The struggle is real: clothing, identity, and minimalism


Sperry’s: traditionally preppy, but I’m about as far from “preppy” as you can get.

Personal style is a weird beast to understand mainly because of what it connotes. For many of us, our outer appearances–I’m referring specifically to the combination of the clothing, shoes, accessories, makeup, and other adornments we wear each day–are meant to convey an image, passion, or value. With a nerdy graphic t-shirt, we profess our love for comics or a certain fandom. With a faux-fur vest and vegan leather Doc Martens, we show our ethical values and compassion for living creatures. With the latest on-trend duds, we demonstrate our vast knowledge of what’s hip and “in” in the fashion world. Personal style is a carefully-crafted equation, our subtle (or not-so-subtle) attempt to convey our values and personality without actually communicating.

All of this can be true…yet oftentimes, it isn’t.

For the most part, we have the freedom to wear what we want when we want. We can wear band t-shirts displaying the names and discography of bands we don’t listen to. We can wear fabrics produced unethically, or foreign designs we can’t read or understand. Sometimes, we purchase clothing or accessories simply because we like them. We aren’t attempting to convey any message to the people around us, or to attract like-minded individuals. We’re wearing leather because we like it. We’re wearing Breton stripes because we like them. We’re wearing blue jeans and ratty t-shirts because we’ve always worn blue jeans and ratty t-shirts.

I think about this a lot because it ties well into the idea of a minimalist wardrobe: namely, a closet filled with 100% with clothing you love and wear frequently. I’ve found that the smaller I whittle down my wardrobe, the more preoccupied I become with understanding and crafting the message I’m conveying by what I wear. I want to come across as who I am: a clever, quirky queer girl with a penchant for traveling and adventures.

The irony, though, is that through careful wardrobe planning, I’ve lost some of my authenticity. I’ve lost that “effortless” vibe, or I at least feel like I have. It almost seems like style has lost some of its luster for me. What was once so appealing and fun–dressing myself every morning and finding new clothing to buy–has begun to bore me. It’s not the size of my wardrobe that spurred these sentiments; rather, it’s how calculated everything feels. How premeditated every move I make is.

This weekend, I allowed myself to make a sizable order for Forever 21 (the men’s section, of course, because I’m a walking lesbian stereotype.) Instead of choosing items with care, I filled my shopping cart with piece after piece that I loved. I chose to forgo practicality for a few minutes: if I really liked a shirt, or a vest, or a pair of socks, I added it to my cart. The whittling down could wait. I wanted to have fun, budget and practicality aside.

Of course, I made sure that my order didn’t exceed my budget…and then I placed it. Bam. For the first time in a long time, I made a completely unanticipated and random purchase. And…it was really, really fun. I remembered why I love style so much in the first place: the hunt. The search. The quest to find those awesome pieces that we love and that help us to convey who we are.

About Samantha

Hi, I'm Sam. I'm a writer, artist, Francophile, lesbian, feminist, and adventurer based in New Paltz, NY. I write about culture, society, travel, feminism, and personal stories. Welcome.
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One Response to The struggle is real: clothing, identity, and minimalism

  1. Pingback: Lovely Links: 7/18/14 - Already Pretty | Where style meets body image

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