Minimalism Isn’t Just An Aesthetic

November 17, 2017
Minimalism Isn’t Just An Aesthetic
Close your eyes (but then open them again in a minute because I want you to read the rest of this) and picture a minimalist. What do they look like? I’m guessing black tapered trousers, white Stan Smiths, a crisp white shirt and an artfully oversized  grey wool coat. Perhaps there’s a simple, black leather cross body bag and a pair of teeny tiny silver stud earrings in the mix too. If you’ll allow me to make a further assumption, it’s likely that these clothes were plucked from a tightly edited black clothes rail which sits upon a poured concrete floor in the corner of an airy bedroom, the white walls of which are adorned with a single print of a line drawn nude figure.

It all sounds so breathlessly chic that it’s no wonder it’s become such an aspirational aesthetic. And, make no mistake, I fully understand the appeal and look on in wonder at how utterly pulled together people who dress like that appear. It says, “I don’t need any sartorial superfluity; my wholesome, ordered and fulfilling life leaves no gaps that I would otherwise feel the need to fill with print, accessories and excessive layers”. It’s grown up. It’s measured. It’s just flat out fucking stylish isn’t it?

It’s a facet of minimalism, perhaps the most recognisable one even, but it’s not the only one. It can exist outside of the perameters of white walls and carefully tailored clothes. And it should. Because if minimalism becomes about nothing more than a look to achieve then it becomes a commercial endeavour; something to buy into, which sits in direct opposition to the modern notion of minimalism.

Minimalism for the millennial generation is about simplicity, finding meaning and loosening our ever-tightening ties with consumerism. We can’t achieve that with ‘The Top 20 Things You NEED For Your Minimalist Wardrobe’ shopping features or by making people feel like they need to go out and buy the social markers that will outwardly denote them as a minimalist. That’s just capitalism by a different name. 

Now, here comes the part where you all roll your eyes when I tell you I am, in fact, a minimalist. “Sophie”, you’ll say, “you wear like fifteen pieces of clothing per outfit. There’s no way you’re a minimalist. Go and sit down.” But just because I don’t look I’d stride confidently into COS – blissfully unconcerned about the price tags – to buy a geometrically structured white smock, it doesn’t mean I’m not a minimalist.

Yes, I wear a lot of clothes at once. A lot. I mean I honestly wonder whether I actually developed whatever part of the brain it is that dictates when enough is enough where getting dressed is concerned. There’s no escaping that and I’ve even voluntarily included photographic evidence. However, despite the fact that I wear a lot of clothes all at the same time, I don’t actually own a huge amount of clothes. I certainly used to have more, but once I realised that it was causing more stress than happiness, I edited down and minimised my wardrobe. On top of that, I don’t buy a whole lot either

So in order to channel a maximalist look with only a minimalist wardrobe to work with, I’m a serial garment and outfit repeater. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I do only one outfit post a month. If I were to post any more of my wardrobe than that, I can assure you that you’d get tired of it pretty quickly. That’s why I’m always astounded that some fashion bloggers can do two or three posts per WEEK without repeating. Of course, the more noted ones get gifted an enormous amount of stuff, but then where does it go? (Hint: Depop for half the price, usually).

I can’t bear the stress of owning all of that stuff, so I just wear what I have over and over and over and over again. Take the outfit I’m wearing here: the charity shop-bought jacket starred in my last outfit post; the jumper has been making repeated outings since 2015; the pink Fred Perry jacket (scored off eBay for just 99p) has been a regular since 2012; the skirt has been on seriously high rotation since I bought it four years ago; the boots have been making an appearance every winter since I found them in a vintage shop in 2013 and I’ve worn the bag with at least 90% of my outfits over the last couple of months.

The only thing I will concede hasn’t been worn multiple times is my Borussia Mönchengladbach scarf and that’s because, frankly, I can’t be arsed with overbearing men challenging me to cite obscure facts about them like it’s a contest to see who’s the football-est of all. (Yes, I really support Gladbach, it’s not just a nice colour. No, I wouldn’t rather support an English team – I support them because of family having lived there. Yes, I know who their manager is. Yes, I know they’re currently 8th in the Bundesliga. Yes, no, yes, yes, yes.) 

Like sustainability, minimalism is susceptible to becoming a trend that, like everything else, people feel pressured into buying into. And that happens when it becomes a question of aesthetics above mindset and lifestyle. If you want the crisp shirts, the tailored coats and the delicate jewellery, then by all means, go for it and I bet you’ll look great. But don’t allow not achieving – or even wanting – that aesthetic to make you feel like a lesser person. It’s a symptom of minimalism, not a requirement, and it doesn’t have to define you.

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