Stylist Tabitha Simmons by Jason Bell for Vogue UK
How much is enough?
As someone with limited means, I ask myself this question a lot. I fully believe that there is nothing wrong with finding pleasure in material objects. Spending isn't inherently bad, it's just tricky.
Minimalism is often seen as being less mired in consumerism, but if you've ever looked at the price tag on a piece of Céline, you'll know that's a myth. It's weird that someone can own 15 pairs of Chanel trousers and still call themselves a minimalist, don't you think? There's quality and quantity, but style doesn't belong squarely in the domain of one or the other.
At 21, I feel as though I should be experimenting with clothes, but my dwindling bank account can't justify a lot of frivolous spending. This post is therefore based on a minimalism of necessity—not just aesthetics. And anyhow, there is no right or wrong time to experiment.
If you feel lost in the Money-Fashion Black Hole of Depression, this one's for you. Here are 5 tips for feeling like you already have enough.
1. Reduce consumption of fashion magazines & blogs
Last month, I purged my bookshelf of a shit-ton of old U.S. Vogues AND IT FELT AWESOME. But before it felt awesome...it felt awful. I wanted to clip my favourite articles, but this meant that I also had to flip through page after page of lithe, poreless creatures wearing clothes that could finance my move out of the suburbs. My self-esteem jumped off a cliff. And yet, this horrible process also taught me that I can and should be selective about the fashion mags and blogs that I let into my "sacred space" (i.e. Google Reader). It's also a great way to nurture your personal style, since it forces you to figure out what really inspires you, and let go of the rest.
2. Embrace Uniforms
Here's the thing about wearing the same outfit all the time: You will think that everyone notices the fact that you only wear black v-neck sweaters, when in truth, no one will. Coming up with new outfits can be a real hoot, but most days, it isn't practical. Some people decide to go on a 6-item clothing diet, but don't think your uniform has to be limiting. Identify some unifying principles that might make getting dressed less hectic: your favourite colour or colour combination (say, navy and mustard yellow), silhouette (long tops over long skirts), or signature item (a cognac leather belt). Then go ahead and wear the hell out of those v-neck sweaters.
3. The Master List
My tragic flaw as a shopper is that I actually have really bad instincts. Like, tweed J.Crew blazer with shoulder-pads bad. But I think I'm getting better, mostly because I keep a master list comprised of basics and/or items that I've mentally been saving space for in my wardrobe. I think it helps channel the desire to shop and accumulate into something more concrete. Making a list is all about considering whether an item is truly worth adding to your wardrobe. I'd recommend mood-boarding your little heart out with this one. I sometimes reach a kind of collage nirvana, wherein just looking at the pictures is satisfying enough. Whoa. Consider list-making as an exercise in subtraction rather than addition. Focus on paring it down to the essentials.
One caveat: it is possible to stick too closely to your list. I think one should always be open to moments of fashion fortuity. If I'd always sworn by my list, I wouldn't have made my best-ever impulse purchase: a gorgeous bias-cut dress that I will either be married or (more likely) buried in. The heart wants what the heart wants.
4. Walk Away and Wait
Speaking of impulse buys, consider this: If you're not 100% sold on an item, why would you ever walk up to the counter and hand over your hard-earned money? I almost failed high school math, but even I know that makes zero sense. If thinking about buying something is making you anxious/causing you to sweat/otherwise embarrass yourself, just...walk away. It will make you feel instantly better. If you find yourself thinking about the one that got away over the coming days and weeks, you can always go back.
5. The Shopping Ban
This seems like the most hardcore, impossible tip on this list, but in my experience it's actually the easiest. In fact, it's probably more accurate to call it a vacation from shopping. A shopping ban is basically a more fully-realized version of "walking away and waiting" in that you wait so long, you actually forget why you ever needed to shop in the first place. It's as simple as avoiding malls and stores (trickier if you work in one, I know), and not checking your usual e-commerce sites. Brainstorm a few other things you can do with all the time you'd normally spend awkwardly maneuvering in change rooms. Go for a walk, read a book, or even learn how to make your own clothes—I know, it's blowing your mind, right?!
Above all, remember that those of us who write, read, and think about fashion are already pretty lucky. Remember too that the head on your shoulders is vastly more important than the clothes on your back.
- Kat from nogoodforme.com wrote a super-helpful article on reselling clothes at secondhand shops.
- Dead Fleurette has plenty of articles on the subject; I think the best place to start is with "The Long Way to the Perfect Wardrobe" Part 1 and 2.
- Gala Darling (whose aesthetic and attitudes differ from my own) has written a series on spending, appropriately titled "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems": Part 1, 2 and 3 that is worth a read.