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I searched my closet and found my fashion identity (for now)



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The perfect closet doesn’t exist, writes Josh Greenblatt. Still, he can’t help but try to edit his wardrobe.Lauren Tamaki/The Globe and Mail

As the spring sun rises in the morning, a sharp parallelogram of light settles on my closet. It ensures that my eyes fall directly on its contents, an ever-growing collection of clothes, as if to ask: Do you really need all this stuff? The answer always seems to be: It’s complicated.

I love clothes. They are an enduring obsession that I demote to regular interest when I’m around the “buy what you need” crowd, feebly justifying why I’ve acquired loose-fit jeans in every conceivable wash or an incalculable number of button-ups of such mammoth proportions that they obscure any semblance of a torso. One recent morning, as the light landed on my stuffed-to-the-gills wardrobe of same-same-but-different garments, my complicated relationship with all things sartorial started to feel more overwhelming than usual. I felt an overpowering urge for a spring clean. Not to eliminate, but to edit. But as any clotheshorse knows, this process can often prove futile. The perfect closet only exists in the movies.

In an iconic scene from the 1995 film Clueless, Beverly Hills highschooler Cher Horowitz uses a computer program that selects her outfits for her, pairing this skirt with that blazer. Countless wardrobe apps have since tried to emulate the film’s fictional technology to recreate the “Clueless closet” by digitally cataloging your clothing and accessories while offering styling tips. In a 2023 episode of her podcast, Articles of Interest, host and producer Avery Trufelman probes the psychology behind the desire for the “Clueless closet” and explains why it’s never really come to exist in real life. “The fantasy of Cher’s closet is not the fantasy of a computer with style. It was not the fantasy of a pool house-sized closet,” says Trufelman. “It was the fantasy of a person totally happy with herself.” The scene, says Trufelman, represents the apogee of getting dressed: to feel totally you.

Without taking stock of what we already have, that elusive outcome drives us to shop, to chase an aspirational version of ourselves. But if you look inward, that person may already be wedged in between decades of purchases behind your closet’s wonky sliding door. As I rummaged through an unkempt pile of oversized V-neck sweaters and flicked through a rack of shirts in imperceptibly different shades of white and blue (a process that turned out to be reassuring, even therapeutic) I found him. My closet revealed itself to be a museum of my personal history, where I could track my evolution from insecure fashion victim to self-assured adult, all through my clothes.

Contrary to what any professional organizer would expect of a closet deep dive, I didn’t amass a donation bin’s worth of “what was I thinking” rejects and I wasn’t awash in buyer’s remorse. Instead, a seemingly disjointed tangle of threads coalesced into a coherent, distinct sense of style, that elusive, seductive idea that keeps my online wish lists populated and my credit card bills high. This realization produced a new sensation: for once, I felt satisfied with what I had. The wardrobe holes that seemed to always need filling had suddenly closed. Maybe they never really existed.

I obviously won’t stop shopping entirely, but I have a more solid foundation on which to build and experiment than I thought. Take shorts for example. This spring, the hems in more directional designer men’s-wear collections have been yanked up for maximum thigh exposure or let loose to Bermuda length. Buried beneath basketball shorts that I wore on canoe trips 15 years ago, I discovered pairs of both: micro running shorts that I’ll trying pairing with generous polos, and oversized, baggy shorts that may work with any number of enormous, breathable tops. And while I won’t be acquiring a pair of ballet flats – the shoe of the moment for fearless, fashion-forward fellows according to labels such as Lemaire and Magliano – I do think my wardrobe has room for some new Mary Jane-style derbys (Hereu, Maison Margiela and Our Legacy all make handsome options).

Here’s what I won’t be wearing this season: crop tops, neckties or anything crochet. Pre closet clarity, I might have felt a tug of desire for these trendier finds, or one of spring’s slinky, loose-gauge camp-collar shirts. My closet edit revealed that I have already expected too much of the latter in the past but always end up looking like a stock photo of a suburban dad.

I used to shop to find myself. Now, thanks to a few hours of analyzing my fashion sense, the search is over. At least, until fall.

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