What I Wore When My Life Fell Apart

Photographed by Charles Roussel.
Laura Ruof is a fashion and beauty blogger atCall To Style. She Instagrams at @Call_To_Style

Have you ever had a moment where you stopped and thought, This can’t be my life? A moment where you looked around and felt like you were an actor in a really bad play, just waiting for the curtains to draw and your real life to start? At the end of last year, I had those moments so often, the feeling came to define me. I knew it was time to make some major changes — the kind of changes that would shake my very foundation and cause everything to crumble into pieces.

In a matter of weeks, I recovered from a long illness, broke up with my fiancé, and moved out of the apartment I had lived in for years. I executed all of this with no plan of where I was going to go. The changes in my life were all self-imposed and happened at such a swift pace that even I was a little surprised at myself. With nowhere to live and only two bags filled with my things, my newfound bravery came from knowing that I was making the right decision.

Though fashion was the last thing on my mind at the time, I now realize that my relationship with my clothes during this turmoil was an apt microcosm of what was going on in my head. Unexpectedly, I discovered a lot about my personal style. Cleaning out my closet made purging the actual toxic elements from my life — the things that didn’t fit, weren’t supportive, weren’t “me” — a lot easier. I noticed I was only keeping items in black and white and gray. I had subconsciously created a clean slate in my life and wardrobe. The clothing I kept was very much the building blocks and basics: a few nice tees, a couple of sweaters, a blazer, a leather jacket, a pair of leggings, and a pair of boyfriend jeans. These pieces were the foundation that I craved, but they also scared the shit out of me. I was a fashion blogger with only a few pieces of clothing.

What the hell was I going to wear? While proud of my decisiveness, I scolded myself for not taking outfit-planning into greater consideration. The way I express myself creatively is through my clothes and my writing, and I was feeling stifled with my limited "vocabulary" of garments. There’s only so much you can write about a blazer and a pair of jeans, and they certainly leave very little to photograph. But, I was also getting the chance to start afresh, and I wanted to be careful about what I brought into my life. Summoning patience, I allowed myself the time to ride the wave I was on, even if I couldn’t dress exactly the way I wanted to. 

It took over a month to get the courage to return to my old apartment and pick up what I had left behind. But, once I got there, I was surprised to find that most of my long-lost stuff didn’t shine as brightly as I remembered it. I didn’t really miss anything. I realized that when I had left my home, I had taken with me not just what I needed, but what I really wanted. Once I learned to live without the other things, it felt like they represented a past life: a pair of pants I wore when I was sick, the dress I was wearing the night I got engaged. I couldn’t shake the clothing's memories, so it felt right to shed the clothing itself. I took one small bag with me and donated everything else — 10 full garbage bags’ worth of clothes, shoes, and jewelry. What they represented was heavier than that still, and I felt suddenly lighter.
Photographed by Charles Roussel.
Who I am today is not who I will be five years from now — and that's as it should be. Parts of me will stay the same, but not everything. The same goes for my wardrobe, and my style in general. I’ll still have core pieces I've held onto (you won’t find my leather jacket on eBay; it will be locked in a closet where my future daughters can’t repurpose it as their own when I’m out of town). The rest of my clothes will be constantly swapped out to reflect the evolution of who I am and what I like. 

My style doesn’t have just one identity, I’m not just "bohemian" or "monochromatic." When I was feeling lost in my life, I was buying things on whims, without any cohesiveness or pattern. In turn, I wasn’t really in love with what I owned. I had a scattered, random wardrobe, with items I would like for a few months and then feel totally over. Now, when I purchase something, there’s a reason behind it, and a thoughtfulness. I’m bringing it into my wardrobe because it makes sense, and because I truly love it.

The main thing I notice is that I’m buying fewer items, but spending more on each. The 10 bags of stuff that I donated from my old apartment were a wake-up call as to how much I had acquired. Today, I purchase things that fit me better, are well-tailored, and are made from better materials. It might mean I have less stuff, but I realize now that loving what I have is more important than just “having” — and that goes for every aspect of my life. That black Balmain power-blazer I recently bought might make me shake a little when I remember how much it cost — but I’ll have it forever, I’ll love it forever, and it makes me feel awesome when I wear it.

Hopefully, the next time I do a big closet purge, it will be under less-dramatic circumstances — you know, a yard sale instead of a life rerouting. And, based on my new buying strategy, those purges of tomorrow will likely include fewer sweaters with hearts on them. But, maybe not? That’s the fun part: I have no idea how my wardrobe will evolve in the future; I just know that it will. It’s constantly surprising me, because it’s always changing. 

Clothes and style may not have meaning to many people; clothes are just things, after all. But, my style is part of who I am and what I do, so it’s important to me. Little by little, as I build up my wardrobe again, it feels as though I can see myself more clearly. And, as I put those parts of my life back together, it finally feels like my life.  
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