If you’re like me, you occasionally stand in front of your closet surveying what you have to work with, or you mentally tabulate which items would make a smashing combination with a new green jacket. Of course you could always invest in some wardrobe management software, but you’ll have to spend time taking pictures of every single thing, uploading them, and then clicking through all the possible combinations. Studies show that consumers are paralyzed by too many choices.
But there’s something satisfying about the challenge of creating new ensembles out of a smaller closet. No one’s surprised when well-to-do people or celebrities dress well—everyone knows they’ve got the resources. Being stylish when you don’t have a budget equivalent to some people’s annual gross income is more impressive, and forces you to be more creative. When you put a narrow belt into service as a bracelet, or tuck a dress into pants to make it look like a top, you experience the smug thrill of victory over conformity.
When you limit your spending, you end up becoming very, very picky. But this has benefits: your high standards mean that you only buy items that you love, that work with your style, and that truly flatter you. This has a positive effect on your mood. There's more satisfaction in an ensemble carefully crafted of pieces you adore than one that consists of stuff you bought at the mall when you were in a hurry and had some cash burning in your pocket.
There’s also the personal meaning and history of your clothes. That vintage bag isn’t just a handbag—it’s a gift from a dear friend who saw it at a flea market and thought of you. A dress isn’t just a dress—you saw it when you wandered into Anthropologie on a lark; it was the last one, it was marked 75 percent off, AND it was in your size. You bought that chunky silver ring at a little boutique in a touristy town in Sicily; it was crazy expensive but you had to have it, and years later, people still comment on it. Pity the celebrities and royalty who can only wear things once and never again, lest they attract the negative attention of the tabloids. You, Anonymous Citizen, can wear that purple ruffled jacket you got at a sample sale ten years ago every single week if you want, and no one will say boo.