Grab a coffee and sit for a minute 🙂
Andrea asked a question recently that I have a lot of experience with and thought it would be interesting to discuss further (read Andrea’s post and the comments there too, they’re very good, and quite different from my perspective):
Can you love styling and still subscribe to a minimal wardrobe?
Rather than write an essay in the comments section of her site, I wanted to bring my answer over here. Although it’s rather a short one: no.
I can’t, anyway.
You may recall the little series I did a couple years ago The Minimal Closet. Yes, I rode the wave of minimalism, capsule wardrobes, etc., etc., deeply exploring the emotional issues surrounding my clothing acquisitions, desire to purge, and learning to live with less. I DO live with less; I have a much smaller wardrobe now than I ever have before, but it is still not minimal by any stretch of the imagination. Of course “minimal” is entirely subjective…
I learned a lot from it, and am glad I tried to pare down, and went through my own exercises, but ultimately, my experiment with minimalism led only to reinforce the fact that I am not, in fact, a minimalist.
(random thoughts follow)
I also no longer believe that to choose “better” you MUST have “fewer” (sorry to steal Cuyana’s thunder). In other words, you can buy as you would normally, just choosing better if you have the means to do so. Of course we should not be wasteful, buying things we don’t need, or that are harmful to the environment & the people who create them, but having a large wardrobe full of things you love, wear, and take care of isn’t mutually exclusive with higher quality and “better” in terms of environmental/social responsibility. It’s just a nice catchphrase IMO.
I am an emotional dresser. I love to try new things, different styles, silhouettes I wouldn’t normally, just to see what will “stick.” I know this now, after trying so hard to change, and stick with a very small wardrobe. Now, instead of indulging in fast fashion to try new things, I choose from independent, more responsible designers, but I do end up buying quite a bit, to play with. And I have come to terms with the fact that THAT IS OKAY.
My reality is such that I can afford (mostly) to play around with style if I want to (I am 43, self-employed and live a very casual lifestyle with no children) and any attempts to constrain myself in that regard always end up backfiring.
Perhaps if this (writing this blog) wasn’t my job/career/LIFE, then I wouldn’t buy and try so much, but I doubt that. I only started doing this a million years (actually only 12…) ago BECAUSE of my passion for style, styling, and working out a wardrobe. I also LOVE TO SHARE and talk about style/fashion/etc. with people who I identify with. With you.
YOU NEVER KNOW UNTIL YOU TRY. All my life I’ve been fighting with the voices in my head telling me what I can and can’t wear for my body type: You’re short, you have to wear heels, long pants with a slight flare, and since you have a small waist, accentuate it! Oh, and DEFINITELY don’t cuff your pants, or wear sleeveless tops because your arms are flabby. Maybe now I’m overcompensating a bit and going too far into unflattering territory, but I don’t care, I’m having fun.
The problem with trying so much is that I may like something very much at first, but over time realize it doesn’t really “fit” me, and I no longer want it in my wardrobe. It’s often hard to tell until you get it and wear it though, what will fit and what won’t. Again, I don’t feel bad for trying things and then selling them or giving them away if they don’t ultimately work out; it’s an investment I’m willing to make – and CAN make – within reason.
I’m tired of feeling guilty for enjoying clothes. I DO ENJOY them. A lot. I always have. I love the way my clothes make me feel, and I love the way I look in them. I love to discover new designers, and try interesting silhouettes. I am excited to support small, independent designers, and I get a thrill sharing them with you.
As I’ve always said, even during my minimal closet journey, minimalism isn’t the answer. Having fewer things for the sake of having fewer things ISN’T going to fix everything. Trying to fit yourself into a box you do NOT FIT INTO never works. Reading minimalist blogs and articles about capsule wardrobes always made me feel inadequate; like I was doing it wrong. Why didn’t I feel more “free” with only 33 items in my capsule wardrobe? Why did I hyperventilate every time I went to get dressed and only had 10 items to choose from? Was I missing something??
Turns out, it just wasn’t for me. Minimalism absolutely works for some people, and while I definitely appreciate having the smallest wardrobe I’ve ever had, having everything out now where I can see it instead of spread out in boxes and multiple closets, following rules and trying to be “minimalist” gave me anxiety.
Now I know. But it took me a long time to get here and a lot of experimentation with things that didn’t work. Don’t cheat yourself of that either, if you want to try a new path.
That is all we can do: try things, and see what sticks. There’s no one way to go through life.