What Your Closet Reveals About You

Amy Tan is a well-known author who was born in California to Chinese immigrants. Much of her work focuses on the Chinese immigrant experience, American-Chinese culture, and mother-daughter relationships. She has written numerous books that include The Joy Luck Club, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, and Saving Fish from Drowning. She has also won an Emmy for her animated series, Sagwa. This article, in which Tan discusses what clothes reveal about a person, first appeared in Harper’s Bazaar in 2006.

What Your Closet Reveals about You

Amy Tan


A few months back I attended a benefit luncheon at the home of a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley whose art collection adorned nearly every vertical surface of her Bauhaus house. While freshening up, I was amused to see she had artwork even in
her bathroom and, as I then saw, her vault-size closet. I stepped in, ostensibly to examine the painting, and there I experienced a life-changing revelation.
At first glance the interior of the closet and its cabinetry of bird’s-eye maple
were merely impressive. An Eames bench sat in the center, where one might sit as if resting among exhibits at a costume museum. Cashmere sweaters and scarves, arranged by tonality, were aligned on sliding trays. Segregated sections contained jackets, black-tie gowns, cocktail-party dresses, business suits, and golfing attirephalanxes of fashion organized by function, color, and texture, all of it hanging on the erect shoulders of identical mahogany hangers, a precision team at the ready for any occasion.
And then there was this: four banks of shelves housing four dozen shoe boxes,

which had been wrapped in rough hemp mesh and coated with a thin layer of gouache. Affixed to the front of each was a small stainless-steel nameplate, on which appeared the names of the various conceptual artists: Giorgio Armani, Manolo Blahnik, and Jimmy Choo. In smaller type were notes with numbers and letters; those, I discerned through...