Tuesday, March 5, 2013

How Big Is Your Wardrobe?

Mine is way too big.  

I'm trying to get rid of 1/2 of  my crap right now.  I'm starting with the kitchen and my wardrobe.  More on the kitchen later.

To get going on figuring out the balance between need/want in the wardrobe, I interviewed my Gramma.  She's in her 90s, not very far in, and lived through hard times before the Great Depression, and then the depression.  She grew up in a tiny town in Iowa on the Mississippi river in the 1920s.  The 20s may have been "roaring" elsewhere,  but she says that for rural people, they were tight financial times.

I asked her how many outfits she had as a kid.  She said her family was better off than most in the clothing department because her grandmother (my great great) in South Dakota was a dressmaker.  Gramma's mom would get the kids' measurements, send them out in a letter.  Then, their gramma would make clothes using material from the old clothes given by some of the ladies in town.   She made dresses, shirts, pants, coats and  underwear.   As a result my gramma said she often had 6 or 7 outfits.  This was quite a few.   She said that the other better off families in town, like the people who owned the store, had 2 or 3 outfits per kid.   The poorer had one outfit and one Sunday outfit.  The very  poor, and she said that was quite a few, had one outfit per kid and no undies.  So they were cold. 

She had 2 pairs of shoes.  One for school and one for Sunday.   Her father took all the kids to town each fall and got them shoes and they each also got to pick out a new cotton blanket.   She said it was a big deal to have your own new blanket each year.   Many families had one pair of shoes per kid.  Others had zero.

I asked if her family was rich.  She said she didn't know if they had more money or if her dad was more likely to spend his money on his kids.  Maybe both.

When she got to high school, which was in another town so she worked for her room and board there, she only had one pair of shoes and fewer clothes.  I think this was after the depression had begun.  Also, her gramma wasn't making her clothes anymore.  I don't know if that gramma had passed away or just gotten too old to do it.

She also told me about farming out kids.  Her siblings weren't farmed out that I know of, they had gardens and a milk cow and bees and other things to do at home.   Other kids, especially in poor families, were.  She told me about Lyle.   I knew him when he was an adult and I was a little kid.  He was farmed out when he was 6 years old.  He was sent to live with a farm family and help out.  He went home on the weekend.  She said that the family he worked for was very good to him which was not always the case.  He went to school and they fed him and clothed him.  I think he's the one she said got underwear from the wife of the family he worked for.  When he went home on the weekend his mother would take the undies and put them on another kid before she sent him back to the farm.  This way she ended up with underwear for all the kids.  Undies are apparently a big deal.  They were for warmth as well as hygiene.  I can imagine your pants and shirts get quite a bit stinkier faster without undies than with undies.

So, back to my quest.  6 or 7 outfits seems reasonable.   And yet...I think I'll shoot for 10 per season for the moment.  I consider an "outfit" to be the pants/shirt combination and I wear my jeans multiple times between washings, fewer times in the summer or when doing fieldwork.

I think I could get by with 3 pairs of jeans (I've made do with 2 in the past but sometimes you have to wear damp jeans when it's that tight) at a time.  For summer 1 or 2 pairs of lighter weight field pants and a pair of jeans.   Right now I've been rotating 3 sweaters (those Norwegian ones from the thrift store) and 2 or 3 shirts for my winter work wardrobe.  No one has said I look unprofessional, in fact I've gotten compliments on every outfit.  I do need turtlenecks or mock turtle necks under these and I think I've been rotating about 4 of those.  In summer I usually end up rotating 7 or 8 buttondown shirts.  Let's go with 8 to make this less painful at the outset.  Easier to donate another shirt than to buy it back from Goodwill.  On the weekends I wear t-shirts or a t-shirt with a sweatshirt depending on the season.  T-shirts are also important for fieldwork and gardening.   Let's say 10 t-shirts for the first cull.
I have one formal event outfit and 3 scarves that go with it (Thanks for the scarves Chris!)

So that comes out to:

3 jeans
3 sweaters
3 shirts
4 turtlenecks

1 jeans
2 field pants
8 shirts

Non-work wear:
10 t-shirts
1 formal outfit (in case of weddings or a friend being inducted into some hall of fame)

I do have the occassional conference or meeting requiring a bit more spiff than my regular work days.  For those it would be nice to have 2 decent shirts and one nice sweater.  I wear either black or brown pants with these.

Conference wear:
2 shirts
1 sweater
1 black pants
1 brown pants

Then there are shoes.  While 2 pairs, or 1....or none, may be a livable situation, it isn't practical for me.  Right now  I probably have too many partly due to my reluctance to get rid of those that are worn out.

For hazmat fieldwork I need one pair of old hiking boots and a pair of rubber knee boots.
For non-hazmat fieldwork I have a pair of "good" hiking boots (not as worn out)
I wear the good hiking boots to work most of the winter.
In summer I have a pair of brown walking shoes and a pair of black walking shoes.
For formal events I can use one pair of brown and one pair of black boots (non-hiking).  Right now I have 2 black and 1 brown pair, but none of my "formal" (like for conferences) boots is less than 10 years old so I think I'm OK there.

And then there is the winter weather gear.  I'll save that for another post.

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