just look at me."

Don't DO this to yourself. If every time you wear it, people ask how you're feeling, chuck it. If people look surprised when you tell them your age (and not in a good way), chuck it. If it makes your breasts look like twin battleships have docked, chuck it.

Colours and styles I'll deal with another time, but admitting you've gotten too old for a garment is very galling. It happened to me the other day in the supermarket. I was wearing a lovely vintage coat that my friend Ruby gave me and I love this thing - the cut, the colour, the way it makes my waist look truly tiny. But with my long blonde hair and my black beret, a man who'd been loitering at my shoulder looked quite stunned (horrified might be a better word) when he came round the front and saw my face. Ahhh... Time to practise what I preach?

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