In the beginning I thought minimalism meant pared-down design. Mies Van der Rohe chairs. The opposite of baroque, or ornate.
Or, the current indie frugality trend? Canning peaches, attaching toilet paper rolls to your walls as art*, reusing plastic bags.
But a few weeks ago I bought a very expensive little black dress, and I believe it was the most minimalist action I’ve taken in the last 5 years. Luxury isn’t the antithesis of minimalism, unnecessary is.
Let’s be clear. It wasn’t a virtuous purchase. No self-denial involved. I love my dress. Made from a cashmere wool blend, and therefore not itchy, but even so, lined in the bodice. Sleeves. I no longer have the need or wish to show my upper arms. Knee length, applying similar principles to the legs. Structured, seamed, perfectly fitting. Narciso Rodriguez, for those who care, as I confess I do, about designers’ bodies of work.
But it’s not the aesthetic, the lack of ruffles, lace, sheer panels, nor the usefulness alone that makes me cry minimalism. I present the minimalist luxury credo, for your review.
- Be clear why you need what you plan to buy. For what uses? They must be multiple, or critical, i.e. many times, or one time so important it is nigh-historic. I will wear this little black dress, as I have two others in my life, for 5-10 years. With joy. Over and over and over again, each time feeling fantastic and honoring the occasion I celebrate.
- Be sure you have no happy way to do without. None. When I am called to dress up, if I feel I have nothing appropriate to wear, my upbringing calls in the ghosts and I become sad, anxious, and resentful. This may not be true for you. You will have your own ghosts and your own non-negotiable needs to either burn from your soul or make peace with. Which brings us to the next point.
- Understand the requirements of your heart and your circumstances point by point. Make sure you know what you want and that you have realistically assessed the likelihood that this purchase will answer your needs. I don’t go to Burning Man. I can see, even now, the times and places I will wear my dress and I can feel looming anxiety dissipate.
- Do homework to understand price banding. Luxury does not relieve us of the responsibility to assess value. I had looked at J. Crew and found nothing, tried on Barney’s New York private label version to no avail, and vintage clothing gives me the creeps. I am familiar with Rodriguez and his reputation for quality. I also knew, that though his dresses are expensive, I could afford the purchase. Or I would never have walked into the store to begin with. Minimalism means do not stir up undue desires that you cannot fulfill without consequence.
- Never make anyone else feel bad for what they can’t have. Because, if you pare away everything unnecessary, courtesy has to make the cut.
(Because Little Black Dresses are as flexible in philosophy and meme as they are on the body. Hence the enduring appeal.)
*Also at kidchamp dot net.