Tuesday, May 6, 2008

More on Minimalist Wardrobes

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a class at the University of Maryland and happened to mention my ideal "index card" wardrobe from 1970, and a student asked how many pieces are in my wardrobe today. That was a tough question to answer, because for me it's never been about garment count, it's been about storage space. In college, my entire wardrobe needed to fit in my mother's old trunk and a single suitcase, which held everything on the semi-annual shifts between home and campus. When I travel, everything needs to go in my medium-sized rolling bag (it meets the standards for carry-on baggage). And my current wardrobe fits in the allocated space in my circa-1950 house. (I say the "allocated space" because we actually have ample closets in other rooms and a large semi-finished basement which would hold more clothes if I were so inclined.)

So I came home and measured.

My total hanging wardrobe (warm and cold weather clothing, including coats and jackets) occupies about 6 feet of space, most of it in my bedroom closet.

My folded clothing for the current season is in a chest with three large drawers and four small ones. My out-of-season clothing is kept in three large drawers in the basement (in one of several units acquired from a department store that was remodeling its cosmetics department).

I own 24 pairs of shoes, of which half are usually in active rotation according to the season. I used to skimp on the number of shoes, but then I realized that (1) wearing the same shoes day in and day out just wears them out faster (2) accessories are key to a successful minimalist wardrobe and (3) I am so picky about shoes that when I find a style I like and can afford, I should buy it.

For as long as I can remember, I've had a practice of discarding something whenever I buy something new. It's not always a 1:1 trade, but more of an acknowledgment that space is limited. Environmentalism was only a partial motivation; the other (very important) factor is that I find clutter distracting and enervating. For readers who aspire to train their partners or children, I must add that 40 years of cohabitation have not altered my husband's pack rat tendencies, although there are signs of hope for the next generation.


maria said...

one part of my wardrobe i don't pay much attention to is underwear. i feel like bras especially are hard to find in non-synthetic fabrics, or not made in a questionable overseas location. most people don't feel comfortable buying them at the thrift store, they're not easy to make yourself, and moreover the underwear companies market them in that "one in every color" accessory kind of way, even though they're underwear!

i saw an ad for this company in vegetarian times (they know their market, i guess)...they're based in seattle and use real women as their models. the bras are expensive--probably a reflection of the actual work that goes into making them?
anyway, i'd be interested in hearing what you think about bras/underwear.

Jo Paoletti said...

Small, but tricky items. You are right; they are hard to make and fit, and it's pretty labor-intensive. You might try Greenleaves, the eco-conscious subdivision of Figleaves.com. American Apparel offers sweatshop-free bras (but not organic). But be patient; H&M is expanding its organic line into intimates with its fall collections, and others will follow.

Talk about a market begging for an entrepreneur...