Less is More

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Tanya Basu, in an article entitled Why Fashion Magazines Matter for The Atlantic, argues that bringing the ever changing fashion trends to the masses in the form of glossy, ad-laden magazines like, Vogue, Elle, and Marie Claire is a good thing. She cites the history, originating in France, of illustrated fashion plates, coming out two times a year-hiver en d’ete (winter and summer)-summoning customers to purchase the very latest in haute couture. Louis XIV was responsible for elevating France’s position in the fashion world by banning any products not made in France, encouraging production of the finest fabrics, creating guilds of skilled artisans,and securing good wages for those skills. This program and the revenues it supplied enriched the coffers of the Sun King and allowed the expansive, sumptuous renovations of Versaille, but also funded a series of expensive wars throughout Europe.

Spain had been the epicenter of fashion prior to its usurpation by France. Spain was famous for its high quality fabrics, rich dyes obtained from the New World, and for its sumptuary laws limiting certain fashions to certain classes. The staid Catholic-Hapsburgh influence on Spanish fashion was continuity; in many ways like early Ford automobiles-available in any color as long as it was black and never too much change in the models year to year.

Today’s fashion world takes many pages from the French. Every season brings a new trend, a new color palette, a new heel height, a new hem length. Our consumer driven economy demands that whatever we already have hanging in our closet must be replaced lest we be scorned, or pitied, or ridiculed for not keeping up. Ms. Besu nods to the fact that fashion magazines do cover street fashion, normcore and basic styles, however each of them is a spoke in the wheel of revolving change in the fashion world.

While there is much to be admired in the creativity and beauty of haute couture-the design, fabrication, and craftsmanship-the other side of the coin is the rapid, insatiable quest for change that fuels the consumption maw. Fashion magazines serve to perpetuate this attitude.

There are several blogs that advocate a minimal approach to one’s wardrobe and in my quest to simplify my life I have taken notes. There is no reason to spend a large portion of your budget to dress season after season. Choose classic shapes and colors that will never go out of style. Purchase the best articles of clothing you can afford to ensure they can stand up to repeated washings and wearings over the years. Take care of your clothing, keeping shoes polished and in good repair. If you feel the need to look on trend, make small purchases like a belt, scarf, or accessory. Be happy that when you open your closet it is refreshingly spare and organized. Celebrate that you have one less thing to worry about when dressing for the day.

Another aspect of less-is-more dressing is the social impact you make when you no longer participate in the exploitation of poor people around the world who often work in oppressive conditions at extremely low paying jobs to keep up with the ever changing low-cost fashion world. Every “fast fashion” merchant who takes their profits over the health and welfare of its workers should be shamed.

We live in a throw-away culture, it has been ingrained in us to buy, buy, buy-never be satisfied. If we were to get off of the fashion treadmill we would probably have less debt, more peace of mind and more freedom.

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