You might be wondering:
Why, oh, WHY would a personal stylist be writing about a faux fur vest at the onset of the Spring/Summer season?
Shouldn’t she be trying to sell me something that’s in the boutiques and department stores right now?
Isn’t it a stylist supposed to tell me what to wear for all the cocktail parties, bar-b-ques and weddings that I have coming up?
You’d be more than right to pose any of the above questions… and you might have others of your own.
I hesitated even writing this because in many ways, it doesn’t FIT.
On the surface, this topic does not highlight the trends of the season or my outfit of the day as most stylists propagate and market.
This is about something deeper.
Even if superficially I’m writing about outerwear that I purchased over 4 and a half years ago from a brand that I had never heard of before or since from an off-sell site that no longer exists, this is about more than clothing.
I am writing this at a time when a faux fur vest with toggle buttons is quite possibly the last thing on anyone’s mind, when the weather is fighting to warm up and the blossoms are just beginning to give way to a full-blown New England spring – this is a time when ummmm hello, we are all trying our best to forget winter!
But this is important. What I’m writing here.
Mostly it’s important for me but I know it’s applicable to so many, especially women.
On April 27th, I hosted my first Style Archetype Workshop at my Boston studio space. The women who attended experienced remarkable transformation in how they viewed themselves and expressed their self-worth.
Most importantly, this time I not only lead the workshop, I also put myself through my own paces.
I didn’t expect how deeply it would touch me to respond to my own prompts meant to get to the heart of the stories we’ve been told, the self-limiting beliefs we cultivate in our psyches.
But it did.
It hit me hard.
In the best way possible, so many things came up.
And I channeled it all into completing the homework I gave the workshop attendees.
I told them:
Take the energy of today and all you learned about yourself, from your own Style Archetype Trifecta to your Style Directives, and apply it all to your current closet. Spend just 2 hours editing and styling what you already own.
Even though I knew this was sound advice and it was exactly what I needed (personally, myself), I wasn’t going to do it.
I was tired from planning the workshop and feeling overwhelmed with everything else I needed to be doing.
But, I also knew on the other side of the effort of editing my own closet was a both a palette and a canvas for me to create.
And I decided to focus on that.
One of the exercises towards the end of the Style Archetype Workshop was to think of ONE THING in your closet that, after having learned so much throughout the day, you KNOW you can let go of immediately.
For me, it was this vest.
It came to mind instantly the minute I verbalized the assignment and, frequently this past winter, I had considered wearing it. But, I always hesitated because it, like so many things, holds a specific energy I was ready to release, even if I wasn’t quite willing to let go.
I bought it in 2014 from the website MyHabit (now defunct) when I was 9 months pregnant with my daughter thinking it would keep me feeling glamorous as I made my way through the post-partum months. It was still steamy in September at the time I clicked the buy button.
Just a few days later I went into labor at 35 weeks and Belle, though technically healthy, was not ready to come home when I left the hospital.
It was an excruciating time for me.
For three weeks I commuted between our apartment and the NICU at Beth Israel Medical Center. Every night I woke up hourly to call the nurses’ desk and ask for an update on Belle’s vitals and to see how nighttime feedings had gone. During the day I spent 8 hours holding her with tubes and monitors beeping and hissing, narrating all the things we would do together once she was ready to leave and see the world with me, the one that existed beyond the picture window.
And every day, I wore this vest.
It arrived a day or two after I was discharged and I had forgotten about ordering it (as we are wont to do when it comes to online shopping…) but when I opened the box, I was filled with childlike emotion.
I tore away the plastic and gathered the bulky fibers into my arms, hugging it like a teddy bear.
When I put it on, I felt held, caressed and supported.
Walking into the hospital each day, the staff soon began dropping comments about me being a “moviestar mom”. Not only was it perfect for the early fall weather but it also magically fit it in a way that an anxious new mother needed so badly.
It served me well.
Not just during those daily trips to the confines of the hospital but beyond. I even wore it to what would have been Belle’s baby shower but instead was a welcome party where snapshots of her proved she was an exact physical replica of my husband.
I lightened the mood by joking that I wanted a maternity test all while I stroked the soft fibers, burying my hands in the deep pockets – holding it together on the outside, a wreck on the inside.
The vest became a go-to every winter since and though I am certainly one to revel in compliments, this past winter I knew something had shifted in my relationship to this piece.
Every time I looked at my closet this past season, surveying it to see what outfit I wanted to create, my eyes passed over this vest and something stirred inside me – I felt sad, leaden, weighted.
Ready to let go, a voice inside me said.
But I wasn’t ready. Not yet, at least.
And how surprising considering I talk so much about the importance of editing your closet and only having things in your immediate vicinity that you are excited about wearing, that fit right now and are seasonal.
But we often get where we need to be eventually, and now I can accept that this vest is ready to move on.
It’s ready to help someone else through something whether it be a celebration or a time when they need comfort.
I could keep holding onto it, to wait and see how I feel about it next time the winds usher in colder temperatures but, to be honest, it takes up a lot of space; in more ways than one.
It’s physical and psychic space.
And I am ready to let go just as much as this vest is ready to let go of me.
I find sometimes, not just for myself but also for my clients, that some things are easier to release than others. We know something is interfering, maybe even weighing us down and yet we hold onto it.
Maybe we feel an obligation to the item, to how it served us, or maybe it didn’t get a chance at all, and instead wallowed with the tags still attached.
Or we worry we will want it someday and look back with regret.
This might very well happen to me in a few months, a year – maybe more.
I might look back and say: what was I thinking letting go of that vest? That glamorous shawl collar and a cut that covered the hips. So what if it was ratty at the armpits, burned at the back from standing too close to a fire one day? How could I have let it go?
I might not remember all the reasons but when (or if) I do come across any feelings that resemble regret, I will recall this moment of commemoration – these words, these photos that take up less space than the garment itself.
And, instead of focusing on lack I will think about the woman, on the other side of this process, who is benefitting from the warmth of being swathed in style.
I think of this woman often when I am clearing away remnants of my past self during my own closet edits, and I encourage clients to do the same.
Think of the woman who will pick up this piece wherever it ends up. She lights up with delight wondering how anyone could let it go but grateful they did because it might be just what she needs right at that time. It might just change her life that you were willing to part with it.
I’ve cleaned out the pockets in preparation to donate the vest – two wads of tissue, an incense cone and a few stray almonds leftover from an abandoned snack.
And there was something else.
I couldn’t quite place it at first.
A few oddly shaped pieces, brittle and a deep, rusty red.
The remnants of a leaf plucked at the height of a resplendent New England fall. Given to me by my daughter who thinks every leaf is worthy of commemoration and honor.
A symbol, broken yet no less profound, of the incessant transitions we face and the beauty of letting go.
Helena Grant is a personal stylist offering 1:1 services as well as virtual courses that help women uncover the power of their personal expression through clothing. Her self-study Capsule Creation Crash Course is currently available for pre-sale. CLICK HERE to purchase the beta version and teach yourself to create a newfound harmony in your life and wardrobe.