Monday, January 7, 2013

The Tension Between Fashion and Minimalism (Or, A New Start)

Helen Twelvetrees in an incredible frock and hat, probably by Elsa Schiaparelli, 1935, by Harry Freeman

So, my following of fashion has been half-assed at best lately. Because, again, I’ve been in a state of crisis.  Yes, sigh, again. It’s every bit as annoying to live in as it is to read about.

But, while my observation on the upcoming spring/summer fashion trends has been practically nil, my understanding of my own personal style has skyrocketed, somewhat out of a basic necessity. In the process of overhauling my lifestyle, I’ve made changes to my wardrobe, having learned that you fit into your own skin better when your clothes don’t clash with your life.

Oh, how things have changed in thirteen years. At fifteen, everything had to be sparkly, or velvety, or bedecked in feathers, or in a loud print. I had a pink marabou cardigan and a black marabou pullover. I had a black maxi-skirt that I’d self decorated with lace and glitter. I stuck rhinestones and silver glitter self-created stencil patterns on all my jeans. I remember my friend Mary Beth’s mother remarking, “If people have to discern your personality by your clothes, you’re doing it wrong. Everything you wear doesn’t have to make a statement.

Except that it does! Everything you wear does, indeed, make a statement. Whether it be “I’m very no-nonsense with my plain T and cardigan and Mommy jeans,” “I’m a diva, look at the leopard and sequins over here!” or “I give up” in a stained tracksuit. Everything, I mean EVERYTHING, you wear, does indeed make a statement, whether you realize it or not.

Gradually, over the last decade, my style has gone from “OH MY GAWD, LOOK AT ME! PAY ATTENTION TO ME!” to a more quiet, confident polish. Me with confidence? What? When did this happen? (hint: Sometimes I’m faking it. But I find that more and more often, it’s real.)

I recently threw out every article of clothing that isn’t a neutral solid or print, except for some purple accents. The first sweater dress I actually liked. My fabulous plum faux-suede booties that always get compliments. A floral shawl. The corset I wore to senior prom. You get the idea. And you know what? In cutting down my wardrobe to what basically fits in a laundry hamper and a half, I’ve found myself having a way easier time creating crazy-sweet outfits than when I owned four times as many clothes. Also, I still bring the drama with well-placed fishnet bodysuits, sequins, patterns, and frou-frou hats. The hats adorn the shelf of my open closet, next to my impractical high-heel collection. Minimalism ain’t necessarily about an austere, monastic way of being. It’s about a more fulfilling life through owning just the best. Just the things that help you create the life you love.

Minimalist ideas, man. I’ve been reading Becoming Minimalist, Unclutterer, Zen Habits, The Everyday Minimalist, and several other blogs for a while now. I overhauled the crap out of my bedroom and am working on the rest of my apartment. I have literally sequestered my entire living room as unnecessary. Seriously. It, and everything in it, are things I don’t want or need. It’s so very shameful the space, the things, we hoard and waste. My next apartment will be half the size of this one, and my goal is to fit all my possessions in my grandpa’s F-150. Why? Well, in part because I don’t have the time or energy to organize it. I have chronic depression. I just spent the last 3 months doing little more than sleeping and working. It was ugly. Things got gross around here. The fewer things I own, the less I have to clean or put away. That will help me budget my energy toward, y’know, freelancing. Writing. Finishing this blog’s redesign. Hooray!

I’ve come to realize the truth: This really isn’t a fashion blog anymore. It’s a personal blog in which, yes, fashion will come up a lot, because I still love it. I love fashion. I love personal-style development. They make me happy. Most art-forms make me happy, and fashion is such a ridiculously beautiful form of art. Just… taking the time to appreciate the weeks of research and sketching, the hours of meticulous draping of each little fold. The selection of colors and creation of patterns. When you get into it, it’s mindblowing.

But I’m also into minimalism, self-improvement, feminism, and mental-health advocacy. So I’m working on having room for those things here too. I’m pursuing the life of a bon vivant. Rediscovering joy. There’s no magic bullet to force all of us to rediscover our joy, but I hope that by sharing what does it for me, it might help someone along the way. That’s the new direction of this blog in a nutshell. I hope we can all dig it.


  1. Leah, mercy, you're singing my song. Every now and then, I open my closet or look at the stuff sitting around my house and think, "Gone. All of it. I want it OUT of here." We need so very little to be happy, but we collect so much in pursuit of happiness. Happy New Year! You're still sweet!

  2. Hi Crystal! Sorry it took me a while to respond. You're such a doll, m'lady. And I LOVE that you're partnering with Patti for a blog collaboration right now. Glad to see that my writing resonated with you. And what are you waiting for? Clean house! It's almost warm enough to have a yard sale. I know I'm getting on that FIRST THING when the weather is right.