My fashion challenge for 2019

All the things I will not buy so far this year.

This year I am really focusing on shopping my existing wardrobe and making more thoughtful purchases. I want to own just a few high quality things I really love, that are useful in my everyday life, that are cohesive as a collection. So basically, capsule wardrobes. I say it plural because it’s helpful to have different sets of clothes for different purposes.

I’ve basically had capsule wardrobes for many years now, but my style has evolved. In asking myself “who do I dress for?” I gave myself permission to never wear pencil skirts. They look terrific and make your legs look longer, but they’re not comfortable and don’t stay put. Good-bye fabrics that require dry cleaning, shoes that aren’t as comfortable or supportive as the loafers men get to wear, anything that stands between me and fully enjoying a Joey Tribbiani sandwich.

Still, I am currently loving what everyone else is loving: bright colors, prints on prints, monochromatic looks of different shades of closely related colors. Like seemingly everyone else, I also have a bad case of nineties nostalgia. Scrunchies, butterfly clips, pink paired with purple, glitter on glitter, all made of unicorns? I’m here for it. I’m also interested in silhouettes that acknowledge trends but push the boundaries of patriarchal beauty standards, and silhouettes that completely disregard the human form yet maintain function (so basically potato sacks, and no I don’t require elevating that).

Fashion should be fun and experimental. Anything unexpected or custom fit to your personality holds more interest than the fashion bandwagon everyone else mindlessly piles on to. The best outfit has a clear point of view and narrative. The best outfit is essentially a successful costume built around the singular character of you.

Over the last few years, I’ve thought a lot about how things are made and the people that make them. I’ve reacquainted myself with second hand thrift stores and have had great experiences buying direct from craftspeople. In both cases I found unique things I love that I would have never found through shopping brand name retailers online or at the mall, that were made to, like, a 1980s or prior standard of quality.

But shopping this way has been much more time consuming. You can’t buy a cohesive wardrobe that fits you pretty well this way with just a few clicks and have it arrive on your doorstep. You have to have a clear style goal in mind, know what colors you want and don’t want, visit multiple shops multiple times, be willing to pay for tailoring and accept the risk that the end result may not be quite what you wanted. You have to be willing to make mistakes, hoard more than you need, and let things that may be useful one day-that-may-never-arrive go. You have to be okay with giving up looking perfectly on-trend for looking “good enough” right now, and keep the faith that you will end up with better pieces eventually. You have to politely decline participating in the style box subscriptions your friends are obsessed with, and steel your willpower when reading style blogs or checking Instagram. Dare I say, it’s both a journey and a lifestyle because it’s so time-consuming.

When I wear an outfit that is perfectly on-trend, I get compliments all day. “That blah-blah-blah is amaaaaaazing!” Or, “I looooooove that blah-blah-blah.” Of course it feels good. When I wear an experimental outfit or something that’s comfortable, I get backward compliments like “that looks sooooooo cozy!” That’s if I’m lucky. Usually, I just become invisible, and can’t even get a pack of cigarettes. One Halloween, I watched a bouncer at a mediocre bar where most people were wearing shredded t-shirts three sizes too small tell two people dressed as Toni and Candace that the bar was closed, even though it definitely wasn’t.

If style has levels of sophistication, I’m at the point where I am ready to rely less on brands and celebrities to tell me what my style should be, and instead set off on the long and tortuous and honestly somewhat lonely journey (99.9 percent of people where I live either think mall fashion is a personal style or don’t care at all) of crafting a style that is uniquely me.

With all of this in mind, here are my 2019 sartorial purchase rules:

1. Any purchases will be handmade, pre-owned, made in the usa, or transacted locally in-person. Exceptions: technical gear.

2. Each purchase will be either something I love or truly need or both.

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