“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.” Or like skirts in a skip.
I have been afforded quite the opportunity over this past year; I have been away from home, studying in London. Yes, yes, career opportunities, world class culture, seeing famous actors “between projects” buying panty liners in Boots, all very good; but the thing that most excited Hannah, our Beloved Blogmeister, is that it gave me the opportunity of trying out minimalist, functional wardrobing in a low risk way i.e. by leaving 5 wardrobes full of accumulated crap (I mean, my expertly curated sartorial archive) at my parents’ house. Off I gadded, with nary a superfluous garment troubling my luggage. Indeed, so effective was my minimalist packing that once I’d declared myself finished, my parents, wide eyed and exasperated, declared that my room looked exactly the same as it had before I had started packing. They were not wrong.
It is very safe to say that Hannah and I are at opposite ends of the scale when it comes to acquisition and retention of clothes. She buys sparingly and clears out regularly, with no drama or fanfare. I predate on pretty things like a magpie on speed, and every clearout is accompanied with significantly more wailing and gnashing of teeth than is appropriate outside of the New Testament. I don’t think I’m worthy of a 1-hour special on Channel 5 yet, but, y’know, I have sympathies with those guys.
There is (for me anyway) a sumptuous delight that comes from luxuriating in one’s boudoir before an evening out, surrounded, engulfed even, by beautiful things. This is, however, an entirely separate situation to the daily panic of having to get dressed in a way that won’t get you fired/ostracised/arrested. This is particularly true at times when life is so hectic that dressing is just another task that is not helping you to achieve what you need to achieve that day. I must confess that this was the place I was in when the time came for me to pack for my year away. As a result, the idea of joining Zuckerberg et al in the battle against decision fatigue, by taking the agony of choice out of the dressing process, was extremely appealing. I didn’t go full Silicon Valley sqiuillionaire, though; rather than having multiples of exactly the same outfit, I ended up sticking to one colour pallete and a rather formulaic approach to dressing for different situations. I’ll write another time about the results of this experiment, but what I’d like to tell you about is what happened when I visited home a couple of weeks ago: you know what? I leafed through my wardrobes, my overstuffed and inconvenient wardrobes, and felt immense joy.
There’s no point in fighting it; for some of us, clothes are not just a way of avoiding a public indecency charge, or a mere whimsical, disposable pleasure (although they are, of course, all of these things). Clothes and how they make us feel are so much a part of us that they are ingrained in our memories like the powder in that compact we’ve all dropped in our bathrooms, impossible to separate from the grout. In much the same way as a waft of salt water mixed with marine diesel will instantly transport me to my Dad’s boat, or Jo Malone’s Pomegranate Noir will catapult me back to that performance of One Man, Two Guvnors where the woman sat next to me had clearly marinated herself in it, I found myself reliving past glories, failures and bittersweet moments as I leafed through my wardrobe. This strapless mint green netting dress with a full skirt and silver embroidery is the symbol of a party in my late teens where, for some reason, and for one of the only times I can remember, I felt truly confident amongst my peers; it wasn’t the dress that did it, but the dress was there. That dated ballgown made me remember the hand of a friend I’d loved for the longest time when he put it around my waist and finally kissed me. That skirt I’d bought for about £4 in an outlet village was worn when I competed in a public speaking competition and felt invincible. I graduated in that sleeveless Scandinavian number. In Sixth Form I accidentally caught my heel getting out of a car and gave a teacher a quite magnificent close up view of my knickers; whenever I see that green tweed skirt with an electric blue netting trim, I laugh and am reminded to get out of a car elegantly. I starved myself to fit into that vintage yellow pencil skirt and cried when I just could not get my hips to look “right” in it; that’s a cautionary memory, painful in its invocation. The item is stowed out of sight, sought out only when I need reminding of how far I have come and need steel to continue moving forward. Ditto the little French Connection top I bought to impress someone who certainly didn’t deserve it, and the teeniest linen strappy thing from Warehouse I wore when at my hungriest. Powerful and dangerous, these memories are to be reinvigorated with only the greatest of care. And then there are the pieces that I love just because they are beautiful: that full skirted silk shirt dress in thick white and jewel tone stripes that I have never worn and that probably will never fit me again; the vintage tea dress with a properly boned bodice that is evidence of the true skill of dressmaking.
So many of the clothes I have kept are not clothes in the practical sense; they are pieces of art to be voyeuristically drunk in, or they are portals to significant memories to which I never want to destroy access. These memories are very good, very bad, or otherwise defining. So, in this way, I hope Hannah will give me a pass. Sometimes clothes will come into your life and so fully encapsulate a part of you, that to throw them away would feel like self-destruction.
Of course, I know this luxury is only afforded me by my current circumstances. Eventually my parents will want their room back. Then I’ll have to make so many hard clothing choices that Zuckerberg will feel the tremors across the ocean.
The Part-Time Minimalist