On Minimalism by Princess Glover
It’s a formidable task in a culture of constant gain and over-consumption. Eschewing superfluous wants and focusing solely on necessity is not something that comes easily to the average American, myself included. Because for us, and in most capitalistic societies, indoctrination begins very early. Advertisements for toys and junk food turn into glossy promotions for $5,000 handbags and exotic designer clothing. It is a natural progression from one created desire to another, leaving no stone unturned. For me, the training was an obvious success. I was the model consumer, privy to all the latest trends and spending the majority of my income on things I didn’t need, or even want. A young adulthood spent devouring fashion magazines leaves one with an all-consuming task: cultivating and maintaining a hollow image that was liable to crack at any moment.
In my twenties, I had brief glimpses of consciousness, making me question things like spending $20 on MAC lipgloss, just because it was MAC, or my collection of fake designer purses with their prematurely creased and peeling handles, or my closet littered with throw-away clothes that had rarely seen the light of day. Yeah, I may have never worn that embellished asymmetrical blouse but it looked cute on the hanger. Because I wanted so badly to look the part, these openings were discounted as mere misgivings. There’s nothing wrong with wanting nice things, right? Why shouldn’t I shop for shopping’s sake? The idea of paring down rarely entered my mind, as I was set on being the woman Cosmopolitan magazine catered to. The one with ridiculous shoe collection and a wardrobe that resembled a small boutique. After all, wasn’t this the point in life?
It wasn’t until very recently that this way of thinking began to dissolve. After finding my spiritual home in Islam nearly four years ago, I’ve been blessed to understand my purpose in this world. These beliefs began to slowly penetrate all aspects of my daily life including my relationship with clothes. Though at first, my wardrobe expanded to fulfill the obligations of modest dress. A flush collection of scarves and abayas quickly followed, along with a myriad of modest vintage pieces culled from my frequent trips to New York City’s best thrift stores. Old habits die hard, and I knew deep in my heart that my clotheshorse tendencies didn’t jibe with my growing understanding of inward purification and turning oneself away from excessive worldy desires.
Little did I realize that minimalism had always been a part of my personality, even if I didn’t acknowledge it. Despite my egregious collection of clothing, about 20% percent of it actually got airtime. I was always drawn to the same pieces, usually the most simple, basic and well-made items while the rest, i.e., the cheap, trendy novelties, squandered in darkness. They would meet their eventual demise in the donation bin or on the re-sale counter. This was a fact that finally led me to begin to be truly honest with myself and reevaluate my intentions. Did I want a wardrobe that would only serve my ego, or one that was purposeful, practical, and timelessly stylish? At this point, the answer is much clearer.
I am not by any means the requisite ascetic. I am a product of this society and it will surely take a lifetime to expunge those traits that would impel one to buy something just because they saw so-and-so wearing it during Fashion Week. It’s not an easy road, but the benefits reaped–less clutter, more choice and creativity, gratitude for what you have–has been much more fulfilling. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that may help anyone who wants to detach from the status quo:
1. Clothes are not people. They don’t deserve a place in your heart. Once this is realized it’s much easier to let go of the things that don’t serve you well in terms of wearability.
2. Well-made basics that are complimentary will make you look forward to getting dressed everyday because you’ll be wearing what you truly like. When I mentioned that I only wore about 20% of my clothing, this is actually a true statistic that applies to most women. Food for thought.
3. With fewer clothes, you tend to take better care of the ones you have. Over the last few months, I made my first visit to a tailor and took some holed garments in for repair, whereas in the past, they would have ended up in the trash. It just makes me wish I hadn’t thrown away that beautiful Le Petit Bateau salmon-colored tunic that I so thoughtlessly (albeit painfully) threw out on account of a small hole. It still haunts me.
4. Dress for yourself. Wear things YOU like instead of what’s “in”. This was (and still is) my main problem. Learning to appreciate beautiful things without covetousness and staying away from mainstream fashion magazines has been really helpful. But alas, there are the blogs…this takes a lot of practice.
5. Lastly, give it some thought. I’ve learned that whenever I made an impulsive purchase, what I thought I liked actually turned out to be not so awesome after all–a big money waster. Mulling it over offers much more clarity and saves you the guilt.
Some recommended resources/inspiration-
Princess Glover is a freelance writer, stay-at-home mother and aspiring homemaker. She is a Muslim convert and former fashion assistant for SURFACE Magazine. She’s worked in many areas of fashion media and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications.