Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Black Belt Minimal Fashion: the Suitcase Wardrobe

I am currently on a research/writing trip which has taken me from my home near Washington, D.C. to Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, Bedford Hills and Rochester New York and eventually to my brother's home near North Bay, Ontario. Today I leave for Indianapolis, by way of Chicago. Most of the travel has been done by train, and I will have had convenient (i.e., free) access to laundry facilities twice along the way. It's an interesting way to explore minimalist fashion, and it's time to report on the experience so far.

1) Minimalist fashion is climate-dependent. What is considered "minimal" in southern California would be inadequate in North Bay in January.

2) Minimalist fashion is activity-dependent. I have been indoors and sedentary most of the time, and have managed to avoid anything resembling formal events.

3) Context (climate and activity) aside, a successful minimal wardrobe provides comfort, utility and satisfaction. This means pieces that layer, serve multiple uses and meet the wearer's need for tactile and aesthetic satisfaction. Pockets, too!

4) It is possible to wear many items more than one day without being noticed, especially when traveling.

My suitcase wardrobe for this trip (26 days) consisted of three pairs of pants (1 jeans, 2 corduroys), 7 tops (ranging from a tissue-weight T-shirt to a pair of fleece pullovers), 7 days' worth of socks and undies, flannel pajama bottoms, a set of silk long underwear, a lightweight robe, two pair of shoes and pair of slipper socks. I also have a warm coat, hat, scarf, mittens and boots -- it was in the mid -20s today in North Bay. I could probably have eliminated one pair of corduroys, the robe and one pair of shoes, but that wouldn't have saved my enough room to be able to use the next smallest suitcase. I also wish my tops were more varied in color or texture; this fashion minimalist likes some aesthetic stimulation! But I did bring along a selection of my favorite earrings just to jazz things up. My favorite travel item so far has been the silk underwear (turtleneck and leggings) -- they are the best way to address the temperature difference between Rochester, NY and North Bay, ON without adding bulk to your body or weight to your luggage.


Fiona said...

I also wish my tops were more varied in color or texture; this fashion minimalist likes some aesthetic stimulation!
Not too exciting, though - otherwise people will notice the second time you wear them. It's a fine line.

Isaac Linder said...

Hi Jo,

Just got directed here from realizing that you're following my new twitter account! - lovely. I wanted to mention quickly that your thoughts on minimalist fashion reminded me of a column that has sadly been cut from the NYTimes recently, Nick Currie's 'Post-Materialist'. If you aren't already aware of this column, you might enjoy some of the articles, all of which have been archived here: http://themoment.blogs.nytimes.com/author/nick-currie/
A few are particularly about fashion & jewelry and their changing role/aesthetic vis (inter)national financial crisis

Friendly White Boy,

Jo said...

Fiona, I agree! I had the advantage on this trip of changing locations every 4-6 days, so avoided that problem. Also, because it was so cold, I was wearing layers, so I could wear the same things but in a different order. (Day one, outside, day two underneath, then to sleep in that night). All in all, I could have managed with two pairs of pants and perhaps two-thirds of the tops I took along. Two pairs of shoes remains my minimum for a long trip. Best items: my long silk underwear and my homemade slipper socks.

Jo said...

Isaac, thanks so much for the NYTimes link. Great food for thought. He's still blogging at http://imomus.livejournal.com/