Why is it, do you think, that when most things in our lives are going well, we obsess over all of the imperfections in other areas?
I certainly don’t know, because that was me a few years ago: living in New York City with a brand new tech job and a reliable, good-enough live-in relationship. Back then, you could still smooch your friends’ faces, stumble out of sticky venues, and fly 3,000 miles to see Mom and Dad just because. Things were going, more or less, great.
But life, if you’re me, is about solving problems. So naturally I looked at my clothes and decided it was a good time to solve my closet.
What was the issue, exactly? Well, space is obviously scarce in most New York City apartments, and my historical closet size ranged between 2 and 3 feet wide. I also wanted nIcE cLoThEs so strangers would think I was in a higher social bracket than I fear I’m actually in, but could never commit to the cost because the rest of my budget disappeared in Uniqlo and Zara. The longer I lived in the city, though, the more fast fashion felt decidedly low-class, and of course it’s bad for our planet, and for the humans who need to sew it to survive.
This line of thinking, friends, is the prologue to every jaded capitalist’s fall down the rabbit hole of what we call minimalist fashion.
The obvious solution at that point was to create a life where less is more. Buying and owning fewer, but better, clothes. Not fast fashion, no no — slow fashion. Having a minimalist wardrobe (another term), if you didn’t know, is supposed to solve the world’s problems while magically opening up space for the happiness that’s been eluding you because of your big, fat, crowded closet.
Looking for like-minded folks on this journey, I chose my Instagram handle: lovewearlast. I put a ton of thought into it and, being a writer, figured I would eventually create a system or write a book based on that phrase. To only buy clothes you love, that you’ll wear, and that will last. Just another way of dressing this new minimalist ethos I was cradling and starting to adore. (I eventually hated the handle and became slowgetter instead.)
Taking cues from my new community, I posted photos of my outfits and strained for meaningful captions. I joined #10x10 challenges — you wear only 10 items of clothing over 10 days — and saw new followers. I bought clothes from “approved” brands and sold anything Zara-like on Poshmark. Other gals dropped into my DMs with a compliment, or a correction.
When a new minimalist fashion blog called “The Minimalist Wardrobe,” run by a man in Finland, started to recruit for contributors, I jumped at the chance to articulate my own perspective. I wrote articles like “Stop counting your clothes!” and “10 holiday gifts that aren’t things.” With every post, I gained hundreds more followers.
Hold up, was I becoming an influencer?
Yes. But so was everyone else. Thousands of men and women had come to the same conclusion about their closets and were flocking to Instagram to fill the void, trying to crack the influencer code by consistently posting their ootds, tagging sustainable brands, getting sponsored, producing videos, commenting on the right posts and paying services to like-farm and follow-unfollow other users. I may have paid for one of those such services.
But the glaring problem with bringing minimalist fashion to Instagram is that, really, it should be inherently minimal, i.e. hella boring. The core tenet of minimalism is that you hardly buy new things and just wear the same sh•t over and over again, right?
Instead, I and the rest of the community were pouring countless hours– maybe even more money than before — into making our feeds interesting enough to get more followers, more likes, more brand partnerships. Even the world’s most visible personal minimalist, Marie Kondo, had to create a line of stuff to extend her legacy.
Less is more had quickly turned into too much and never enough. I had joined a race with no finish line, and what’s worse, I was running out of content.
My saving grace ironically came in the form of an epic breakup. (You know, that “good enough” relationship I mentioned.) For the first time in a while, there was a more important problem I needed to solve, or just freaking get through.
I deactivated my account, and the room finally opened around me.