being free


"Folded over the back of a chair in my room, under a mohair throw, is an old suede kilt I had meant to begin wearing again. For me, the kilt nourishes a sense of freedom from fashion. It’s a classic, it’s sentimental and it’s one of the few garments I own that has truly improved with age. I hope I am wearing it at 90, tramping along in boots and a dog-haired sweater, the picture of civilized indifference." -- Cathy Horyn, NYT, Feb 2014.

"I tried to think of what you want to wear when you need your clothes to be doing some work for you." -- Rachel Comey, Lenny, Nov 2017

I went down an online shopping rabbit hole recently, obsessively poring over the images that caught my eye, feeling that familiar of itch of wanting to refresh my wardrobe with new pieces.

And then I realised that what I often crave isn't new clothes, but new ways of wearing old things. And the feeling faded. Somewhat.

Because old things work; they have for a long time. They've proven why they deserve a place in your wardrobe. New purchases can breathe new life into old things, but sometimes, it's also a matter of getting creative about how we put things together.

I especially love the idea that old things can "nourish a sense of freedom from fashion". We're being wooed all the time; it's liberating to be able to look away because we already have something better. I don't relate much to the 10x10 challenges and the capsule wardrobe plans making the rounds on the internet, but I do understand why they appeal to so many - we want to be free.

I don't remember how old the shoes in the photo above are, but I don't think I had them before 2014. They were a gift from a friend, who surprised me with them on my birthday, a month after I admired them while shopping with her.

They're not shoes that screamed classic to me when I got them, yet they have attained classic status amongst my shoes. They seem to work with the majority of my outfits without effort. They are sensible yet laidback, and remarkably resilient. Only recently have I learnt to use them as a benchmark whenever I'm tempted by new sandals or similar slip-on shoes - if they aren't as good as these, there isn't any point. Why bother?

There's a touch of hypocrisy in my extolling of old things, because I do have new (to me) clothes flying my way. There is no rational explanation for why I continue to buy new things other than simple greed for more beautiful things. That I hope to wear for a long, long time.

I'm still working on tempering this greed. And one way to do that? Remember what's been working hard for me. Remember what makes me feel free.


MC Bontemps said…
Internet shopping is a time-sucking and invasive nuisance for me, so I can certainly see how communing with old favourites is a necessary palate cleanser. But I don't think it's a bad thing to acknowledge that personal style and all that goes with it (buying, browsing, wearing, cleaning, repairing, searching for on- and off-line inspiration) is a learned skill much like any other and one that is developed by experimenting with different shapes and textures on a body in motion in daily life, discarding what doesn't work and refining what does.

By all means look at pictures, educate yourself about design and do as much as you can to appreciate without buying, but garments are 3-dimensional objects intended to work on a 3-dimensional body. Nothing quite replaces wearing one regularly enough to figure out whether it works. Virtually everyone I know with expressive personal style (as opposed to defaulting to whatever's tasteful/ sensible/ appropriate) is an enthusiastic if not excessive shopper - a person doesn't come to own a wardrobe full of wonderful pieces without having bought and discarded ruthlessly, regardless of how you define wonderful.

Are your sandals Spanish/ Menorcan ? If yes, then they are certainly a classic design which I spot on men, women and children in Europe whenever the weather is warm enough.
Lakshmi said…
Cute slides, and that's a nice print too. :)

I have lost appetite for shopping, I really have. I love buying things for my husband and sister, but when it comes to me, I am so done. As part of a decluttering exercise, I recently combed through my closet, only to realize that I really like space peeking through the hanging garments... and if I were to buy new stuff, I'd lose that. That being said, the Indian side of my wardrobe is quite lacking. So, I'd like to get some Indian clothing next time I visit India. But I am quite picky, and it's tough to go shopping when you are home for a few days only. Ahh, well.
lin said…
MC Bontemps: I agree! It took experience to understand what I like and what works for me, and I think too many people are worried about revealing how much effort or time they spend to achieve the style they strive for.

Yes the sandals are Spanish, not such a common sight here, and certainly not something I realised would adapt so well over the years.

Lakshmi: Thanks!

I wonder if I will ever lose the appetite to shop! I don't think I'll ever not enjoy looking at things but I would like to lose the acquisitive mentality.

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