Project 333 and 33 Years Ago
The Minimalist College Girl
One of the things that turned up when getting some boxes out of my parents’ attic was my old college yearbook, ca 1977. I’d forgotten about this candid-camera shot that was part of a campus life photo spread. It shows me in one of my art classes, assembling a stretcher for canvas. I’ve got the same kind of outfit in my closet right now. The only differences would be in the dog-ear style shirt collar, the braided detail on the high-waisted jeans, and about three sizes. I think I still have that same bandana, though.
Some uniforms never quit. For me, a white shirt, a tee, jeans, and a working scarf for my head have been a part of my wardrobe since high school. The jeans changed waist styles and leg widths over the years, and the shirts went from oversized to form-fitting to oversized again, but they were always jeans and tees and long-sleeved white shirts. If I recall, I was wearing wood-soled clogs at the time of this photo. I still have clogs but the soles are more shock-absorbent.
Project 333, which I’ve mentioned before, has been a very interesting exercise in self-recognition. One’s clothing choices are reduced to the 33 most essential elements, and of course in my case included at least one variation on the jeans, tee, and white shirt uniform. After a few weeks, I noticed that, except for the addition of sweaters and boots, this was pretty much what I wore every single day. I never dressed up as much as I thought I would. And yet I am not the same person I was 33 years ago.
In a recent email exchange with a fellow Project 333 participant, I remarked on my frustrations that the wardrobe which is most practical for me (jeans, tee, white shirt) is not the wardrobe I love, which is decidedly more elegant (sleek and swoopy knits). But there is no room in my life for that, at this time. So what does one do when confronted with contradictions?
- Keep a beloved outfit as a reminder, a goal?
- Embrace life as it really is and let go of old notions of princesshood?
- Wear swoopy clothes to mop the floor or write a blog post?
- Shaddup and be glad I can still fit into any kind of jeans at all?
This required further examination. A conflict between personal style and lifestyle is clutter. It gets in the way of intent and authenticity. What, really, stops me from wearing the things I like more often? Probably money. If something nice gets spoiled, there’s no replacing it, at least not in the foreseeable future. That was probably why I didn’t add many of those pieces to my 33 Things.
As it turned out, I would not have worn them. I just miss looking at them and appreciating their softness, colors, and drape. Then I would just pull out the uniform and get to work.
This leads me to theorize that we shop for who we think we are in our heads. That’s how we end up with a lot of things that we never wear, because most of us don’t live the life that matches our deep secret selves. Shopping isn’t always about bad habits or being a sucker for a sale. Sometimes we just happen to see something that rings an inner bell of recognition and it seems as natural as breathing to acquire it.
Without mindfulness we leave ourselves vulnerable to feeding an inner child without either the means to support it or the reality. But mindfulness also means that we should consider the conflict in ourselves and perhaps find ways to resolve it. An activity in minimalist dressing such as Project 333 makes mindfulness easier:
- Your essential style is revealed in the things you actually wear
- You learn whether your image of yourself has any bearing on reality
- If you don’t have the chance to wear the things you love best, maybe your life needs a bit of reworking
- If you don’t have the chance to wear the things you love best, maybe you need to understand what it is you’re really attracted to
At first I thought my love for swoopy fine knits was simply harking back to a time I was in my prime and regularly had places and events for wearing them–museums, films, concerts, the opera, galleries, parties, and traveling. That was about ten years after the above photo. I had picked up an appreciation for fine fabrics and good design, and didn’t think twice about buying what I wanted.
That’s when it hit me that I don’t have to sacrifice quality even if I now rarely venture far from my front door. It was the fabric I liked, the way it felt when I wore it. I didn’t really miss all the gadding about or the sadder half of that old lifestyle! Like a lot of women of a certain age, I find myself instinctively drawn to comfort and good quality, which is the next best thing to a liniment on aging bones
The first phase of Project 333 is nearly over, and I plan to do it again for the next phase, which you can read about here. This time I am going to include a couple favorite swoopy knit pieces and, yes, wear them while writing blog posts!