Tell the truth. Who do you get dressed for in the morning? Your boss? Your partner? The pretty girl (who is always dressed to the nines) at your office? The chance that you might run into an Ex? Your door man? The cute guy at the fish market? What would you wear if you lived in a solitary world where nobody was going to see you except yourself? What would you wear in Spain?
This is quite embarrassing. But I feel I need to show the “before-after” so that you can truly understand this situation. I love uniforms. I have always loved uniforms, wether official and imposed, or self-constructed and strange. I like having fewer things, feeling great in them, and wearing them essentially everyday. My first female best friend, Katie (Katie! Where are you?), went to the catholic elementary school right next to my run down, janky public school. She was cute, and small. She had hairy arms and long thick bangs. She wore a uniform to her proper catholic school, across the street from my janky, public school. We both loved horses and dogs, and interior design (at 5 years of age). I wanted to be more like her: feminine, quiet, introspective, intelligent. I always felt big and boisterous, boy-like and silly. So she had lots of arm hair? I wanted lots of arm hair. And I wanted that damn uniform! (My mom will probably leave a comment about how my first self-constructed uniform was a pair of old sweats and a T from my brother’s giveaway pile, flip-flops, and a ragged pony-tail. So much for bows and pink and cute! Sorry mom).
Such forced reduction came in the form of a journey that I had wanted to make since I was very young. My father always told me (and even had me sit through slide shows) about his backpacking journey to Europe when he was 19, all by himself. I wanted to do the SAME thing! So I saved my money, and worked my Eurail trip (traveling around Europe with a train pass) into my plans to study abroad and I scooted all around Europe for an entire summer before landing in Cádiz, where I would attend the Universidad de Cádiz for a year, before heading back to my normal life at the University of Washington, in Seattle.
While traveling through France and England and Holland and Germany and Austria and Italy and… I carried one extra pair of shorts, one pair of pants, one black dress, one bikini, two tank tops, two tee-shirts, one sweater, a light rain coat, 2 pairs of socks, a few more pairs of underpants (insideoutupsidedownrightsideoutnowdoitagain!) and a brassiere or two (hehe, who can say brassiere without laughing?). I had the shoes I was wearing (big, skater-like shoes…oh dear), and a pair of flip-flops for strange showers and hot days. Accessories? A red bandana and a pair of Britney Spears sunglasses. I stopped brushing my hair. I wore no makeup. I was lucky if I showered once every three days (if you DO the summer Euro trip, you have to DO it right! Get smelly!).
And I had FUN. I was young, carefree, curious, adventurous, fearless and smelly and ugly enough to keep danger away. My light bag enabled me to jump trains and hop fences, climb hills and slip into bars, meander through museums, sleep in parks under the sun and meet lots and lots and lots of neat people from all over the world. I didn’t worry about the weight of my bag, or what to wear (which tank top is “cleaner”? was the question). I wasn’t especially concerned with my appearance at this time, but rather to have a wonderful time, to learn as much as possible and to soak up everything European (including the Venga Boys and Magnum bars).
However, after reaching Spain, and seeing how fancy people were (people are FANCY here compared to the West Coast of the grand ol’ USA), and that I was actually going to be staying in the same place for longer than 3 days, attending classes, and living with a Spanish family, I decided it was time to start brushing my hair again, and tossing the dirty tanks and T’s out for something more presentable. I clearly remember having a few days alone in Madrid before catching my train down to Cádiz for my 9 month stay (ha! 9 months that turned into 8 years, a baby, a husband, bla bla blaaaa). My budget was limited, but I had time. I threw away my entire backpacking wardrobe (it was disgusting by then…absolutely disgusting) and I bought myself 20 items that would serve as my wardrobe for the entire 9 months that I would be living in Cádiz. I spent as little as possible, but bought the best quality I could find. I even went to a hair salon, and through exaggerated hand movements, giggles, and some divine intervention, three Spanish hair stylists turned me from Ras Trent’s (http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/digital-short-ras-trent/787201/) sister to a sexy, Spanish-wannabe (a true miracle, they couldn’t believe themselves, and wanted to take pictures and tell their friends). I tried on millions of garments and enjoyed every second of creating this fresh, new wardrobe for this exiting new chapter in my life (um, moving to a small Spanish city without knowing how to say more than “me llamo Anna” with a horrible accent). Everything “went” together, more or less, and by layering and un-layering, I could cover all seasons. I could go from fancier events to school days to dinners out without blinking an eye. I strategically bought two scarves, two pairs of earrings, and one purse that went with everything. I even *gasp* bought some mascara and a new hair brush (because I didn’t have one…gross). From the day I arrived to Cádiz (with tears in my eyes, gosh it was so gorgeous–the train reaches the city between the bay of Cádiz and the Atlantic ocean, it really is breathtaking), to the day I left Cádiz (again, tears in my eyes, but not due to the breathtaking aquatic views, but rather, from leaving my Spanish rock star novio behind), I felt attractive and put together and appropriately dressed. I loved getting up in the morning and opening my closet to so few items. It was very refreshing and all a part of this year that ended up changing the rest of my life so drastically.
(This is me and my father on Christmas during my first year living in Spain. That was my Spanish Uniform).
So this might all sound petty and silly and boring, but the moral of the story (insert nasal voice) is that having less, just a few pieces of things we love, can be very liberating. No clutter in your closet, no time lost trying to decide on the right outfit (which skirt of the 50 hanging haphazardly in my closet should I wear tonight? Or should I wear one of my 46 dresses?), and even a better sense of your own style (of ALL those pieces of clothing, which ones do you REALLY wear? And which ones REALLY make you feel good?. I crave getting back to that initial uniform (which is actually what I wear to work, (yes, the old sweats + tee + flip-flops) and keeping things elegant with that second new Spanish life uniform (black + interchangeable basic pieces + the right few fun accessories + layers). I’ve seen other projects out in the Cyber World about minimizing your wardrobe and your life, about de-cluttering closets and our heads, about wearing only a certain number of pieces of clothing for a certain number of days while hiding the rest and pretending it’s not there. Some extreme, some not, some really helpful, others not so much. BUT, I believe we could ALL benefit from slimming down our belongings, and especially our wardrobes to not only free up space, clutter and an excess of consumerism, but to feel better about what we have, to take better care of it, to make smarter purchases and let our true style shine through with those few, cherished pieces.
I’m ready to do my annual fall edit of my closets, products, accessories and shoes. I get excited about this. And this year, I’m even going to try to sell a few pieces (I will also give tons away). I’m going to try to be ruthless with myself by getting rid of EVERYTHING that I don’t wear on a regular basis (except for seasonal things like winter coats, hats, bikinis, really fancy dresses, etc.). I’m ready to match my wardrobe to my needs (I’m a freelancer, I don’t have to get dressed for work, I walk my dog and baby all over the city to buy fresh produce every day (in Spain this can’t be done in sweats, hehe), I have lunches and dinners out with clients, friends and my fancy Sevillian family, and I have lots and lots of sport-related activity). If I divided my needs into percentages, I would see that most of my time is spent either working at home, doing some kind of sporty activity (pilates, running, horse-riding) or walking around with my bebé and my pooch, taking care of errands, etc. Wouldn’t it be great to have just a few things for THOSE activities, that I felt attractive in? (And not try to avoid the neighbors as I cruise around the hood in my strange clothing). Will I actually be able to wear prettier “house-clothing” instead of my husband’s old boxers and an old, huge stained T? Are people out there in the Cyber World screaming at me to do so to save my marriage?? Also, I will make a list of Absolutely Necessary Items that need to be sought out and purchased, this part is always fun.
This dress, for example, has made it through several seasons, on several trips (the stuff we take on trips is the stuff we should really focus on, it’s always the best stuff), and it serves many purposes (it can be fancy with heels, it can be worn as a cover-up to the beach, or with flat sandals to scoot around the city running errands). Also, it cost me about 5€ on sale, and makes me feel happy and remotely attractive (it’s kind of transparent, I like transparent…hehehe).
What does your wardrobe look like? What’s your style? Are you bogged down by too many clothes? Just how many pairs of shoes do you have? How many do you really wear? Do you keep things because you feel guilty about how much you paid for them? Do you keep things because you think you’ll wear them “someday”? Do you really understand your “wardrobe” needs? Do you store your “good” underpants for those special occasions that never seem to happen? Do you find yourself always buying the same kinds of new items that maybe aren’t truly appropriate for your real wardrobe needs? Like another 10 pairs of blue jeans when you have to wear business attire to work?
Do you want to join me for this fall edit? I’d love to hear all about it! I want to slim down my closet contents, have activity-appropriate outfits that make me feel good and serve their purpose (no 8 inch heels for 10 km walks each day…no no no), have (and use) good stuff (as opposed to saving it for “that” occasion) and take good care of it. I also want to tear down my current closet and build up a new, simpler one that will force me to stay organized and limit content. Time to dive in with both feet!!
ps. I don’t have hair anymore. I cut it all off. That, too, is liberating.