I read an article in the New York Times a couple of years ago about a clothing challenge to wear six items or less for a month. It was a competition to be as creative as possible, with a tiny wardrobe. I remember the so-called shopping diet vividly because my mom and almost everyone else who had seen the overflowing state of my closet (piles of striped shirts, three pairs of black boots, a sneaker collection well into the double digits) had sent me the article as a way of telling me I had too many clothes.
It’s true: I’m a clotheshorse. My shopping problem isn’t a sign of some deep psychological problem or a characteristic passed down from some fashionable relative -- I was just born with a fascination for clothes. I used to sneak new clothes into my room so my mom, who shunned my shopping habit, wouldn’t find out.
One of my earliest sartorial memories is of spending my allowance at Gap Kids on a fifth pair of capri pants because at nine years old I obsessively thought I needed one for every day of the school week.
Since then, I’ve bought certain articles of clothing because I thought they’d look good in my closet (a floor-length vintage sheer dress) or because I like to think that I have the lifestyle for them (wide-leg, wool metallic trousers). I’ve only worn these once.
Lately though, partly out of maturity and partly out of necessity, I’ve started to embrace minimalism. Rather than taking the six items or less approach though, I’ve begun to wear the same thing every day. Let me explain.
My recent move out of my parents’ uptown place into one of my own gave me the independence I’d been yearning for in the form of a very tiny room in a downtown apartment, closet not included. Whereas I used to stand in my walk-in closet every morning and stare at my clothes until something appealed to me, I now comb through shirts and pants in a cupboard-like wardrobe that sits in the living space I share with two other roommates.
So my new home physically can’t keep up with my fondness for accumulating clothes; nor can my budget (New York City rent is brutal). Now that I have to pay bills, buy groceries, and do my laundry in a laundromat, I can no longer frivolously buy clothes. The maturity and responsibility that come with adulthood have made wearing a different outfit every day the least of my priorities.
A few weeks into my new morning routine, I began to notice that I’d been repeatedly grabbing the same shirt and pant combination -- an oversize button-down and skinny jeans. Before I hated dressing monotonously and liked mixing things up. People notice if you wear the same thing over and over, right? Based on my own experience and an unsubstantiated fact a friend once relayed from her Psych 101 class in college -- they don’t. And even if they do, who cares?
The closest anyone has ever gotten to commenting on my uniform was my roommate who noted how much I love button-down shirts, and to be honest, I had brought the subject up. The only person paying attention to what you wear on the regular is you.
Instead of restricting myself to a set number of clothes to work with, I’ve found a look that I’m comfortable with and (at least I think) looks good on me. I’ve been sticking to the same style shirt and jean base, but I’ve added in different shoes -- sneakers, heels, boots -- and color combinations to switch things up. (Shoes can make your outfit, and I’m also a big believer in wearing white jeans after Labor Day.)
My oversize shirt is comfortable and office appropriate in my laid-back work environment. Tucked in, it's a 9-to-5 cubicle piece, and halfway out it's good for post-work drinks. If one basic look works, why shouldn’t I wear it every day?
The people whose style I admire most -- fashion editors like Emmanuelle Alt, designers like Isabel Marant, celebrities like Sofia Coppola -- all stick out in my mind because they have a signature look. Adopting such sameness in your daily appearance can only be achieved if you feel comfortable enough not to care what others think. My uniform has helped me to not only curb my shopping habit, but boosted my confidence.
What do you think about wearing one look all the time?
Photos by Ellen Doernberg