Monday, 26 July 2010

Six Items or Less




Believe it or not I am trying to cut down the number of clothes I buy during the year.  I have had mixed success reading style guides and trying to learn lessons about focusing my clothing choices.  The other day while looking for articles on the subject of reducing one's wardrobe I came across the quite fascinating Six Items or Less project on the New York Times.  Imagine having to wear just six items from your wardrobe over a month!

As someone who by their own self admission spends too much on clothes and has too many clothes in her wardrobe this seems like a good exercise in self discipline to attempt.  I have to say however that my brain goes into meltdown just thinking about how I would do it.  I am not enough of a masochist.  I do admire these participants for what they have achieved and can understand their various motives - wanting to free up mind space to think of other things, learning to spend less and be more disciplined in their choices when shopping, anti-consumerism, concern for the environment and a desire to reduce waste - all admiral reasons.  I know however that I would never be able to achieve it.  I keep trying to make a similar list and six is just not enough.  I would be truly miserable.

If I wore only those six items as presented by the blonde in the video (I have equivalent items) I would freeze to death in the English summer.  If I was in a consistently warm and sunny climate perhaps this exercise would become far easier.

I came up with this list from my closet:

1) Black Cue suit jacket
2) Black Cue suit trousers
3) Vivienne Westwood Black cowl neck jersey T-shirt
4) Grey Skinny Jeans by Kate Moss for Topshop
5) Long navy cardigan by Akiabara
6) Cos grey t-shirt

I picked the first three items for work.  The last three on the list are clothes I currently have on and I selected these as what I would wear at home and to do chores in so the work clothes don't get messy.  My feeling is that this list would be totally inadequate for the weather here and my lifestyle.  There is not enough for me to layer up adequately in the famously fickle weather of London when the weather turns suddenly cold when it should be warm (like today!).  If I had to go out now in the rain I would need to rely on just an umbrella and go without a trench or parka.  Are there really more environmental benefits of owning only one shirt and suit to wear five days a week to work when you will be hand washing and dry cleaning far more frequently?  If it got suddenly hot as it was a couple of weeks ago I would fry with only jeans or trousers as options.

Still, as one who constantly craves variety in her closet, just going through the mental exercise of choosing six items you can't live without for a month is enough to highlight that I don't use enough of the clothes that are already there nor do I need to buy anywhere near as much as I do.  It also makes me quite appreciative about having more than six items to choose from!

An interesting point made by the participants was that hardly anyone noticed that they had been wearing the same outfit several days in a row.  It flies in the face of the general wisdom that appearances are everything, especially in the workplace.  However, even if nobody noticed I had been wearing something for several days in a row I think I would notice!!  Dressing oneself is so often touted as an important form of self expression.  I would be bored to tears wearing the same thing every day which says a lot about my own self perception being defined by what I choose to wear.  I need to see something fresh reflected back in the mirror, perhaps not everyday, but frequently enough, so that I feel good about myself.  I also like to think that I am being creative in the process.  I care - but if, as the article and video suggest, nobody else does, then should I really be so concerned? 

Some of the participants quoted a motive of becoming more creative, either by freeing up their minds to be more creative in other parts of their life or in finding new ways of putting together outfits using only six items and their accessories.  This raises interesting questions for me.    I agree that creativity is not about having more items to play around with but in finding new ways to combine them however, is creativity in my dress sense an integral part of trying to be creative in general (as I have always believed), or is it just draining creative energy from other areas of my life where it would be better spent?

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