The sociology of cleaning out your closet

A wardrobe consultant with a PhD in visual sociology discusses how cleaning out a closet can lead to catharsis:

Akbari explains that we are emotionally attached to items of clothing and their history. Sorting out our clothes is a therapeutic process that goes beyond aesthetics. Her focus is on the relationship between the visual appearance and self-presentation and how this affects one’s ability to claim power. Clothing allows people to play with the different facets of their identity.

The people that reach out to wardrobe consultants are generally going through some form of transition. They could be wanting a new job or dating new people. It’s an identity construction, the shedding of an old self and embracing of something new…

“Our clothes are an extension of our bodies and our identity and our social success depends on our ability to communicate, our intelligence, and our appearance — we come as a package.”

This seems a Goffmanian take on closets and clothes.

Perhaps this also explains why people are unwilling to clean out a closet full of clothes – they are not just clothes but rather symbolic objects that say something about the individual and making decisions about such symbols can be difficult. Having a full closet implies that one has a lot of options about one’s identity while removing some of those clothes might close off some of those identities.

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