Of Clean Closets and American Gigolo

What else is a Philly woman supposed to think about in spring?

Each spring, I look into my closet hopefully, and think: This is the year that things will be neat, organized, minimalist, and pristine. Like all women on a closet clean-up mission, I get possessed and a little scary when this ritual rolls around: I go in gangbusters, and actually iron the clothes that I haven’t been able to wear (because they needed to be ironed). Shoes are ferried to the shoe repair shop. Sweaters are folded, and shirts migrate to one side of the closet, while skirts move to the other. When I’m done, it looks quite neat — for a few days at least — but it never gets anywhere close to my ideal closet, which is Richard Gere’s American Gigolo closet. [SIGNUP]

I remember as a teenager seeing American Gigolo the first time and thinking, Wow! As a suburban Philadelphian, there was a lot about the movie that was very intriguing — Lauren Hutton’s amazing beauty and effortless style, Richard Gere playing a guy for hire, and all those scenes of California living, with gorgeous Beverly Hills weather and people tooling around in convertibles under palm trees. Actually, the movie is very sad and depressing, but the stunning simplicity and obsessively ordered closet of the Richard Gere character has been with me ever since, and I’ve always believed that if I had a closet of similar architectural neatness and severe organization, each hanger an inch apart, each garment hung with OCD precision, my whole life would fall into place. My mind would be like that closet. (Although, come to think of it, Richard Gere’s character’s life was a complete mess! And he was being stalked by killers and constantly interrogated by Hector Elizondo!)  Anyway, after seeing Mommy Dearest one too many times, I did get a bunch of wooden hangers at Ikea ($4.49 for an 8-pack!), which made things look neater, but it still isn’t Richard Gere-esque at my house.

Recently I’ve visited some friends’ closets in the name of research, and have been amazed at what I’ve seen. One friend has a gorgeously girly closet with flowered wallpaper and pretty shelves for her sweaters, shoes and handbags, making it an enclave so welcoming that I’d love to have drinks with her in there. Another has a closet the size of an Airstream trailer, and has accumulated an amazing array of shoes, boots, sweaters and dresses collected from the 1980s till now. It’s awesome, and a little intimidating. My beloved grandmother, who was a fantastic clotheshorse and was given to wearing caftans and oversize necklaces, had a small closet, but a large attic that she used to store racks of beautiful things saved from the 1940s on, up until she died in 1999. We were lucky to inherit a few amazing things from her — my sister still wears Grandma’s very cool high heel boots from the ’70s — and I keep a beautiful photo of her right next to my closet. In fact, I’ll put on her enormous drop earrings for inspiration this weekend while I clean out my closet.

AMY KORMAN is a Philly Mag senior writer.