The 30% Theory
You know how they say we only use 10 percent of our brains? I think we only use 10 percent of our wardrobes.
I hate to brag. But I have to say I found it surprisingly simple to pack for my four-month trip to London. As someone who has spent spent the past decade of her life on a mission to streamline her style to the point of functional uniformity, I like to think I’ve earned it.
We’ve talked about this before. The contents of my closet are barely distinguishable from one another. They tend to blur together. Spin yourself around a few times in front of my closet and point to something at random. There is a 78% chance it is jet black. But despite their harmony, the items at home in my dressers are special to me. I handpicked each and every one of them. I treasure them all. Except — of course — for those dozens I hardly ever wear.
The reality is that I only wear 30% (I was being dramatic in my lede) of my wardrobe. And I bet you do too.
The realization dawned on me several weeks before my departure. I had been packing up my room at school when I discovered a sealed box under my bed. Eight of my very own dresses and five sweaters lay neatly inside. I can only assume they had been sitting there since I arrived on campus in September.
I hastily repacked the box. I was embarrassed somehow; to have failed to even register their absence seemed wasteful and indulgent and sloppy. I resolved that I would do better in preparation for London. I would leave New York armed only with the fraction of my closet that I actually wore.
I nixed impractical tops and jeans that fit best after food poisoning. I decided against an odd orange-y dress and vetoed silk trousers. I made space only for staples: the sweaters I wore again and again, jeans that felt like a second skin, a pair of superlative ankle boots.
Clothes are not like children. It’s okay to play favorites among them. The silky dresses and cozy knitwear I decided to bring with me were mine. I was sure of it. These were the 30%.
They served me well at first. Given their limited quantity, there were only so many outfits to consider each morning. Not since the fourth grade had I gotten dressed and ready so quickly. I imagined sharing a laugh and a bottle of Malbec with Emmanuelle Alt in our identical black denim. We would discuss sartorial liberation and debate the maker of the perfect blazer. It all felt possible.
But then I got homesick for the 70%. Because tucked between layers of expensive mistakes are things that I like not only to slip into sometimes, but also just to look at and own.
I love my uniform. But I miss the drama that once punctuated its monotony. I miss the tomato-red sweater I wear once a year and a Burberry jacket that bears a striking resemblance to duct tape. I can hardly move my arms in it. It’s amazing. I grieve for those minutes during which I might have deliberated Red Sweater Day only to dismiss it in favor of jeans and a boyish button-down.
I do not regret that I left this portion of my wardrobe behind. Virgin Atlantic does not accommodate sartorial nostalgia. But I do cherish the extravagant glory of the 70%. The pieces that constitute it make fashion fun and weird and unforgettable.
It is no accident that the things I have purchased since landing in London are not black or beige. They include a green velvet sheath dress, a vintage Hawaiian-print shirt, and a battered leather camera bag that I intend to use as a clutch.
Maybe. At least once.