I've just had a big purge of my wardrobe. All told, it took up three hours of this morning, including bagging up the discarded items, rearranging what was left in a more useful way, and filling some drawer space with an awful lot of temporarily-redundant hangers. Look at this:
And here are the pre-bagging piles of purged attire:
I have the satisfaction of having carried out a thorough-going sort-out. I feel very pleased with the result. Now I can see exactly what I have - and all of it is stuff that I really do wear.
The exercise was prompted by suggestions from my next-door neighbour J---. We had a Girls' Night Out together last night, beginning in a pub where many of the local tradesmen gather with their wives, sweethearts, sons, daughters and friends - you know, the sort of village venue where everyone knows everyone else, and the issues of the day are freely and heartily discussed over a good many drinks. This pub may be a spit-and-sawdust place in spirit, but no longer in appearance: they've recently put in a new floor, smart new tables and seats, and a fresh new decor. I'd say the result is successful, because despite the makeover, the place has retained its old atmosphere of a Proper Sussex Local. And yet the new look encourages the guys to wash, comb their hair, and put on a clean white T shirt and best trainers, before they come in for their usual.
Everyone knew J---, and she knew everyone. It was useful to me to put faces to names I'd heard mentioned, and to say hello. So, when I next need an electrician, I now know exactly who Ben is, just as I came to know who Dean was (Dean does fencing). J--- and her plumber husband K--- know all the best local tradespeople, and I'm very lucky to have this kind of access to them.
But it also means that all these people know about me, and have done so for years. It's not something I think much about, but according to J--- (we talked it over a bit, once we'd adjourned to the village curry house for a yummy meal) I was, for a while back in 2009, the Talk of the Village in each of the pubs.
You know, tradesmen coming in for a pint or two after the day's toil, and eagerly swapping the latest news in loud voices. It's what they do, every working day.
I was much discussed!
But my medical condition, and its feminising consequences, was a Nine Day Wonder. These are grown-up guys with plenty else to chew over. Not all of them felt comfortable about me in their midst at first, but I don't know of anyone who is still so hung-up that they have to avoid me, walking the other way in embarrassment. Indeed, the evidence of my own eyes at the pub last night was that I am regarded as an accepted part of the scene, someone it's OK to be seen with. One youngish guy at the next table, whom J--- didn't know, actually smiled at me. How about that? Of course, accreditation with J--- guaranteed civility from all the men. And I did represent a potential source of work in the future. So it wasn't acceptance pure and simple. But good enough.
Their wives, girlfriends and children don't care two hoots of course. I dare say all the kids in the village have heard about me, and have dwelt on the real or imagined visceral details of my surgery. Playground news must circulate even faster than pub news!
Behind-the-scenes public dissection is an unnerving idea, but I have to say that there has never been the slightest hint of any bother coming my way, nor any finger-pointing. J--- herself has been trying to get me to join slimming and keep-fit groups in the village for a long time, on the basis that it simply doesn't matter if lots of people have heard about me. Nobody cares; I'm obviously a decent, friendly person, a responsible resident, and I would be welcome; therefore I shouldn't hesitate. Right. I will look into it. But in my own good time, naturally.
We also discussed clothes, once back at my house for more wine and some coffee. J--- has her particular ideas about what is suitable to wear, but we are close enough in age-group and taste for me to pay attention to what she recommends. And I had to admit I was still wearing certain items, or combinations of certain items, that did me no favours.
J--- in fact begged me to let her bin my older leggings, which had become rather threadbare. I acquiesced: they were comfortable to lounge around in, indoors, but a joke anywhere else. Encouraged, J--- next tackled my summer shorts, all of them deeply uncool. I handed these over too. Honestly, I didn't mind a bit. I knew she was right. All of them were comfortable garments, but that was the only thing to be said for them.
J--- thought I should generally avoid body-hugging stuff, at least while still on the tubby side. What about wearing instead nice, swishy summer skirts? Or dresses? I'd look so much more feminine.
Actually this was exactly what I had been thinking. While on holiday I'd worn long skirts much more than hitherto; I was in the mood to do so. I thought they somehow looked good on me, in a way they hadn't in previous years. And, come to think of it, I was wearing these very feminine garments when I had my best casual conversations with strangers, both male and female. Something to note in that. I already had in my wardrobes a decent collection of attractive dresses and skirts. And tops and short jackets that went particularly well with the skirts. It was just that they were 'lost' among the rest of the stuff.
So this morning I acted.
Out went the designer-brand dresses that I'd bought long ago and had never worn but once, if at all - my 'cruise collection' so to speak. When was I ever really going to be on a posh cruise ship again? How indeed was I going to fit into these dresses, without busting the zips? It was pointless hanging onto them. They represented a lot of money spent unwisely - they were a reproach. Junk them, I said to myself. Let them go, and move on.
Out went the several skirts that would never fit me again.
Out went a large number of tops that I never ever wore. Tops with straps that drove me mad, when they kept slipping off my shoulders. Tops that were the wrong colour, or the wrong shade, or had fabric or styling issues. Tops that were too thin, or too long, or too short, to look good with whatever I wanted to wear them with.
I kept most of my coats and jackets, but a couple bit the dust. These were now too small to button up against the chill breeze. What a lot of weight I had gradually put on! I might get some of it off, but I would never again be as svelte as I was in late 2008 and early 2009. Size 12 was out of reach. So, if I were realistic, was size 14.
I still possessed three pairs of shoes with heels. Only low heels, but I had never worn them. There was no reason to. And I was in any case averse to wearing any footwear that made me seem taller. Out they went.
After this slaughter, I rearranged my wardrobes. I grouped my garments logically, starting with everything blue, the colour most flattering to me. Coats, jackets, dresses, skirts, tops, slips, beachwear - in exactly that left-to-right sequence within the blue colour range. Then, the other colour ranges, everything graded in the same way as the blue items. I placed my remaining shoes and boots as near as possible to the colour they went best with.
With all the wardrobe doors wide open, it looked like an artist's palette: black, grey, white, brown, beige, green, blue, purple, red. But no yellow, orange, or pink.
It looked good. A proper job done. Once I'd had my hair done at noon at Trevor Sorbie in Brighton, I drove out to the huge Marks & Spencer at Holmbush and bought some new red shoes. The reward for getting rid of all the dross.
I don't now have much on my hangers that has survived successive purges like this one. But I still have the classy black velvet dress that I wore in December 2008, on Lucy's second public outing. It still fits, and it still looks fab. In fact it suits me better now than it did then. Classic black dresses never die.