This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
I don’t like much physical activities that require sole training (I’m more motivated in groups or teams) barring a single exception: swimming. In high-school, I was not athletically dedicated enough to sign up for a sport but I did get out of the required Phys Ed classes by signing up for swimming – an alternative that did not require us to compete but that entailed endless laps of different styles day in and day out. I’m not exactly a fish out of water, but do I love the pool!
Since my preferred water activity is freestyle, I like bathing suits that will assist me in a good workout without the worry of whether a bottom will have the ability to hang on. Having been traumatized in my early twenties when a massive Southern California wave tossed me around and took my swim undies with its recessing tide (true story – I had to wear my male friend’s flashy gold water polo brief which he happened to carry around in his beach bag), I am extremely picky about choosing my swim attire. I get irked when I kick off the walls of a pool and feel a slight tug on my swim wear.
Therefore, I’ve stuck with one-pieces in the last decade. As a minimalist of five years, I have only owned one suit at a time (whereas young-me owned 4-5 pairs). And while I’ve likely wasted away my best years sitting in a cover up that acts as a full bodysuit armor, I’ve also spent much of my time poolside frolicking in the waters freely, a trade-off that I have no regrets over. As I watch other girls sun-bathe on decks with lotion in hand, I am the one cannon-balling with my guy friends into the deep end. Which isn’t to say sun-bathing isn’t cool. Only that you choose the suit that fits you.
So on to the point: When perusing for a new suit, I try to search for sustainable brands trying to mitigate a balance between creating hydrophilic attire and using environmentally-friendly fabric materials. Therein lies the rub. However, I was able to wrangle a few brands to rally behind.
Here are a few favorites.
+ Summersalt – I personally currently own a black SummerSalt one-piece (pictured throughout this post) with a classic racerback cut-out and a mesh upper half. The cut is supposed to be full coverage for the bottom half but even with my short stature, I think the cut is pretty high on the hip, exuding a big of that 80’s Baywatch style that puts this suit far away from being considered grandmotherly. It is, what I like to call, “the Little Black Dress of Swimwear”.
+ Reformation– When I was conisdering which swim suit to buy a year ago, Reformation was not only a contender but the second runner-up. I have a soft spot for vintage design. Reformation is one of the more famous companies in the slow fashion industry. Their retro styles spot high-waisted bottoms and bandeau tops, among other modern cuts. My favorite is this minimalist Brittany one-piece and readers would be happy to know that they are currently offering 30% off site-wide with free shipping around the globe.
+ Vitamin A– Vitamin A is the site for all bombshell ethical consumers. Their large selection of suits in Ecolux fabric is mostly made locally in Southern California. They also partner with a number of organizations to protect the environment (mostly marine habitats) by donating a portion of their proceeds. This is a company that believes in sustainability as much as female empowerment. Use this link to receive 25% off your next purchase.
+ Land of Women – This is for the essentialist woman. This New York based company cuts and stitches all products by a family-owned manufacturer. They offer a small collection of basics in practical cuts to simplify the shopping experience.
+ Nude – The Nude Label is another option for the minimalist who prefers bikinis in black or brown and high hip huggers. Their suits use 82% recycled polyamide without the frills or fuss. It’s a perfect stop for those shopping for intimates as well. See my review post on Intimates here.
+ Prana – Prana is my husband’s favorite source of activewear. We both own a pair of hiking pants by Prana from when we went on our honeymoon three years ago and since then, those pants has gotten us through exceptionally difficult hikes all across the world. Suffice to say, they have high-quality products, swimwear included. Bathing suits use econyl recycled nylon, however I am still not sure how I feel about the percentage of elastane still being used. Of course it isn’t the perfect solution, but their company as a whole tries their best at creating sustainable clothes.
I suppose the main point of all this though, is the importance of our planet, the preservation of marine habitat, and the taking for granted simple things such as beach access and laying out on the sand. I do miss the ocean. I can’t imagine a world where younger generations have no access to such things. Hence the importance of choosing wisely what we consume, how we consume, and which companies we support.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
This post is in partnership with Organic Basics, a European based company focused on sustainably producing gorgeous basics for the everyday. Each item has a luxurious quality made using ethical factories with fair wages, eco-conscious packaging, and a sustainable sourcing of materials. They are the ultimate example of a company checking off all the right boxes without sacrificing beauty.
Before you roll your eyes at me because I am talking about intimate things again, hear me out. In my defense, previous conversations regarding Giving a Crap about using Plant Paper to wipe Tushys all revolve around the subject of the restroom which is NOT what this post is about. But okay fine, it is again regarding intimates, particularly those stored in your closet and worn on your person daily.
As a blog dedicated to droning on about curating en general, I would be remiss if I skip over the article of clothing that people most oft wear. Yet underthings are not at the forefront of the conversations revolving around an ethical capsule wardrobe. In fact, searching for sustainable underwear on one’s own can be a bit of a drag since there are only a handful of companies interested in making them. After much deep diving, I have surfaced with a handful of options that I think are worthy of the slow fashion movement, but of course, first, a word.
Intimates, to me, are not meant to be frilly things. I never did understand the draw to cheap lace, or worse, itchy mesh. And whilst I believe that our homes should contain only the most beautiful things, I am also a firm believer in the practicality of certain items. I like to think that all of my clothes earn their keep, and the most hard-working of them are the ones that I most cherish.
For example, I have a beautiful blue jumper that I love to wear year round. It dresses up or down, excusing it for every occasion short of a wedding (although I’d gladly wear it to one). It’s pretty to look at, sure, but its also a utilitarian thing made of linen that moves freely with my every action, looks good wrinkled, and is reliable for even the most demanding of activities whether that be yoga or washing my car. It has a simple boyish cut and is loose-fitting, and for all these things, it is one of my most valuable articles of clothing.
I hold my undergarments to the same standard, if not more. I expect them to be versatile, comfortable, and invisible. I don’t want itchy fabrics or skivvies with too tight of a fit. I hate clasps that dig into the skin, voluminous cups that try too hard, and mostly, underwear strings. And the care routine needs to be easy on me too. I would hate to waste laundry loads washing delicates separately, worrying about whether lace would snag, or removing cups before every wash. Forget about hand washing. Despite these utilitarian requirements, I don’t want them to be ugly. They must be good enough to walk around freely on warm summer nights when I have the house to myself (almost never, but I wish). And on top of all this, I expect them to be sustainable, ethical or fair trade? I must have gone mad!
However, I can prove that it is possible for I have found a few companies and styles that fit the bill. I included some that are very precious, and some that are more financially savvy for the everyday. None of these are by any means perfect, but just a more thoughtful solution to intimates. To give you a jump start, here is my list of recommendations.
+ Everlane – Everlane has a line of intimates that include bottoms, tops and bodysuits. While the functionality of the latter escapes me, I find their bottoms and tops collection to be very practical. My sister gifted me eight black and light gray bikini bottoms under my request for neutral colors in a singular style one birthday, and they have been my go-to bottoms for over a year. They have lasted weekly washes without needing to separate them from the rest of my clothes, which have made laundry day wonderfully easy for me and lighter on the environment. I have yet to observe any holes on them. They are thin enough to be invisible with most things I wear (an exception would be yoga pants), and they are very comfy. While I admire Everlane for their efforts to partner with ethical factories around the globe and providing transparency in terms of where clothes are made, my only gripe about Everlane is their lack of size inclusivity when it comes to producing clothes. But in terms of basic underwear quality, I have no qualms.
+ Organic Basics – I had the pleasure of trying out Organic Basic’s lite singlet and briefs soft touch collection in TENCEL – a material made of wood pulp – and it is absolutely luscious. It is the prettiest piece of underwear I own. Pictured above in dusty rose, the couple is my ideal outfit for lounging around the home on hot summer days with the windows flung open and fans whirring overhead. The material is silky soft and light, while at the same time providing enough coverage – thus freeing me to mill about, read a book on the couch, or even write from the dining desk in my drawers. This also doubles as a pajama set and while the singlet has no padding for coverage itself, I’ve worn it underneath a scrub top without people knowing any better. For the record, that’s partially thanks to my girlish frame. Still, the practicality doesn’t undermine it’s beauty. Organic Basics definitely knows what’s up. A company founded with sustainability as a whole in mind, they care about the material of a product as much as it’s design. Functionality and timelessness are both key features to having something last and Organic Basics has both down. They work exclusively with certified factory partners (which they transparently share with their consumers) with a safe working environment free of child labor and forced labor while also paying a living wage and including employee perks such as free lunches and child care. I cannot boast about this pairing enough, and would definitely look into their SilverTech Activewear as well, which is treated with a safe, permanent bluesign approved recycled silver salt called Polygiene. For those who are wary of synthetic or recycled materials, they also have a line of undergarments in organic cotton. TheDebtist readers get 10% off Organic Basics when they use the coupon code DEBTISTOBC.
+ Pact – Pact (photographed below) gifted me a number of items to try on and I have to say this brand is for the practical type who can do without the frills. Pact makes sensible underwear for busy people in an all-organic matter. They use GOTS certified organic cotton and are Fair Trade USA Factory certified. My only gripe is the individual plastic packaging that they ship their products in. I tried their Classic Racerback in black, the Modern Racerback in heather grey, and a more traditional Triangle Bra in pewter (pictured). I also tried on the High-Rise Hipster in black and the Boy Short in charcoal grey. I have to say that their products are perfect for my lifestyle. They are equally as useful at a yoga class, on a run, underneath scrubs, sweating over bread turns or running errands – which take up the majority of my time. The bras are neither constricting nor bothersome. The modern racerback is the only one with cups which provide more coverage for bigger-busted women but due to my girlish frame, I find that the cups are actually a nuisance and prefer the lighter coverage options. The modern racerback also is made for taller people and without the adjustable straps fit a bit frumpy on me. The other two bras, though, fit like a glove. The bottoms are more standard with the boy short having a thicker material than the hipster. I would like to note that my husband also sports PACT boxers and briefs and he has reported a sincere affinity with their underwear. While they aren’t the fanciful undergarments you would wear to a tea party, they definitely fit the bill for incorporating sustainable clothes into everyday wear.
+ Botanica Workshop– This line of underwear is for the vintage-loving, delicate type (even their brand name exudes beauty) searching for pretty pieces worthy of a higher price point. Their most gorgeous best-sellers include bras made of silk and lace, or some limited-edition, small-scale, dyed-by-hand pieces. My favorite part about the brand is their passion for minimizing waste. Recycled and second-hand supplies are used in the production of their garments, which are drafted, cut, and sewn by hand. As a company, public transportation and walking are the main modes of travel, encouraging the business to grow on a very local level. Founded in 2014, the company partners with local artisans and technicians to produce small production runs in line with the slow fashion movement. Tiny details such as these made a huge impact and it shows in their products. For those who wish to walk around freely but be fully dressed, they’ve got a line of slip dresses which I would love to try out one day. Looks absolutely dreamy.
+Land of Women – Whereas the previous attracts the more feminine, I have to say that no one has perfected minimalism like the Land of Women. Without sacrificing luxe, their underwire are made for those looking for something other than cotton. I am not sure how ethical the Italian silk-like fabric they use is (it’s very beautiful but there is little transparency about the material itself), but they sure do know how to maximize style in minimalist cuts. Plus it’s a great resource for swimmers, too!
+ Nude– Nude is a family run factory in Valencia, Spain that ensure good working practices via a safe working environment that provides something as personal and sweet as pastries and snacks to their fairly compensated workers. Their locally manufactured organic cotton basics come in stylishly functional cuts available in nine beautiful and earthy colors. Their products also encapsulate men’s boxers, socks, and swim attire.
A word on storage: I store my delicates in drawstring muslin bags separated by tops, bottoms, and socks. The bags are then stored in a collapsible gray bin underneath a bathroom cabinet, where I also store all of my folded clothes – which is to say, most of my clothes. The separate bags make it alright for me to toss the underwear unfolded when in a rush putting away laundry, without creating an eyesore. I used to keep all intimates in a large dresser drawer when I was in college, but I’ve found that I had a tendency to rummage through and mess with the piles so that by the end of the week, I would have to refold the entire drawer again. Sometimes, I’d spend a good few minutes looking for a sock pair. Having bags to corral like things together have helped a ton. The muslin ones that I own are ones I’ve collected throughout the years which wrapped anything from Aesop products to Mejuri jewelry.
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Growing up, I was always impressed by still-lifes and images of homes. Museum-like staging of historical dwellings on field trips and home-decor magazines alike had me imagining what my ideal house would look like. As an early twenty-something, I would peruse magazines and circle with a pen the items that I would love to own one day. Along the way, I collected trinkets here and there every time I visited Ikea, Crate and Barrel, and Target … until one day, I woke up to having too much stuff. I realized that instead of the clean, well-manicured homes that I looked up to as a teen, what I had was a very dirty rented room that held a hodge-podge of mismatched items and styles. I didn’t know who I was, which style was “me”, and I suffered many hours keeping things tidy.
These, of course, weren’t my biggest life problems – only a reflection of other aspects that bothered me about myself. After spending months (then, years after the first phase) of de-cluttering, I decided that I was not going to put in all that effort just so I can fill my space back to an over-whelming state, where I had to spend most of my free time organizing stuff, tidying up after trinkets that find their way out of their proper places like the toys from Toy Story.
Like with everything else, I decided to slow. it. down. Limit what I purchased and bought for my home, so that I could discover the whos, whats, whens, and whys of things. I wanted to be the curator of my own museum, and while homes aren’t meant to be museums themselves – they’re meant to be lived in and touched and loved and messed up, even – neither are they meant to be storage units holding symbols of our financial status. But as curator, I wanted to make sure that what I had was worth keeping.
The skill of curating doesn’t magically come from a bout of de-cluttering. In fact, I would go so far as to call it a completely separate ability that places more importance on our stewardship of what we allow in, rather than our selection of what we get rid of. You could be very good at de-cluttering without being good at maintaining your clutter. You need both skills to be able to create a minimalist space that allows for maximalist function.
With books up the wazoo about how to properly de-clutter a space, and movements that have people Marie-Kondoing their homes, I think what people still struggle with the most when creating a minimalist home is the inundation of stuffs through our doors – aka: the curation itself.
A curator for a museum needs to have a passion for the job, a knowledge about history and the arts, an eye for detail, patience and superior organizational skills. They research different pieces before deciding on one and manage the finances and lending needed to get the best piece for their space.
A curator of the home requires similar things, requiring knowledge of the self, patience, and the willingness to research options before a purchase.
Personally, I simplify the process down to three questions – which I ask of myself before I make a purchase. I ask them in the following order of importance:
Is it beautiful?
Beauty is my first question because I find that without beauty, I can easily fall out of love with something and lust after a nicer alternative. And while there are always nicer options, when you fall in love with the beauty within an everyday thing rather than the thing itself, no matter what happens to that thing or to you, you will have a sentimental connection with the piece that makes it hard to even look at another. Metaphors aside, I find that beautiful things hardly feel like clutter. A hand-made ceramic mug left sitting on the table with coffee drips dried from the lip is an artful piece on its own. A beautiful cardigan thrown over a chair looks almost staged when in reality, it was flung there forgotten after a more pressing life-matter beckoned. We are attracted to beautiful things, and of the three, sentiment is the strongest decision factor as to whether an item earns its keep. Because when something no longer becomes necessary or breaks and become dysfunctional, when it has lost its purpose and meaning, a person may still choose to keep it simply because it is beautiful.
Is it functional?
I like to think that what I own earn their keep. They do the hard work for me. They help me to not only live, but also to thrive. My things deserve my deepest gratitude for the sole reason that without them, my life would be a little less than. So it goes that my second question is to the functionality of a piece. Will it do it’s work? Is it practical? Will it hold against the tests of time? Things considered include the brand (is it reputable?), the material (I prefer iron, wood, ceramics, and linen), the maintenance (I don’t like delicate thinks that require looking after) and whether it does the job well (it must be efficient as well as easy).
Is it necessary?
This is the last question that I ask of myself, because sometimes, after you’ve determined that something is both beautiful and functional, you may also realize that you already own something else that does the same. And if two things fill the same void, then one of them will, eventually, have to go. An example that I have is tupperware. We love to cook. And we always run out of tupperware. But our tiny tupperware cabinet is 80% full with containers when all are available. I could choose to buy more containers so that we never run out, but I would hate to have a weekend where all are empty and spilling out of the tupperware cabinet. That is the exact definition of clutter! Not to mention the stress and waste of time spent on said weekend organizing tupperware into kitchen cabinets. So I refuse to buy more. Instead, I look for alternatives. I grab a casserole dish and put a lid on it. I store things in glass jars that we’ve kept instead of recycled. Currently, on our kitchen island is a dutch oven holding everything bagels with the pot lid on to keep them from going stale. These and more, just so the home doesn’t accumulate things for the sake of having them. It’s a fun game I play. The less stuff you have, the more creative you can get. What I’ve learned from this experiment is that in the moment, we may feel the need for something, but the moments often pass, the need – temporary. Most times, it is this final question that stops items from entering our home.
Surely, there is a long list of people who have Marie-Kondoed the ish out of their homes during quarantine. To you, I say congratulations. Before we all re-enter back into what once was, I wanted to share this tip on curating. Good judgement about what to consume can easily be clouded when we are stressed, which tends to happen at our usual pace of go-go-go. So before we return to “normal”, do recall that normal wasn’t working, and de-cluttering was more than a trend. This period has shed light on what was uncomfortable and what you felt was most important, so let’s hang on to that just a bit longer. And continue to take it slow.
Elizabeth Suzann has been a great model for me. I was initially attracted to her work via another blogger’s partnership. When I saw her timeless collection and her ethically sourced fabrics, I fell in love completely. Her commitment to sustainable practices while prioritizing their employees is something all companies should aspire to. Of course, the price point reflects the quality, and I have not yet pulled the trigger on making such a purchase. But since I am human, I have drooled over the images that I’ve found online and I occasionally browse the site for new products.
Recently, I visited her site and was shocked to see that half of all of the models were plus-sized women. I recognized it right away as a means to be inclusive and to change the “ideal” imagery that the fashion industry continually shoves down our throats. The impossibility of everyone being extremely tall, slender and leggy is not new news, especially for a five-foot Asian female such as myself.
So my initial thought was, “Hurrah!”
However, as I continued to scan the shop, I got more and more annoyed at the images of tall, plus-sized women. I could not imagine or see just how these pieces would fit me. I could not relate or get a good idea as to how the products fit. I thought to myself, “How absolutely frustrating this is. They hardly put up child-like figures online and I’ve already had to learn how to adjust for my short height when I look at tall elegant swans. Now I have to learn how to imagine the clothes on myself using an even farther frame of reference?”
And then it hit me.
How must thesewomen feel, when the fashion world makes them invisible? How could THEY ever imagine how clothes would fit on them after seeing stick figures? If I cannot imagine how clothes would fall on me, how can the opposite be true? These plus-sized women have had to deal with this issue their whole lives! Talk about annoying.
By the way, do you know that the average American size is 16 or 18?! But we’ve got size DOUBLE ZERO models on the cover of every magazine!
I haven’t lived with this same problem all my life, but let me tell you how it felt to live with it for five minutes.
The shopping experience becomes very depressing. Emotions associated with shopping include frustration, anger, and pain. It feels almost hopeless to get to an understanding about the articles of clothing I am looking at. There is a self-esteem cost associated with the inability to relate.
Living with these affirmations could be detrimental to the human psyche.
Elizabeth Suzann’s embracing of different sized women is refreshing. Other sustainable companies should take stock – Everlane I am looking at you. If you are going to change the fashion industry, why only make sustainable clothing for skinny people?! In order to make ethical fashion and slow fashion a thing, we need to include everyone.
Elizabeth Suzann has made it possible to shop responsibly for more women out there in this one act. She has sizes in short, regular, and tall, ranging from XXS to 3XL.
That’s something to be proud of.
This post was not sponsored by Elizabeth Suzann. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote about how having a capsule wardrobe for work saves me money AND time. However, as of late, my luck has made a turn for the better. Over the course of the past few months, I was given an opportunity to seize a position at an office three blocks away from my house. Although it required a pay cut and involved busier hours, I took the job for two reasons. Firstly, the office primarily serves the under-served in our community, which more aligned with my intention in becoming a dentist in the first place. And secondly, the commute meant that I could nix using my car all together and substitute a ten-minute walk in order to save on gas money and cut emissions. Hurrah hurrah!
With the new position also came the ability to trade in my professional clothing and white coat for scrubs and sneaks. Prior to the transition, I only owned two pairs of scrubs, which I usually wear in IV sedation – days when looking professional didn’t matter and when I needed to focus my concentration on more important things such as monitoring screens and breathing. Both pairs were remnants of the seven that we were required to buy in dental school. Being a frugalist, not to mention dead broke at the end of my four year schooling, I sold the other five pairs to students in grades below me when I graduated. I have alternated between these two pairs for the last two and a half years, and they are still high functioning, but with the new position, it was hard to get through a week without having to do laundry twice mid-week. Two pairs would suffice in the weeks when I only worked four days, but five day weeks led an awkward amount of laundry. In the name of simplifying, I thought I should own another pair.
I used my birthday as a means to get a pair of FIGS scrubs, which seems to be all the rage these days. Although I’ve been at this new office for the past few months, I didn’t jump the gun and buy them myself. At nearly $50 a piece, it wasn’t something that I could justify. However, they are well known for their modern and sleek cuts, as well as their stretchy, breathable fabrics. In fact, they seem to be disrupting the scrubs industry by providing medical professionals scrubs “that take care of them as much as they take care of their patients”. Advertised as scrubs that can follow any busy medical professional’s lifestyle, I was at first attracted by the versatility of many of the scrub fits. I liked that they were chic enough to wear out after a long day of work, and that they offered pants that one can wear to a yoga class before or after a shift. After receiving a pair for my birthday, I could not agree more with the reviews.
The fabric is extremely breathable, and very flexible, which works wonders for someone who is always on the run. I feel comfortable meeting someone for an interview for the blog, then going to yoga class, then heading to work, and still going to grab dinner afterwards. The styles are very versatile. I chose a trendier Mandarin cut for the top paired with a basic core pant for the bottoms. The pants are a petite size and is the perfect length for a five foot one inch thirty year old. I stepped out of my black and gray comfort zone and chose a Caribbean Blue color, which dresses it up some. Part of me wishes I would have chosen a neutral pair so that future FIGS scrubs could mix and match with different pant styles and tops, but the other part of myself reminds me that we mustn’t own things that we do not love.
Part of what attracted me to FIGS is their effort in being a socially conscious brand. They commit to being a part of Threads for Threads initiative. Thus far, they report having donated hundreds of thousands of scrubs to medical professionals in need spread between thirty-five countries in the course of two years. Some medical professionals perform surgeries and save lives in their jean and T-shirts and have never had access to scrubs before. FIGS is trying to change that. But their efforts don’t stop there. Currently, they are matching donations toward the Human Rights Campaign all of June on behalf of Pride month.
There are a few things that I didn’t like about FIGS. First, they could have an improved transparency regarding materials and scrub production. Secondly, I’d prefer the branding to have a little more humility. Flippant embroideries that equate saving lives to not being big deals make serious matters trivial, which I think is neither fair to the patient nor the practitioner. Although medical professionals do great work, they must be amazing humans without the need to wear shirts telling the world that they think just as highly of themselves. Humility is part of what makes a doctor great, and the brand fails to reflect that.
Overall, I couldn’t be more happy with the quality of the products. I practically live in scrubs these days. It’s nice to wear an outfit that are as comfortable as loungewear without looking like pajamas. Plus, I still retain the mantra of having a capsule wardrobe, or in this case, a uniform of sorts, in an effort to simplify my life even further so that I can get to the doing quicker. While I think a pair of FIGS for every working day would be useful, this single one partnered with my two older pairs will suffice. In an effort to curate my closet, I stray away from excessive additions of any one item. I would highly recommend these scrubs to any colleague in the medical profession, while challenging FIGS and other scrub companies to increase transparency and source materials more ethically.
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.
It’s been a while, since I’ve written about curating closets, but closets have been at the forefront of [our] minds lately. Mostly, because we have none. I revealed in this post that our living space on the second floor has absolutely no closet space, not even in the bedroom.
Or pantry space.
Or a bathroom door.
Or a bedroom for that matter, technically. Loft living for the win.
So where to put storage? Our lifestyle is salvaged by a lone closet underneath the stairwell, located on the first floor (in the business space). We’ve placed a rod in this “coat closet” and have hung most of our clothes there, underneath the linens. There’s shelving above it, wherein sits our few sweaters that avoid hangers, to prolong their sweet little lives. The space is limited, and what minimalist closets we once thought we had have proved to be, well, not minimal enough. The husband owns too many tees, while I own too many formal a dress. So, a few words on curating, once again.
It’s dawned on me that the de-cluttering process is one of the most mindful practices I engage in. And I do it repetitively, because there’s still room for self-improvement, as well as self-reflection. Here’s what this new “space” has reminded me:
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
I keep returning to this quote. I first discovered it perusing a shelf of cards at Daydream Surfshop in simple black lettering across a blank card. I loved it so much that I gave it as a birthday card to our roommate. When curating closets, I ask myself these two questions: “Does it have a purpose?” and “Do I love it?” Some may say “love” is a bit too extreme of an emotion, but I have found that liking something is not enough to stand the tests of time.
When you must choose between practicality and an item you love, sometimes it pays to choose the loved and less practical.
I was standing in a dressing room stall, holding two pairs of pants in my hands. I had been hiding away in there for thirty minutes or more, and the dressing room lady has checked in on me five times by now. Surely, she must wonder whether I’m in there solely because of the free AC. Not entirely untrue. But also, I was going through a tough dilemma, arguing with myself back and forth. Do I get the pair of practical denim which goes with everything in my closet and which can be worn on most days in casualness, or do I go with the auburn pant that wears beautifully, matches with a lot of my basic tops, but that I might hesitate doing some cooking in, lest it gets dirty? The truth of the matter is, I needed neither. In the end, I had walked out of the store with the pair of red pants in my hand. While practicality would have landed me a pair of denims that have everyday usability, I chose the thing that will make me ultimately the most happy. With something practical, one can wear it every day and never notice anything different. The practical one would not add anything to my life, except maybe a reason to de-clutter other denim pants that I already own. The red pair, on the other hand, will add joy to the every day. Plus, I’ve come to realize that when you love something, you end up using it as much as you possible can anyway. The moral is to choose actions that makes life happy, which is ultimately what we are living for. And when it comes to having items around, living surrounded with items that you actually care about is the thing that matters most.
Know what you need for your particular lifestyle.
Speaking of having items around, know what works for you. I have been guilty before of buying things that other people have, with the illusion that I myself may need them too. However, as I grew to know myself, I have found that my lifestyle is quite different from other people’s lifestyle. There were so many things we owned previously that we found we didn’t use at all. A toaster that we had asked for on our wedding registry. Cosmetics that I thought every girl required. A beer tasting set, ’til I realized I no longer wish to consume beer. Specifically for wardrobes, I used to think I needed high heels to compensate for my height, and short dresses to make my legs appear longer. I used to think that tight clothing helped me, and that having my hair curled made me appear more adult. Today, I’d likely grab a tee, prefer overalls, and get itchy when my hair is anywhere near my face. Also, I enjoy the freedom that walking, running, jumping (?) in flat shoes afford me. My lifestyle has slowed down quite a bit, so blogging on couches does not require the same attire as going out to happy hours do. Coffee shops are more forgiving than clubs and house parties. Denim pants are more suited to bread baking than mini skirts. You get the gist.
Learn to recognize sentimentality and guilt. Learn to let the burden go.
The most difficult, and final advice. Too many times have I stared at an item which has not been touched, used, or even looked at for many months [ahem, years], yet still it remained in my possession. Always, the culprit holding me back from saying sayonara was sentimentality, followed by guilt. Handkerchiefs handed down to me from my mom when I was 8 years old, for example. The thought of letting something go makes me feel like I was stabbing someone I cared about in the back with a knife of betrayal. The wild imagery pulls me towards being a “good person” and keeping it for the sake of sentiment, and also, to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. We must learn to recognize these moments, and then to ask, “what is it’s purpose?” If the only thing the item does is weigh us down with emotional burden, is that really worth keeping? Surely, your loved one did not mean to cause you such turmoil. I have found that creating space gives a higher ability to receive, while releasing negative physical, emotional and mental energy. Be kind to yourself, and know that the weight of the relationship should not come down to material things.
How about your closet space advice? I could use some inspiration. One day, I hope for that downstairs closet to have decent breathing room.
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My height is officially 5 foot 1 inch. I have been this tall since I was a freshman in high school. You could say I peaked at 14 years old. No growth spurts ever visited me again (I am not sure if they ever did to begin with). At around this age, I was learning about super models, reading magazines, watching Project Runway, and working for clothing companies as a style specialist who dressed mannequins that were 5 foot 8 inches tall. The concensus was universal and the messaging was definitive: Taller girls are prettier. Taller girls are more desirable. Clothes are made for taller girls.
As young as sixteen years old, I started experimenting with making myself appear, or actually be, taller. I fitted my tiny feet into even tinier high-heeled shoes and walked around everywhere in them. I wore them to high school, and ran in them occasionally in order to get to my next class on time. I remember returning home with bruised feet and pounding heels. I wore them to work as an eighteen year old, climbing ladders as I made the window displays of my retail store pretty, dressing and undressing those towering mannequins. Even with heels on, I barely reached their shoulders.
When I met my husband in college, I started wearing 4-5 inch wedges, with the desperate desire to get anywhere near to his 6 foot 3 inches frame. Obviously, I was never close. But it was a booster to my self-esteem.
To this day, I thank providence that my husband was the person I ended up meeting. A very simple man, he never noticed things of vanity and outward appearances. After eight years of being together, he still can’t tell the difference between when I wear make-up and when I don’t. He won’t realize that I’ve chopped my hair, unless I’ve already told him before-hand. To be fair, he has pointed out time and again that I don’t realize when he’s shaved off three weeks worth of beard, either. All of this to say that he has taught me the lack of importance of outward appearances.
I remember when we first started dating, I became overly obsessed with stocking up on very tall shoes. I asked for them for birthdays and Christmases. One particular Christmas, I even requested he buy me these ridiculous, tall and spikey Sam Edelman heels, which sell for $200 a pair. Ugh, the joys of being naïve, and the qualms of being reckless. But he just didn’t understand it. I think the only reason he noticed that I was wearing towering heels was because I was struggling to keep up, stumbling on cracks on the sidewalk, and scurrying in small, calculated steps. He kept asking me, “Why do you do this to yourself?”, pointing out the impracticalities as well as the dangers of walking on stilts. But I was convinced that walking stilts gave you power, that being taller made you more covetable. Reinforced by other women’s oohs and aahs at my pretty shoes, this is what I continued to believe. I think the best part in all of this was his apathy towards whatever I chose to wear. Equally so, his apathy to whatever HE chose to wear. Over time, I realized that neither he nor I used appearances to measure a person’s worth. So why were they so important to me?
It took me eight years, but I can finally say that I have outgrown that misconception that heels make you beautiful. Or that they’re attractive at all. Looking back, there was nothing attractive in the way I tip-toed to class, the way I looked down all the time at where I was going to step next, or the way I tripped, twisted ankles, or stumbled. I have given away all of my very tall shoes. I still have heels for those special occasions, but we are talking one to two inches, and few and far between. I have replaced my favorite brands with more subtler types. I embrace shoes that are more empowering in their ability to get me through a busy day. Off course, I have written extensively about how the majority of my shoe collection consists of Nisolos, because they have a curated collection that does just that.
For those interested in curating their own closets and replacing their shoes with ones of practicality and durability, this week marks Nisolo’s Annual Summer Sale, their largest sale of the year. Products for both men and women will be marked down 30-50%. Additionally, they are giving an additional 10% OFF sale styles to The Debtist Readers, when you use the code DEBTIST10 at check out. The sale and this offer is valid from 7/23/18 to 7/27/18. If you would like to receive more offers such as this, sign up for the newsletter below, where you will also get posts delivered straight to your inbox!
My hope is that when we talk to young girls in future generations, we refrain from complimenting them on how cute they look, or how pretty their dresses are. Instead of saying these things, we should be complimenting them on their character. I imagine a world where we say, instead, “How kind that was for you to share with your friend”, or “how brave you are for trying something new.” We compliment them too much on how they appear, rather than how they are. Instead of putting the emphasis on appearances, we should reward them for their actions.