I have a theory about clothing. I think it should be simple… a no-brainer… something that doesn’t require daily thought and doesn’t suck all the creativity out of an individual before they even start the day. If you are a fashionista, you should quit reading now. This blog is not for you. It’s not for anyone who considers dressing a hobby, a calling, a passion or a past time. This is for those of us who want to obsess less and live more and quit fretting over the little things in life that don’t really matter. I HATE standing in front of the closet pondering what to wear. If that’s your feeling too, you are in the right place.
Today I’m going to explain my 3-Month Experiment, how I’m using Pinterest to organize my simple wardrobe and find inspiration, and 8 reasons why a simple wardrobe makes sense for me, personally.
Clothing should not be a collection (in the way some people collect obnoxious numbers of matchbooks, teapots, thimbles or Civil War era knives). It should not be a status symbol, but a statement of personal style. Clothes do not define the person who wears them. The clothes do not make the man… the person defines the clothes.
Clothes should not be pinchy, scratchy, sloppy, tight, ugly, constantly in need of re-adjustment or worrisome in any other way. You should get dressed in the morning and not have to even think about it again until that evening.
I’ve had this theory for many years, but I sometimes forget the “simple” goal during the turmoil of finding great deals online or unexpected treasures in my favorite thrift shops. I forget that when I want new clothes… a new “look”… those are usually the times when I’m unhappy with other areas of my life that have little to do with what’s in my closet. My closet is usually full when I get this urge. Go figure.
There’s a reason I tend to start any new endeavor, new transformation, new organization or cleaning binge, and any new “take” on my life by attacking my closet. I used to think I did it because it was the smallest room in the house and I needed to see progress quickly. Now, I think it’s a bit deeper than that.
Since my little cabin is finally finished, I’m looking around to determine what I need to do to simplify and improve other areas of my life. Everything from:
Over the next few months, I’ll probably be outlining the how and why of each step toward minimalistic living I decide to take. But today, I’m talking about clothing. The wardrobe issue. The threads.
I want to create (or pare down to) a simple, personal wardrobe. To do that, I need to evaluate and understand my needs, determine what has worked/does work, and what hasn’t ever worked and should be abandoned.
I have always amused myself with making lists. Lists (usually multiple versions) have always been my first step (and sometimes the ONLY step) toward self-renovation projects. Lately, I’ve added the practice of constructing boards over on Pinterest to illustrate my desires, collect ideas and rethink approaches to working out the details.
I hope that chronicling my journey will help you to evaluate your own clothing situation and (if you are so inclined) to determine the perfect “simple” wardrobe for you that will save you morning drama, money, time and effort caring for something that should be keeping you comfortable and covered as you live the rest of your life and do the things that REALLY matter to you.
About three months ago I sorted the clothes in my closet and tossed those I never wore, those that were in less than ideal condition, and those that were a little too tight or loose or whatever. Although I felt secure that I’d eliminated all the flotsam, I did that little “trick” with the hangers. You know the one. (I flipped them all around backwards and only “righted” them when hanging up clothes from the washer/dryer after they had been worn.)
Like me, you probably never ACTUALLY did this because you already KNEW what you wore and what you didn’t wear, right? Yeah, I thought that too. I was wrong. Since that time, I’ve been amazed to discover how FEW of the “essential” items that I left in my closet were ever worn.
What really shocked me were those really NICE clothes that I would grab and then put back thinking… “Nah, not today.” I started keeping up with how often that was happening and made sure my hangers stayed “backward” for those items — even though I often took them off the hanger and actually put them on before deciding I just couldn’t “face” wearing it today — or that I’d “save” it for another time. Once this happened three times on a single article of clothing, I put it in the donation bag. No exceptions.
Let’s face it… if I reach for something three separate times and all three times decide I just don’t want to wear it THIS time… the chances are great I’ll never want to wear it and I don’t really want to “decorate” the inside of my closet with pretty things that I never wear. *Ahem* Screw that.
During the middle of this experiment, I started pulling together two boards over on Pintrest.com. One was a board of all the pretty clothes that I admire for their fabric, design, ornamentation, even historical value. These are the clothes I admire, but do not hang in my own closet. They may include some items I’m considering including at some point and even “looks” that appeal to me… but they don’t live in my current closet.
I decided that having a board of these “ornamental” pieces gave me a great deal of visual pleasure and sparked my creative juices without the headaches of actually owning them. Besides, I’d already determined that the clothing that was pretty but wasn’t also flattering, comfortable and a personal favorite, wouldn’t be worn even if it DID hang in my closet. The 3-Month Experiment proved that.
The second board was the start of a visual guide to my simple wardrobe. I’m still working on that. It will be complete when I finish developing (or paring down) my perfect simple wardrobe. It will be a visual guide to illustrate my simple wardrobe.
I also started making a list of the clothes I need. The list was cumbersome. I tucked it away and continued with the hanger experiment. Since that time I’ve continued to “hack” away at the list. It’s still a work in progress, but I’ve noticed a few things about myself that will help my quest for wardrobe simplicity.
During my research for a simple, workable clothing “basics” guideline, I did find a few interesting items. The Six Items Or Less project is an interesting concept (the website is no longer maintained, but if you Google it, you will find blogs from many participants). I find it a little TOO spartan, even for my tastes. It does point out the importance of great pieces as you narrow your options and the fact that quality is imperative when you have only a few pieces and wear them often. Like many other things in modern life, most clothes are created with “disposable” in mind. That doesn’t really work for a simple wardrobe.
I’m aware I’ll be spending more (per piece) for the pieces in my simple wardrobe. That’s ok, I like quality and I’m not that fond of quantity… so it’s all good. It’s also cheaper to have a few classic pieces that are worn often and for years, than to have new items in the closet every few weeks that are disposable and often only last a wear (and wash) or two. I have no problem with “investment” dressing. It will pay off, especially if I’m lucky enough to find what I need in my favorite thrifting haunts.
In the current economy, we should revert to the classic philosophy followed before the era of sweatshops across the globe that enable us to have cheap, poorly made clothing that has become as disposable as everything else in our lives. The philosophy was that a young woman, just getting started with few resources couldn’t afford to buy cheap clothes.
The French and Italian women have it right… they own few pieces, the quality is impeccable and they last season after season. They delineate a woman’s personal style. They are pieces selected for their fit on the woman who owns them, they FEEL good – to wear and to touch. The English have more clothes and they are, as a general rule, of lesser quality as a result. In America, we are literally swimming in articles of clothing. Most of them not worth the effort required to drag them home. We hoard clothing as we do many other things. It’s a nasty, expensive and self-defeating habit, IMHO. And, I plan to stop participating.
Classic clothing never goes out of style if it’s on the body that wears it well. Having a closet full of junk clothing is much more taxing to a personal budget than having a few expensive items that last (and look good) for years and years.
Coco Chanel brought us the “little black dress” decades ago. It was, and still is, the answer to most “what to wear” panic-attacks. Coco, herself, lived in suits. In an interview in 1969, Coco was wearing a signature suit. When asked what else was in her own closet, she replied, “Two suits I’ve had for three years, a beige one and the one I wore yesterday, with a small pattern, three is good. I have a brand new one, all white, which I’ll wear to the collection.” Coco designed for others to wear, but kept her own closet spartan, high-quality and perfect. When she died at the age of 87, only three complete outfits were found in her own closet.
There have been other notable projects and extremes in this arena. Like the Uniform Project (wearing a single black dress every day for a year, changing it up only with accessories) and Steve Job’s iconic black-turtleneck and jeans uniform. Andy Worhol had his own personal uniform too.
Some call this approach to dressing a “signature style” or a “personal uniform.” I am not as strict as that… at least not yet. But I find it notable that many of the creative icons of our time and throughout history figured out the clothing thing early on and cleared THAT part of their lives and reserved that portion of their creativity to do more important things.
I want a limited number of options that always look good and that always make me feel good. I don’t need “color” in my wardrobe and endless variety. I need continuity and simplicity and comfort. Whatever you call it, I’m seeking a release from the massive number of decisions I have to make in the course of a day — I’m tired of my life being eaten up with minutia. I have more important things to do… like read a book or write a blog or spend time with the people I love or take a walk in my woods, or contemplate my life … or ANYTHING other than fretting over what to wear.
So, I’m undertaking my own little experiment… to investigate the validity of developing a “simple wardrobe” of my very own — tailored (if you will pardon the pun) to my life, my needs and my activities. I’m blogging my approaches/attempts and even failures (hopefully not many) along the way to encourage anyone else ready to take the simple wardrobe on their own.