There’s an aspect to minimalism I think doesn’t always sit easy with people committed to simplicity – the whole business of cutting your losses.
Say I’m looking for a jacket.
It must be the right weight. If it’s for occasions like officiating at funerals, preaching and public speaking, I’ll probably choose something less warm than I otherwise might, because public buildings are usually overheated and I find it harder to deal with being hot than cold.
It has to fit – and that includes being long enough to cover my derrière; because if, wearing trousers, I have to process in past people or go up to the sanctuary to fetch an offering plate, it’s always the rear view that takes people’s mind off the occasion and refocuses them onto contemplating the lamentable error of my sartorial choices. So why not wear a skirt? Because then I either have to own two jackets (as shorter jackets suit skirts and longer will suit trousers) or wear skirts all the time – then you get into tights and slips and the complications of shoes that don’t look tragic with skirts but are still good for walking, etc., etc..
It has to be black, as it’ll be worn at formal occasions including funerals.
And – now this is the spanner in the works – it has to be cheap. The way to get high quality clothes for very little money is to buy at auction from private sellers on eBay. And generally speaking private sellers don’t accept returns.
I ask for measurements and scrutinize photos. I stick to brands I know, because they are made for different imaginary women. For example, Per Una clothes are designed for women with short backs and small frames, so the larger sizes are for plump, busty women with short backs and small frames – but thin arms. More your Italian type of woman. I need clothes made for another kind of woman altogether – with broad shoulders, a long back, long arms, and altogether hefty. More your Germanic type of woman. So I don’t buy Per Una.
I make sure to buy in stretchy fabrics because woven (rather than knit) fabrics feel like straitjackets to me. And I don’t want to do any ironing. As in ‘ever’.
Even with all this thought and caution, the purchase often doesn’t work out. What might seem an obvious preferable alternative would be to save up for a high quality shop purchase so I could return it. Except that it usually takes me 2 or 3 months and several times of wearing a garment before I reluctantly conclude I don’t like it. So an expensive purchase would simply mean a bigger mistake.
It’s important to me to like my clothes. In my jacket I’ll be on public display, but not at an event which is about me (if you see what I mean). My work isn’t like a TV presenter or actor – it points beyond myself; I need to be effaced, and concentrating entirely on something else. I need to be able to forget myself utterly when I’m preaching, or leading a quiet day or a funeral. I’ve watched preachers who aren’t easy in their clothes, tugging at this and tweaking at that, watched them readjust in alarm as their bra straps emerge from their too-generous necklines – no no no; that’s not for me.
So if I take hours of care and thought and select a second-hand high quality jacket and it arrives and I think it’ll do fine, and I wear it a time or two but have to conclude it makes me look lumpy and frumpy and I feel miserable in it – then what?
Two options; soldier on or try again. If I try again – ie buy a different jacket – this is the point where the minimalism/simplicity conflict kicks in.
Simplicity is humble and lowly, thrifty and responsibly and not wasteful. Simplicity is satisfied with what it has and doesn’t throw things away.
Minimalism runs a tight ship and travels light, so throws things away very readily.
In my particular case, I’ve opted more for the minimalism. If something doesn’t work out, I pass it on. It goes to a charity shop and earns them good money. I have noticed that with a minimalist wardrobe, what I like and what works becomes clearer to me. If I don’t have loads of clothes, I don’t get confused about what’s going on. The garments that aren’t working stand out very quickly. If I have loads of clothes and none of them are all that great, I don’t easily notice what doesn’t work because I don’t feel all that good in any of them.
And other questions begin to emerge. For example, I keep one skirt (that I don’t especially like but it’s the best quality/style/weight/fit/length I could find) to wear on formal occasions when a skirt is expected. But I now find myself asking, why is it expected? Do I even want to be at occasions where dressing in skirts is more important than being the person I am? Do I really want to spend time at events where style outweighs substance? Where what I can offer is outweighed by what I’m wearing? Probably not.
But I don’t think those questions would ever have come up for me if I hadn’t been aiming for a minimalist wardrobe – I’d just have a pile of skirts and trousers and dresses and not stopped to ask myself, ‘why have I got this garment at all?’
And the thing is, once the minimalism has helped me identify the styles and fabrics and colours I really want to wear, then the simplicity comes into its own – because at that point I need make fewer and fewer purchases. I’m happy with what I have.