Monday 22 December 2014

What this old thing? The wardrobe agonies that steal a year of our lives

Published 01/04/2014 | 02:30

Kevin Spacey, and Robin Wright in ‘House of Cards’. Wright’s character Claire is always impeccably turned out

Over a lifetime, women spend more than a year of their lives deciding what to wear. Men will, no doubt, be shocked by this, but I think most women will not be surprised at all.

According to a survey by fashion marketing club, StyleCard, 12 minutes a day is what the average woman spends looking for a work outfit. But we've all had days where it's been longer.

The days when nothing looks or fits right – your zip won't go up, your buttons refuse to close or your shirt is too wrinkled to wear. You ransack your wardrobe, becoming increasingly irate and sweaty, looking for something stylish but comfortable until you eventually admit defeat and end up wearing the old reliable black trousers and black top.

Anyone watching the TV series, 'House of Cards', will understand my obsession with the style of the lead female character, Claire Underwood, played by Robin Wright. Her work clothes are drop dead gorgeous and yet so simple.

Maybe simplicity is the answer. It's what the French do so well, muted colours and simple but well- cut clothes. In the TV series, Claire's wardrobe consists almost entirely of perfectly tailored white shirts, pencil skirts and high heels. She looks perfect – sexy, yet serious, stylish, yet head-turning.

But any time I've worn a white shirt, it has ended up with some manner of stain on it by 9.30. By the end of day, my white shirt would look like I'd thrown a pot of coffee over it and then gone for a nap under a hedge.

I am in awe of any woman who can wear a white shirt and not crumple or stain it.

Jackie Onassis, famous for her chic wardrobe, always bought clothes she liked in every colour.

Not a bad idea.

Maybe that's the key to looking well turned out. It would certainly cut down on your decision time if all you had to do was choose a different colour every day.

While women spend an average of 12 minutes deciding what clothes to wear to work, the time increases significantly when it's a first date decision.

Women spend 34 minutes figuring out what to wear the first time they meet a man.

They spend approximately the same amount of time worrying about what to wear when they meet their potential in-laws for the first time.

When it comes to the weekend, women typically spend 23 minutes getting ready to go out. What your other half doesn't realise as he paces up and down beside the front door shouting at you to hurry up, is that you're not getting ready for him, you are getting dressed solely for your female friends.

Women and girls are far more interested in looking good for their girlfriends than their other halves. As designer Betsey Johnson said: "Girls do not dress for boys.

"They dress for themselves and, of course, each other. If girls dressed for boys they'd just walk around naked at all times."

We spend longer getting ready for a night out with the girls than we would if we were just going out with men. But most men still believe that women take too long getting ready and find it frustrating having to wait around.

Relationship counsellors suggest that if women told their partners how long they were going to take, it would make life easier for the men. It's the fact that we say we'll only be five minutes and then take half an hour that drives them mad.

For so many women, that half an hour before they go out is the only time they get to themselves.

I know many women who get ready quickly but then spend 15 minutes relaxing before they go out. The bathroom can often be the only place you get to be alone all day.

But what of all the time wasted on decisions about clothes?

Think of all the things we could do with that extra year – learn to speak a language, climb Mount Everest, travel the world, read the top 100 books of all time . . .

Time management experts would encourage women to decide what they're going to wear to work the night before and lay it out. Everything down to underwear and shoes should be laid out, thus saving them the headache of decision making at 7am.

I have found this very effective in my house. I do it with my children. Instead of chasing them around and trying to wrestle them into clothes before school, I now lay out their clothes the night before.

So far, it's working well and has proven to be very time efficient.

Now if only I could do that for myself . . . but the beige jumper just doesn't go with the navy trousers . . . what about that cream skirt . . . or the grey shirt. . .

Irish Independent

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