January 2011

Image: Unzipped Resolutionary Ideas

A New Year’s trip into the closet begets a pledge to swear off shopping in the comfort zone by Cat Doran

jeans, denim, j brand, levis, vintageBARTHOLOMEW COOKE

I used to be the sort of person who didn’t make resolutions. I found their 100 percent possibility of failure depressing. Don’t say you’re going to stop eating sugar...smoking cigarettes...watching reality TV, because that will last only as long as the next trip to Sprinkles...the next season of Dancing with the Stars...the next Chateau party.

Then a few years ago something changed, and I decided my New Year’s resolve should focus on things that were practical—easy to implement but with some sort of big-picture bent. No “I will lose weight” vagaries for me.

I live in L.A., therefore I drive. All of the resolutions I’ve made since then seemed to involve being behind the wheel. Once, I resolved to wear my seatbelt every single time I got in a car. By not doing so, I understood that statistically I was playing with fire...but I also hated getting out of a car wrinkled.

Just as I was pondering this year’s resolution, I got the urge to clean my closet. (I think my ADD is getting worse as I age. Is that possible?) I started with the area I only half jokingly call the jeans wall—because there are some 20 pairs there, and seriously, only four or five get worn with any kind of regularity. So I tried to weed, and somehow, I rationalized my way down to 14 pairs.

Cleaning my jeans wall might not seem fascinating, but stick with me here. The experience reinforced something I have known about myself for a long time, something I am sure that once you hear, you are going to be all, “Me, too!”

I buy the same thing over and over and over—whole categories that are just variations on a theme. For me, there’s an even worse offender than jeans—gray cashmere sweaters. I count 16. I can’t help myself when presented with any sort of color choice that includes gray. What on earth is that about? I don’t see myself as a particularly gray person, yet the evidence of myself as a milquetoast shopper is stacked against me, right there on the closet shelf, just to the left of the newly pared down pile of denim.Accepting that I have a gray-sweater problem led me to uncover the next problem pattern in my closet: black pants. Though the styles actually vary—from pencil leg to wide leg to harem pants—the numbers are embarrassing.

And I’m not alone. Once I mentioned this notion of buying the same thing time after time, others chimed in with their own version of the gray cashmere sweater. For the editor of this magazine, it is a navy-and-white-striped French T-shirt—very Jean Paul Gaultier. And she’s in luck for spring 2011, as there are quite a few offerings in that category. Or maybe she’s actually out of luck if cutting back is the goal. A friend in New Hampshire told me her repeat offender is actually two things: any V-neck sweater and blue-and-white-striped T-shirts. (Who would have thought I’d be two for two with the French-sailor look?)

I am beginning to think I should change my repeat offender to something more exotic, like mink-lined slippers or corsets. But those are fun things—not really candidates for serial purchases. Let’s face it, there is a certain comfort in buying a repeat offender. It’s an item you are rationalizing by telling yourself you’ll get a lot of wear out of it. You know it looks good on you and that you won’t have to overthink putting it on in the morning.

The repeat offender is the comfort food of your closet. It’s the chicken soup, the mashed potatoes, the burger and fries after a long night out. And you know something? I’m not really all that interested in comfort eating, so why am I stuck on comfort shopping?

As I contemplate a steely resolve for 2011, I will branch out from the safety-inspired vehicular behavior modification that has kept me in top form behind the wheel and instead resolve to buy not one single pair of jeans, not one gray cashmere sweater and not one pair of black pants for an entire year. And I’m totally going to develop a jones for leopard.