Do You Have a Toxic Friendship with your Closet?

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do you have a toxic relationship with your closet tips on how to make smart style purchases for a wardrobe that loves you back

So many of us have emotional attachments to pieces in our wardrobes. We wore that dress when we met our partner, that suit helped us land our dream job, our lucky blouse that every time we wear we have a great day. But some clothing is kept even though it isn’t a positive relationship. We know to get rid of toxic relationships with friends and lovers, why is it so hard to end toxic relationships with our closets? As we have seen with unhealthy relationships with others, no amount of time or money invested justifies sticking around. When we cut ties, we free ourselves to care for ourselves and those who deserve our care.

Do you have one of these toxic friendships in your closet?

The Frenemy

The frenemy in your closet is the piece that seems like a good buy, but it always screws you over. Those shoes that tear up your heels even though you’ve broken them in. The dress that wrinkles like crazy and stretches with wear to end up having your bra straps visible. The blazer that’s a bit too tight in the arms making it hard to move (and turns you into Houdini when trying to take it off). You don’t let them go because they look good, they seem practical, you spent a lot of money on them… but they always let you down. They hurt, they embarrass, they just don’t prove their worth.

The Enabler

The enabler in your closet encourages your bad habits. Those oversized sweatpants with a bleach stain on the butt and a hole in the crotch. That boxy black shift dress that hides your midsection, but also your entire shape. Those old beat up flats that smell, have the color peeled off in places, but are comfy. Your oversized sweater coat that’s covered in fuzzballs, one cuff is unraveling, but it’s warm and cozy and makes you feel safe. These clothes don’t make you feel better, they sympathize with your bad day, give you a big hug, pass you the pint of ice cream and place an order for pizza delivery.

The Critic

The critic says she’s providing tough love and encouragement, but really all she’s doing is highlighting your faults. That dress that shows the indentation of your belly button if you have a second helping at dinner. The blouse that gaps between the buttons the week before your period. The skirt that is a hair too short, making you self-conscious each time you have to sit or pick something up from the ground. The t-shirt that is just a bit too sheer or has too deep of a neckline, so you end up always wearing over a camisole or under something else. That piece that isn’t the most flattering color, but it cost a lot or was a gift so each time you wear it you feel the need to add more foundation, more blush, and/or more bronzer. These clothes often are the oldest or the most expensive pieces you own, making you feel as though there’s something wrong with you that they don’t fit or flatter.

The Narcissist

The narcissist makes it all about her. It’s that piece of clothing that is drastically different from everything in your closet. Maybe you bought it because you went shopping with a friend and she said you looked amazing in it and HAD to have it. Maybe a pushy saleswoman told you that you looked like some celebrity in it. These are often pieces purchased on vacation, after a couple glasses of wine, or at 2am after a night out where you felt invisible. These pieces are often tried on, but rarely worn outside the house. Each time you try them on, you feel a bit ridiculous. When you do actually wear them out of the house, you feel self-conscious. Friends and even strangers comment on it, but the comments aren’t about how great you look, but how interesting, cool, fun, or different the garment is. The narcissist is stealing the spotlight.

The Hot One

She’s like really pretty. She helps you cut the line to get into that popular club, she seems to always get her drinks comped, and anywhere she goes she is showered with compliments. Thing is, the two of you hardly have a thing in common. She’s nice enough, but you wonder if you keep her around because of the perks, and not because of her personality. It’s that dress that has a zipper that chews up your left armpit, but you keep wearing it because each time you do people tell you that you look so pretty or ask if you’ve lost weight. It’s the skirt that is so utterly gorgeous and always gets compliments but only goes with one top in your whole closet and it’s starting to look worn and you’re freaking out because literally nothing in the past five years has worked with that skirt except this specific top. It’s those statement shoes that are an inch taller than your comfort level but each time you wear them people shower you with compliments, so you keep wearing them and keep buying clothes that only go with them. There’s nothing wrong with the hot one, she’s a great woman but is it fair to stay friends with her when the relationship is so superficial?

The Leech

The leech is a super needy friend who takes and takes and takes and rarely gives in return. It’s that dress that requires a minimizer bra, that one control panty that is always in the wash, some Static-Guard, a safety pin at the bust, and a half slip at a weird length that took you six months to finally find and makes you sweat if you have to be outdoors between the months of May and October. It’s that crisp white shirt that collects black lint in the blink of an eye, wrinkles as soon as you wear it, and has a collar a bit too high so it always gathers makeup smudges and your earrings get caught in it. It’s the skirt that only goes with that one pair of shoes that hurts, the t-shirt that needs to be hand washed and dried flat, that jumpsuit that is so hard to get out of you risk dehydration to not have to use the facilities. Is it even a relationship when it’s so one-sided?

The Backstabber

The backstabber seems to be a good friend to others but doesn’t treat you the way you deserve to be treated. It’s that khaki trench coat, the black pencil skirt, the crisp white cotton shirt, or any other item on a list of items every chic woman should have in her wardrobe but never seem to work for your body or your lifestyle. It’s that t-shirt that Buzzfeed and Refinery29 swear is the best one on the market but you think it’s a hair too sheer and a hair too short. It’s the wrap dress that supposedly makes every woman look amazing but just seems to emphasize your hips. You stick around because it seems as though you’re the only one having this issue, so it must be you. You change your undergarments, you buy more and more pieces to coordinate with that pencil skirt, you wobble in the heels and always feel as though if you just tried harder you’d experience what everyone else does. What you’re not realizing is there’s others who are also being treated poorly by the backstabber, they’re also staying quiet because they too think it’s them who is the problem.

On Quality, not Quantity

Have you noticed that as you have aged you have fewer friends? Sure, you may have a bunch on Facebook and you may still be able to host a barbecue and invite dozens of people… but how many are close, real, friends? There’s nothing wrong with a shrinking social circle. As you get older you understand the value of quality over quantity. You’ve been burned by friends, your tastes have changed, and you’ve slowly drifted apart, you’ve moved away, you’ve started a new career. There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just being more careful, more selective, and better caring for your soul and your time.

The same is with your wardrobe. When you’re young, you have cheap clubbing tops and cheap sundresses. Wacky shoes you bought on clearance and a dozen pair of jeans because you never have the time or the quarters to do laundry on a regular basis. Your closet is as varied as your friend circle. As you get older, you get to know your body better as well as your budget. You see the value in having fewer pieces that are reliable. As you get to know your personal style, those reliable pieces will also make you feel great while looking great. Because they are so good to you, you are good to them. You hang them up, take them to the dry cleaners, line dry, iron, and even take them to the tailor. You have a healthy two-way relationship but maintaining such a relationship takes more time and effort.

There’s nothing wrong with a cheap club top, but if you spend too much time accumulating a collection of those, you don’t have the time for that blouse that makes you feel and look like a million bucks but needs a little more TLC. And if you have that collection of club tops, you feel the need to spend time at the club when what you may really want to do is visit a wine bar with your three best friends while wearing that blouse. Or maybe just enjoy a cup of tea alone in a sunny corner in that beautiful blouse.

No one cares if you wear the same black pants three times in the same week. When you love the clothes and they love you back it’s not, “There’s Jane again in that blue dress.” It’s “Oh Jane, you always look so great in that blue dress.” Or… it’s not even noticed because it just seems so right. It’s a healthy friendship. And life is too short to stay in unhealthy relationships.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. What a great post and so very, very true! So well written, and it helped me clean my closet and get rid of a few toxic friends. Like Ugh boots – they look great on others but on my size 11s make me feel look a horse. Good by and I feel better already!

  2. This post was amazing. Laugh out loud funny and so relatable… to closets and relationships! Started another purge today.

    Everything rings so true, I know I’ve had one of each in my closet at different times in my life….

  4. Alison, this is the BEST article you’ve written, Love it! I can see lots of my clothes in those categories. Now I want to go clean my closet out. Thank you for the motivation 🙂

  5. Alison – this is such a great assessment of the garments in any of our closets! So very wise. It’s great to “put a name with a face” – so to speak.

    Well done, girl.

  6. I have been weeding and weeding my closet … and there are still a few items that SEEMED like a great idea (like you said, on everybody’s chic list) but never get worn. Every so often, I pull out my two pair of white jeans and give them a try out. Sometimes, clothing looks good when you put it on but those jeans start getting saggy in the butt and just don’t look that good by mid morning. Both pair have now hit the donate pile.

    I finally bought myself a pair of NYDJ jeans I’m sure are way too tight since you’re told to buy one size smaller (marketing ploy?) but they are comfortable after a minute or two and look good all day long. I wear them a couple times a week and always feel skinnier, taller and like I know how to put myself together. In Allie language, win!

  7. Loved this post and yes I could identify items in my closet that fit many of those descriptors. I have done a few cullings on my wardrobe this year. Getting rid of old items from when I first started my career. Clothes that haven’t fit since I had kids that kind of stuff. I am trying to be ruthless because truly I wear a fraction of what I have regularly. This is a great reminder to edit out those “friends” that are toxic.

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