My name is Poindexter McQueen. I am a raging shopaholic and I have not shopped for five days. Last week was a bad week. I fell off the wagon is spectacular fashion (pardon the pun) and I am wholly repentant. The funny thing is, $300.00 later, I feel far better than I should. Ease off the judgement face. It’s not quite what you think.
It was a binge; a long one. Online shopping is at its most alluring when you’re done. From the safety of my bedroom with only the computer screen for illumination, there was no one to witness me buy. No one to silently judge me for trying to fix bad feelings with magnetized plastic. Between work troubles and budding health issues, it was bound to spill over. The coincidental death and destruction of not one but two pairs of both exquisite and exquisitely cheap sunglasses was the straw that broke the camels back. Out came the credit card.
It’s never one thing. It’s always many. Above is most of what I bought and absolutely none of it was on sale. Places like Pinterest, H&M and Forever 21 make it so easy to self-medicate. Just visiting the website makes me feel compelled to buy. As though the minimalist setup on the H&M site will somehow rub off if I buy something from them or the numb weightless feeling from Forever 21 will stay if I buy something. Obviously, none of this is true, but that’s doesn’t help my will power. Polyvore chirping that “Items you’ve saved are on sale” is another unhealthy distraction. How am I supposed to be a fake minimalist if everything is blaring “BUY FROM US” all the time?
Here’s how I know capsule wardrobing and the idea of wardrobe minimalism got to me: I returned more than half of what I bought. There was no rationalizing or bargaining. None of that, “oh I’ll just tailor it,” nonsense. If I needed it, I kept it. There was never a “Maybe I’ll like it better later” or “It’s good for right now.” None of it. Back into the package they went never to be seen by me again. Last year, that never would have happened. All of the items fit my “perfect minimalist wardrobe” ideal, but still, back they went. Except for the sunglasses. I have two pairs of shitty sunglasses that I can’t fix. These gems are staying. The cami fits perfectly and is so delightfully loose that it’s already been worn twice. The Reformation tee hasn’t arrived yet, but it’s made of linen so as long as the fit is right, it stays too. My current black tee is beat to hell and has warped in such a way that can only be expected from high street cotton jersey.
I fell off the wagon, but got back on. What was required was obtained and frivolous things were returned. A free at-home-spa-day helped to soften the blow and now my nails have adorable little dots on them and my toenails look stylishly frostbitten. Minimalism as a concept is still a tricky idea I haven’t quite figured it out yet but I cannot say it hasn’t helped. There are lessons to be learned from it. It may be a trendy lifestyle, but it is not without merit. But, I’m non-committal. So, I’ll just take what I like and leave the bulk to more disciplined people than myself. Thus far though, I’ll say the experiment was worth the attempt and my finances (and closet) continue to thank me. Pardon me while I go and delete the Polyvore app…
I shop when I’m
happy sad lonely anxious curious heartbroken exuberant manic inspired as a reward when I have feelings.
via CBS and Paramount
The cold hard truth is, t-shirts are like tribbles. They fucking multiply. In the grandiose minimalist wardrobe experiment, that rather vivid realization was forced upon me quickly. After all, purging and cleaning out one’s drawers and closet are part of the deal. When drawers cannot be opened without six shirts flying out at you, re-evaluation is probably in the near future. Culling. It is the painful tedious process by which the owner of the offending closet, drawers and/or wardrobe (depending on how intense the affliction) is forced to acknowledge each benign or offensive sartorial decision. They are also forced to realize that despite the fact that those university t-shirts bring the warmest of keg stand memories or all nighters doing nothing resembling studying, those same t-shirts are breeding. The risk of them overrunning the entire room single handedly is far too great to ignore.
As a recovering college student, I am one such person. My drawers were bursting with t-shirts and hoodies of various ages, qualities and dimensions. Methods of acquisition varied from first, theft from various family members and ex-boyfriends, inheritances souvenirs, organizations and “because it was funny.” Utility is the name of the game and, 5th grade t-shirts would never again be used. The stages of grief inevitably followed:
- DENIAL & ISOLATION: The “But I can still wear these” and the futile exercise of trying to rotate 100+ t-shirts and hoodies successfully. The “I’ll just keep them in my drawers and not look at them” stage came and went, quickly.
- ANGER: “Damn this attachment to mere silk screened, dyed cotton!!! Damn this endless consumerism and capitalist model with its bedfellow consumerism.” A fist was shaken at the sky.
- BARGAINING: “I just won’t buy anymore t-shirts again. Yeah, that’s it. And if I get rid of my work clothes, I’ll have plenty of room for these tees. Clearly this is a worthy cause!”
- DEPRESSION: The drawer of t-shirts not only remains ajar,, but its contents have begun to spill out onto the floor into a pile. A pile that sits, sullen in the corner haunting my room like the ghost of laundry past. They’ll never leave. I’ll never be rid of the spectral, cotton poltergeist. All is lost.
- ACCEPTANCE: It was not to be. We must part. All must be donated. My memories! My childhood. They’ll be scattered to the wind and I shall be alone.
Then, like the Dark Knight swooping in to save the day or autocorrect on a good day when you’re a little too drunk for words, the internet provided an answer: I’ll make a motherfucking t-shirt quilt.
Just one thing.
I can’t actually sew…
The “Paradox of Choice” is fairly straightforward. Too many choices can increase anxiety and then after the choice has been made, there is a sinking feeling that a better choice could have been made. That just explained the state of my closet. For a human with a naturally anxious predisposition, the discovery that my wardrobe was adding to the problem was a revelation. It also presented a problem and how best to solve said problem? Enter minimalism…
Although there is no one solitary definition for the minimalist phenomenon in personal style, it’s general concept is becoming more prolific than I had thought. At first it sounded like a niche market. A blip in the normalcy of consumerism and even though it is easy to fall back into the trap under the guise of needing to find your “classics” or your flesh out your post-purge wardrobe, it’s foundations are fairly sound. As far as I can tell, the general definition for the minimalist wardrobe is this: a closet rooted in functionality. Everything is your closet is worn on regular rotation (some people use the 80/20 rule in that you use 80% of your shit all the time) and nothing collects dust. Realistically, this requires cutting back. A removal of clutter to focus on what’s more important. As a side effect, you begin to implement this into other areas of life as well.
Now my roommate would never have to use something like this to get her wardrobe in order as she essentially already operates with a closet which is much more (editor’s note: she’s a weirdo who hates shopping) conservative in the sheer number of garments. It’s almost monk-like in comparison to mine. Mine looked like Forever 21 and H&M had blown up inside with various casualties spilling out onto the floor and infesting my drawers. In short, it was a lot. Way too many choices. Stressors on hangers.
It also revealed yet another fact of life: I spend way too much on clothes. Apparently, everyone else knew this but me. But when $150.00 worth of assorted fast fashion garments that you never plan to wear again lie at your feet immediately after you happen to glance at your current student loan balance and notice it hasn’t lessened by much, the message gets through. That $150.00 dollars could have gone towards the interest on those loans instead of a tight dress that was “needed” for a party and will never be touched again, let alone worn. That being said, the little experiment has been going on off and on for a year now and I think it might have worked. There was no adherence to any one strategy, be it the 10 piece French closet or capsule wardrobes for each season. My closet functions now and when i do “go shopping” or stop by online shops, it’s much harder to say, “Oh, well I need that,” and actually buy it.
The Paradox of choice is real. The “minimalist closet” requires the removal of so many choices. There we always options and there was no deprivation, just less. I streamlined my wardrobe choices and it’s paid off. There’s a bit less stress involved when it comes to clothes and thusly, less anxiety. Sure, I wear the same things over and over again, but realistically I did that already. Now there’s more room to show for it. Not to mention, my savings account is looking a bit more voluptuous as of late. Hey sexy!
Let’s just say, I am a lazy creature of habit in the morning. If there is anything requiring too much thinking before 10 am, there will be trouble. Too many colors mean too many combinations and too many choices. Ergo, that’s way too many decisions to be made before I leave my house for work. Capsule wardrobes keep it simple in the morning and I am here for it.
In a closet where most pieces can be rocked together harmoniously, there is no need for thinking at 6 am or the overarching need for harsh and barbaric overhead lighting. Instead, there can be soft lamp lighting without fear of looking like my outfit had been chosen by touch instead of sight.
It is this very same wardrobe which is revealing my own affinity for the shapeless and voluminous. Over-sized shirts and wide legged pants may cease to be trendy soon, but I shall not deviate. I have tasted of the fruit of the low crotch baggy harem pant and my eyes are now open! “Drapey” and unstructured garments shall always have a loving place in my wardrobe.
Attempting the capsule wardrobe has made it clear that
- Relaxed shapes can be work appropriate while maintaining my comfort levels.
- The time saved by engaging in such dressing behaviors is too valuable to waste on gazing into my closet with no idea of what could possibly be worn.
Honestly, the preoccupation with how I would go about dressing myself had taken all of the fun out of clothes. With too many options, progress cannot always be made. Personally, self-imposed limits get the creative ball rolling and the ambition juices flowing. Such analysis is not for everyone, especially with something which can prove to be banal like fashion. For me, the analysis has proven rewarding and resulted in a defined plan in place of the former free-for-all. It was an easy quandary to obsess over instead of practicing, writing or experimenting with sound design. Instead of “What should I play,” the question was “What do I wear?” With a designated time for the creativity of fashion, (planning just before a new season) there are fewer excuses for why my piano is still collecting dust. From wannabe fashionista back to
slacking functioning musician, I’m a work in progress.
The “5 Piece French Closet” experiment was a simultaneous failure and success. No, I did not abide by the rules set forth by those fashionable blogs I Googled that proposed only buying 5 new Pieces of clothing a season including ballet flats and the almighty white silk button up shirt. Instead, the more interesting (and achievable) idea of a “capsule wardrobe” was investigated.
Unsurprisingly, it worked better than originally intended and focused heavily on function. Anuschka from Into-Mind.com emphasizes filling your closet with your own classics instead of the recognized classics of Vogue-ites and fashion editors to tell us precisely what we should have. She also places priority on reusing pieces already in your possession as a starting point and from there, obtaining pieces that will last without doing too much brand name dropping. It’s refreshing. Not to mention she lays out the capsules visually for you. I like pictures.
Into-Mind is the first blog that made me think of shopping and wardrobe curating as an interactive puzzle as opposed to taking from an assembly line. Thinking before purchasing has impacted my credit statements more than I’d like to admit. Shopping was more of an exercise in making myself feel better as opposed to buying with purpose and intention. Now to ensure these improvements on my shopping habits are made semi-permanent. Perhaps I’ll go buy a new tote to celebrate…
grayzine.no/deadfleurette/ (the archives of the now discontinued DeadFleurette blog)
wideeyedlegless.com/ (key phrase: style transformations)
The first step to recovery is admitting your have a problem. I had a problem…with straightening my hair. The hardest I ever worked was probably on keeping my hair straight on a regular basis. It really was a problem but one that I only acknowledged after I went to college and a friend commented on it…and my RA. Yeah, my poor unsuspecting RA knocked on my door to see why there was smoke coming from under my door which was consequently why the hallway was looking a bit foggy. I assume she figured I’d be holding blunt but I was actually holding a flat iron and was in the midst of madly straightening my hair. Talie told me she could always tell when I was doing my hair because the hallway would be cloudy. I believed her, but I didn’t stop. And so the abuse continued until senior year of college when she took the brave step at beginning to go natural. Albeit, Talie did it accidentally but nobody in my immediate circle was without a creamy crack addiction so her decision was inspiring. As was my baby brother’s decision to lock his hair. The idea rolled around my brain until that fateful day when I took the time to read the back of a relaxer box. After seeing a laundry list of chemicals that I’d just as soon not have anywhere near my hair let alone my scalp and seeping into my brain with the potential to turn me into a zombie (which is a legitimate fear), I decided that was my absolute last relaxer.
Wanna hear the saddest part about this whole thing? I still couldn’t bring myself to stop straightening my hair until 4 or 5 months after the decision to stop relaxing. It doesn’t need to be said but my hair wasn’t in full agreement with my continued allegiance to my flatiron. It soon lodged a formal complaint by beginning to break off in strategic locations. Point taken.
After loads of experimentation with every hair product I could find in my house (and a few relatives homes), gorging myself on natural hair blogs and watching natural hair divas on Youtube (who are fabulous by the way), I came to the conclusion that straw sets and roller sets were my new best friends. Had to go to Product Junkies Anonymous eventually but I am proud to say that I have since recovered.
There’s no emotional and dramatic Big Chop episode in this story though. What can I say? I’m a big chicken and being bald or rocking a serious TWA just wasn’t in the stars right for me. That being said, the women who are out there rocking those styles, are my own personal heroes with more cajones than I will ever possess. My route was more gradual and every month or so, with another half inch of hair that grew, another half inch of relaxed ends met with a pair of sharp scissors and tumbled screaming into the sink. And every time another half inch left, the more excited I could feel myself getting.
Having been getting my hair relaxed since about age 13, memories of my actual texture were far and few between. What did it look like? Would I recognize it as the same from my childhood? Would I like it? Would it like me? It sounds strange, but my hair had been a complete stranger. In hindsight, living with my straight hair was like living with a crackhead that was constantly jonesing for a fix (ie. straightness) that you can’t ever remember seeing sober. Well I was about to see it. Then he setback occurred. Boredom crept back in and cutting more and more of my hair off became inevitable but there came an answer to this problem. Box. Braids. Did ’em meself too. They aren’t perfect but the get the job done. Now, as I approach the one year marker since my last relaxer, it’s hilarious how different my head looks in the mirror. It’s funny because even when my hair is at its biggest and most rebellious and doing exactly what I don’t want it to do, I still like it better than I did when it was straight. Dude, my hair came out of the closet and its real happy about it. For now, I nurse my baby ‘fro with love, oils, shun petrolatum, embrace its curls and absolutely cannot wait until it gets bigger and more obnoxious! Cheers, baby ‘fro.