Modest Armadio: Living with Less
“I would go out tonight
But I haven’t got a stitch to wear
This man said, “It’s gruesome that someone so handsome should care.”
-“This Charming Man,” The Smiths
Morrissey was onto something. So many of the recent “recessionista” articles teach us how to buy more “stuff” on the cheap, read: increase our obligations to China. Yay for capitalism. Instead of encouraging us to buy more for less, I urge us to consider the simple splendor of the modest armadio, the humble wardrobe. Not only will we break the addition to “more,” but we will be empowered by less.
If Morrissey is sending us a divine message about material desires, humor me as the oracle today. A Euro-phile even as an adolescent, I managed to shun the reckless accumulation of garments. To do so seemed wasteful, not to mention … dusty. A burden. I had a discriminating, wary, and admittedly perfectionist approach to what I’d purchase. And that purchase was meant to last a lifetime. Easier said than done, of course. I don’t think we realize how much stuff we really have! Today, I know exactly how much: not much. Here are the practicalities and the sentiments that make the modest armadio so very rewarding.
Practically, it’s easier to dress in the mornings. Black tunic with skinny jeans, long tan sweater and ballet flats. DONE! Does this sound boring? Not for me—it means that I can tie a blue scarf into my ponytail one day and feel like a schoolgirl, or wrap it around my neck the next and feel sophisticated. It means that green pashmina will get used. And so will those earrings and that necklace that were saved for a special occasion. Set against basic garments of high quality, jewelry and scarves become stunning. Meanwhile, we may take better care of the things we do have.
Travel becomes a cinch. Packing couldn’t be easier. Worried what you’ll wear when your luggage is lost? Well owning only a suitcase full of clothes means less overall liability and less money to pay for rental insurance.
There’s something respectable about not being frivolous. In Switzerland, where I study, any ostentatious display of wealth is considered in bad taste. (Yes, I know this is surprising.) I feel a sense of pride in wearing the same things repetitively—in being resourceful. I am not wasteful, and try to be creative with what I do have. I like this.
While we are not defined by what we wear, we are, however, in control of our image. For those of us lucky to be in good health, we can stand tall, shoulders back, and walk with confidence. An elegant stride says so much more than the jeans that accompany it. Dressing modestly means we are observed with one less layer of affectation.
I admit that the few hangers in my closet do suspend some beautiful things, and each of them tells a story. There’s a coral cocktail dress with a huge black bow—it’s been to exactly five weddings, and its specialness does not depreciate like old technology—unlike the laptop on which I type. Friends have actually laughed at the dress’ ubiquity around the world and on Facebook, and I smile along because I know it always looks great! Then there’s the J. Crew suit. When I graduated from college, my mother surprised me with it before my first job interview. It’s in a tall size (as I am six feet tall), fits perfectly, and it probably always will. I can’t begin to count the number of occasions on which the jacket in particular has been worn … with a white v-neck and jeans or even with my favorite black turtleneck for a really sleek look. Said t-neck is sadly going threadbare at the shoulders, so the jacket is utilitarian, as well! I’m waxing nostalgic, and so this story must be wearing thin, as well.
So, my divine friends stop buying and start feeling good inside your cosiest sweater. Repeat the mantra: “I have enough”…