When did fashion become a burden? That’s the question I can’t seem to shake since reading Matilda Kahl's piece for Harper’s Bazaar on why she wears the same exact outfit to work every day. Explaining the apparent blessings of her ascetic decision, the art director writes:
“The simple choice of wearing a work uniform has saved me countless wasted hours thinking, ‘what the hell am I going to wear today?’ And in fact, these black trousers and white blouses have become an important daily reminder that frankly, I'm in control. Today, I not only feel great about what I wear, I don't think about what I wear.”
But is energy devoted to clothing really so bad? Does a parade of dull separates really signify being in control, or letting a utilitarian ideal control you?
In our time of Kondo-ing closets and whittling down our diets to the bare, healthy minimum, it makes sense that the concept of uniform dressing would catch on—“less is more” has become, inexplicably, a trend in our consumption-prone world. I don’t disagree with some of it’s merits—an overstuffed closet is stressful, endless sugar is certainly not great for your health—but must the rich world of fashion become a target of the movement, too?
Consider first that fashion is an art form and the most widely accessible to boot. While we can ogle great sculptures or fancy technology from afar, there are no Jeff Koons diffusion lines…no Porsches readymade for the masses. In ridding our lives of an array of clothing (read: non-repetitive), we’re essentially turning our noses up at the artists who currently create it and the massive history behind it. By implying that fashion is a waste of our time, we’re implicitly arguing that it’s a waste of these designers’ time, too. “To heck with Lagerfeld, Simons, and Philo,” the stance asserts, “life is easier without you.”
Easier, perhaps, but lacking in self-exploration, creativity, and depth of perspective. Fashion isn’t just accessible, it’s incredibly personal—it is who we are to the world at first glance; it telegraphs hundreds of messages about us before we’ve even opened our mouths. Isn’t that lost in a uniform (especially one as minimal as the white and black combo being championed), which can only say so much, and all but resists transformation? By forgoing the marks of personality that clothing conveys, aren’t we giving up on a bit of that personality itself?
Now, I’m no wildly experimental Carrie Bradshaw or Susie Bubble, and I understand that such an elaborate aesthetic is not for everyone. However, I’ve worn a lot of different hats (and pants, shoes and dresses, for that matter) and I’ve seen how significantly they can affect my day to day, especially when it comes to my self-perception and mood. I’ve had the pleasure of marking time with special outfits, forever ingrained in my mind as signifiers of a particular place in my life. I’ve grown out of certain items and into new ones, some that I’d never touch today, but that were crucial stepping stones along a sartorial path that’s been wholly intertwined with something larger—who I’m constantly becoming and, if we pause for a minute, who I currently am.
Must we let go of this diversity of fashion, with its life-affirming and transformative powers? Must we give up on the sheer fun of getting dressed in order to gain some peace of mind? I really don’t think so. Letting go of past gems is one thing—we could all use more closet space, or fewer reminders of “that one ex,” after all. But purging the present of its wearable glory strikes me as a fruitless move—sleek on the surface but devoid of the joyous exploration that makes life worth living.
Now that you've read my take, scroll down to shop our personality-packed edit of pieces that celebrate the fun of fashion.
Nasty Gal Electric Ladyland Suede Skirt ($168)
Alice + Olivia Gianna Printed Stretch-Cotton and Chiffon Top ($265)
Sophie Hulme Medium Colorblocked Soft Flap Bag ($915)