Curating Closets: Buying the Funky, Old, and Unloved

I have always been a proponent of finding beauty in the unwanted. To a fault. It goes hand-in-hand with my tendency to be a voice for the unheard, a lover of the unloved, et cetera. With this comes a weakness for all things old, musty-smelling, faded, and used. If you’d like to glam the imagery up some, you could call it ‘vintage’. The list includes books with yellowing pages, wooden furniture with chips and nicks, and thick, woolly sweaters amidst retro clothing racks. So this past weekend, when one of my favorite coffee spots, Daydream Surfshop, announced a 40% off Sale on all items, with part of the proceeds being donated to Planned Parenthood (see last post), I knew I was going with the intention to support, and, well, purchase.

Reconciling with Stepping Outside the System

So how does one who keeps a minimalist closet allow for a vintage item? I will admit that these pieces don’t neatly fall into the SYSTEM typically established by a ‘minimalist’ (referring to black and white color schemes and streamlined shapes), but there is still an intentionality about them. Let me remind that first and foremost, minimalism is defined by the owner, and the term does not equate to having as few items as possible. It boils down to being mindful of what you allow to take space in your life. That being said, I find that a few unique pieces that fall outside of your system add character and, dare I say, F-U-N, to one’s clothing line. Sure, too many such pieces could cause a disconnect with your outfits, and would impede the wearability of said piece which may limit its use, but a handful of funk never hurt anyone. Plus, if you love it, you love it. There are minimalists whose closets are filled with articles of clothing in every color of the rainbow, yet daily use of said pieces make it a successfully curated closet. The goal of any clothing curator is this: let no piece go forgotten, or unworn, for a long period of time. In other words, let no piece be left unloved.

Buying Something Broken

The thing about buying vintage, or just plain used, is the fact that someone else loved that item before you. Which means, it probably suffered from daily wear (or at least, that’s the hope). When I was perusing through the clothing racks, I was drawn towards a few items, including chunky cable-knit sweaters (it WAS a rainy day in May, after all), Levi’s denim, and white linens with the occasional crochet. All of which happened to have a defect — a stain on some white sweater, a rip in the jeans, a snag in the wool or fine lace. Every item had a mark that seemed to scream to the world, “I’ve been around since the ’80s!”

At first, I was hesitant to purchase. As a frugalist, where I spend my money really matters, and buying broken things seemed very anti-frugalist, yes? But as a person, I also believe that our purchasing power is a statement, a vote cast towards the future we want to see, and choosing to buy used and broken meant preventing yet one more thing to enter the land-fill, meant loving something that most people don’t, and meant being just a tad less focused on vanity. I went through a number of items with strong consideration for each, and rationalized the purchase of ONE piece with the help of Mr. Debtist. ONE because I am still curating, after all! I ended up choosing a thick wool sweater that made me want to isolate myself in a wood cabin in the middle of winter, with a mug of coffee, a bread oven, and a book. Mayhaps I’m not as ready for the summer as I once thought… This particular sweater had a hole near the bottom where I could stick two thumbs through. Due to its knitted nature, I knew it would be irreparable and that gentle care would forever be granted. The purchase was made to support a rad local coffee shop, to stand as a vote for an individual’s right to have a say about how to treat their own bodies, to be an effort to create a closed loop system when it comes to fashion, and to remind myself that a snag in a sweater, and any consequent judgement caused by it, is irrelevant to its worth. 

Standing Up for the Unloved

I walked out of the shop wearing my new (old) thick, cable-knit sweater on my back, and headed to my parents house for the rest of the one day off. When we arrived, my mom commented on the “nice” sweater as she went in for her customary hug hello. I proceeded to tell her that I had just gotten it that day from a vintage store, and as she pulled away, she asked me aghast, “You mean it’s USED?! EW!” Instead of being offended (long gone are the days when anything my mom says would offend me), I used it as an opportunity to talk about the importance (to me) of trying to create a more sustainable fashion industry. I started to show her the hole, wherein she interrupted and reprimanded me for foolishly buying something so ‘unfixable’. To which I suggested, perhaps, it does not need fixing.

I wasn’t commenting in order to start an argument or to defend my pride. Instead, I like to use these moments to start conversations. Standing up for the unloved is a hard thing to do, especially when your “life decisions” are being judged as questionable, usually by people whose opinions you most value. But I find it very easy to stand rooted in the confidence that every action I take is right by me. That’s all we can ever do. So, although my mom didn’t seem convinced that the sweater rightly belonged anywhere other than the next dumpster, she did hear me and my stance, stopped her berating and moved on to happier things.

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