Total Wardrobe Control

Total Wardrobe Control (TWC) – an intangible state in which one possesses all rights to dictate what another will wear. The TWC state is most often invoked by women due to a forthcoming dress rehearsal, formal event or coronation but can also be enacted for common events such as tee ball games. Obviously, men are usually subordinates of TWC and rarely feel the need or have the desire to participate in the administration of the duties of TWC. Single men heed this warning; do not get married if you are unable to stomach dictatorial instances of being told what to wear.

Scientific research into the TWC phenomenon has yet to deduce what gene sequence is responsible for this often observed (and often irrational) mental state nor the actual moment in time when TWC entered the universe. However, George Berkeley, the Irish philosopher, in a letter to his brother dated 1728, had the following to say about his future wife:
Upon the inspection of what I had prepared to enrobe myself prior to my speech, Anne did not only defy my will, she defined it – forsaking my own implied thoughts regarding comfort and propriety and presented her view and her determination of what my sense of self had to be. My view of the clothed self was not in my power, my will was not my own and her vision enslaved my denuded soul to the objects of her desire.

One could argue that the above passage has nothing to do with Berkeley’s choice of clothing and is instead a cleverly disguised admission to his brother that he would rather be engaged in the practice of writing for the yet unknown bodice-ripper genre. As spicy as that sounds, he states later in his letter that his forced frock did not go unnoticed and so we must conclude that his future wife had, in fact, dressed him for the occasion. The lack of specific clarification in Berkeley’s writing that his future wife had chosen his clothes is surely a sign that this was not the first instance of TWC and we can safely presume that TWC had been in existence for many years prior to this letter. One could also argue the author of this paper concocted the letter excerpt to support the overall story but we can’t be sure as the letter has since been eaten by moths.

This importance of the infamous excerpt from Berkeley’s letter lies in the realization that the availability of clothing options in the 1700’s was far less than what they are today. Given that he had fewer options at his disposal than we do in modern times meant that he also had a fewer chances of selecting the “wrong” outfit. Despite his increased odds of selecting the “right” outfit, according to his future wife, he still got it wrong. Anyone who has been a subordinate of the TWC state can sympathize with Berkeley’s attenuated power to choose, particularly modern people with dozens of shirts, socks, underwear and pants. One faulty selection could bring on a furious wrath of repercussions from the TWC head.

Unfortunately, there is no governing body to regulate TWC. This means that anybody anywhere can invoke TWC at will without fear of imprisonment. This doesn’t necessarily negate retribution from subordinates but it does indicate that anyone with a strong sense of style will likely attempt TWC even if their sense of style is objectionable to the general public – Tammy Faye Bakker’s makeup comes to mind. She was both head of her own TWC state and a subordinate at the same time – a tragic combination.

At a recent sporting event, I had the pleasure of being seated next to a group of women who openly admitted their roles as former TWC heads. It was clear from their conversation that they would continue their operations in the future as well, as their subordinates are generally characterized as less than capable clothiers. Just as there are many members of the TWC society, there are many different methods to achieving TWC.

These women use subtlety, subterfuge and strong-arm tactics when dealing with their husbands in order to reach their goal of complementary styling. In one case, a woman indicated she used domesticated rendition to rid the house of clothing articles she deemed visually offensive. The husband seemed to not to understand the issue at hand or simply did not care that a shirt mysteriously disappeared. If he really did care for the shirt then it would likely be replaced with something equally offensive and the cycle of misdeeds would continue. One woman related that her husband claims he was a fully functioning, self sufficient adult before marriage. Doubtful these women really believe the man’s statement but TWC heads often don’t listen to the cries of their constituents.

As stated before, just because one assumes the TWC head role does not make them the undisputed fact book on fashion sense. Take big hair and puffy-sleeved dresses from the 1980’s. There is not a woman alive today that would admit it was a good idea but they all seemed so intent on perpetrating the myth despite never having heard any of their boyfriends state, “you look so hot in those puffy sleeves….and that hair! It really gives you some lift.”

There is one sentence that precedes the invoking of a TWC state more than any other: Are you really going to wear that? It isn’t really a question at all. It’s a declaration that the head of TWC is about to demand the offending clothing be changed for something more to her liking. It is a warning that allows the subordinate to reply with a knowing pshaw and wriggle out of his clothes gracefully without losing face. The TWC heads (women) insist that the collective must look nice for the impending function but the reality is that women aren’t dressing to impress society as a whole. They’re dressing to impress other women. Men simply want to be comfortable even if that means going out in public with a hole in the seat of their pants that reveal a penchant for Sponge Bob boxers.