This morning, I tried on an orange half-zip and paired it with a green mini skirt. Then I took it off and tried on a full denim look with yellow shoes. I took that off too and ultimately fell into a white T-shirt, black leggings, a fancy jacket and New Balance sneakers. I added a strand of pearls and felt great, but confused. Here I’d just returned from a week in Europe with a carry-on suitcase that maintained the same black leggings and white t-shirt I was wearing today, plus a pair of jeans and a couple of sweaters (the visual component of this story illustrates the sum of every outfit I wore, which you’ll see is essentially one).
In the past, limiting myself to such few garments over the course of a trip has encouraged me to come home and find the contents of my closet new again, excited to effectively wear it all at once. But lately, I just want to whisper. To not have to think about what I’m wearing but still feel like I am asserting myself. I’m energized by the quiet.
This does not preclude me from (and perhaps makes me more vulnerable to) wanting to make a point with my accessories, but if my outfit is the baseboard — a plate, of sorts — I am only interested in going to the buffet for condiments. And let me tell you, I am crazy for those condiments. Give me a necklace, a hat, a black satin pouch and, next to jeans and a T-shirt, I will make a damn star of them all.
The popular argument I hear is that motherhood changes your style and, while it’s certainly true that it has impacted my style, I’m not sure that it has changed it. I’m still interested in the same kind of fashion, but my priorities are different and I don’t value the time I used to spend hunched over my closet dreaming up who I was going to be that day in the same way. This is promoting a sort of outfit template that has required me to make choices — as in, pick a top, a bottom, some shoes and go! No longer do I nestle myself into the amorphous cleavage of how I have heretofore dressed (see: Can this dress be a skirt? Skirt as a top? Sweater as scarf?) but this narrative is still a work in progress, and instead of delving too deep into it, I’d first like to consider the other potential variables at play and ask a simple question: Do you find yourself just…wanting less?
More quality basics, less stuff?
Perhaps essentialism, a practice most recently popularized in the U.S. by Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is reaching a newfangled fever pitch. The premise supposes that you should not own anything that does not bring you joy. The concept is refreshingly simple, and as we become more conscious of what we do or don’t buy and subsequently wear on our persons, it is also more attractive.
And to this point, while I can’t speak for you, I know that I’m becoming far more conscious of my participation in consumerism. I’ve been thinking about it for years to varying degrees: wondering if social proprietorship could quell my feeling like I need to have something, how it might be bringing me down, but why it also lifts me up!, what happens when I stop shopping, and why slow fashion may well save me from myself. Through all of this thinking and writing, I have noticed how my behaviors have changed. How infrequently I am compelled towards a new garment and how much more regularly I rely on the arsenal that already affirms my tried and true wardrobe to arm me.
But to be clear, this does not immunize me from the rush that comes from obtaining something new. It also does not immunize me from acting on that rush. It does not trivialize the very emotional (but fleeting) jolt of delight that is generated by an impulse purchase. In my heart of hearts, I know myself to be a genuine fashion fan, a lover of the magnetic and transformative power of a good garment or accessory and, thus, I honor any experience that taps into what I deem the best parts of my spirit, but this fact of wanting less changes the stakes of these impulses. It has taught me that just because I can have something does not mean I need it. Simple, I know, but unilaterally speaking, also deeply empowering.
Often, in fact, I have resolved that by asking myself the very obvious question of why I want for something new, I learn that an otherwise void is being glossed over. Perhaps I have wanted for newness less and less since becoming a mother because the voids I have been trying to fill like cupcake molds on a sheet pan are newly occupied.
That’s a refreshing thought.
There is also a possibility that this hankering for less is a response to fast fashion, which has stretched the boundaries of what is normal as far as the time it takes to make a garment, the cost of making said garment and consequently, the ultimate price of it. I still get wrapped up in the rapid cycle (there is a Zara tab open on my browser right now), but as I see the product of the cycle’s clothes hung in my closet, I ask whether their shelf lives can last longer than the course of a single season. And when the answer is no, I feel like I have failed.
Don’t you remember how it used to feel when you got something new? It would stay with you for years. There was no such thing as the prospect, at least for me, of a brand new wardrobe for a brand new season to erase the one of yore. Who wants to think about fashioning a brand new identity every single season anyway? Particularly, I might add, when the stakes of our respective existences require such constant and urgent attention? These stakes are wrapped up in different things for different people, but we’re all exposed to them.
The thing is, I do still want to assert myself through clothes. Or at least I want to want to assert myself through clothes. For as comfortable as I am in jeans or leggings and a sweater or t-shirt, some days, I just want to look like a magpie. Wacky. Excited. Like someone who had way too much fun getting dressed that morning. I just also don’t want to think about it too hard.
Which, I suppose, underscores how much I still love fashion. I’m still so energized by a beautifully executed runway show like that of Miu Miu’s most recent collection, or Chanel’s wild beach recreation. I do not regret enjoyment for the simple sake of it and I am certainly not trying to flee the system; I just want to make it fit in with my world as it changes, to understand whether this is a passing phase or if I want for less because I know honestly and earnestly, finally!, that I need less. That I am beginning to care more about what happens, and what I see around me as opposed to on, or to me. That with clothes that don’t require so much output from my mind, I can and will satisfy most of the things I want to say and feel good about the fact that with all the new mental space I’m acquiring, I might delight and surprise when I open my mouth.
Feature image by Christian Vierig/Getty Images.