new clothes

March 4, 2017

A story of the relationship of me and clothes and age and appearance at different points in my life


When I was younger I thought I should have a piece of clothing in every color. That helped me make decisions when buying clothing–I would choose the item that offered a unique color to my wardrobe. I remember having one of those shirts where there’s the attached longsleeves under the t-shirt, and mine was purple with pink sleeves and embroidery across the front. It was one of my favorite shirts in the upper elementary grades. I remember getting a tie-dyed circle shirt and sequin-trimmed capri leggings from Justice in middle school, ruffled mini skorts and mini leggings to go underneath, I remember wearing all sorts of color combinations in my clothing and in the barrettes in my hair. In tenth grade I stopped wearing five barrettes in my hair at the same time. I opted instead for a single black bobby pin instead to keep the troublesome side of the wisps down, perhaps after reading an article on how French women don’t wear crazy hair accessories, perhaps after realizing that rainbow barrette combinations make me look like a middle schooler.


At the beginning of tenth grade I made a resolution to stop buying clothes if I didn’t know where they came from, unless they were secondhand. For a long time afterwards I didn’t add new clothes to my wardrobe because I couldn’t find “ethical” options that fit. My rationale was that the negative environmental impact, perpetuation of murky supply chains, unsafe working conditions, and destructive cycle of fast fashion were not worth new clothing. I did not want to ask my parents to put their money into such irresponsibility. I also tried working towards a capsule wardrobe in an effort to have minimalist consumption habits and to work towards the sophisticated outfits I wanted but was always feeling like my clothes just weren’t that great.


I gave up on my capsule wardrobe a while ago because I didn’t actually have enough clothes. I didn’t realize before reading the blog post on Anushka’s blog (called Into Mind at the time) about whether you should make a capsule wardrobe that you can’t have a capsule wardrobe if you don’t have enough clothes. I didn’t realize that could be a problem. What I had read was about people having too many clothes and not wanting to be too strict with limiting the number of clothing items.


Material possessions aren’t supposed to take up your life. Supposedly material possessions can’t bring you happiness. Supposedly material possessions are supposed to make you happy.


Through much of high school, I was wearing the same clothes that I liked four years ago, wearing the kind of clothes I wore in middle school every day. Nobody cares what I wear–until I start taking up space and making statements with my clothing, until I start speaking loud and clear through what I wear–but I care.


There goes my dreams of having the perfectly ethical wardrobe with a heavy me-made section, I thought. I went to NYC with my parents, I bought some clothes. At a business with a reputation for being not ethical. Not ethical at all. And with fibers that aren’t sustainable. A few months later I went to NYC again and did the same thing. The t-shirts I bought were 100% cotton but not organic cotton, the shorts I bought had blended fibers so that they can’t be recycled or composted with currently available technology.


I stopped the whole don’t buy clothes unless it’s ethical and don’t buy new thing because there are certain realities that need to be accounted for. Like how I’m not in middle school anymore. Like how I can’t keep wearing my middle school clothes which still fit and make me feel like a sticky baby if I want to feel okay about myself. Like how people keep mistaking me for younger than I am. Like how I was 15 and was asked if I was 12, like how I was 17 and was told that I looked 15. Like how I was offered a children’s menu (for people 12 and under) at the age of 16. Like how I was told that I can’t really know what I think because I’m just a kid. Like how I feel younger and younger, relative to my chronological age, the more time goes on. Like how I’m 18 and so different from when I turned 17, so different from when I turned 16, 15, 14…Like how I dress impacts how I feel. Like how I feel impacts how I act.


I used to think it was superficial to care what I look like, but clothing impacts how a person is perceived. I needed to grow up in other peoples eyes. I was already growing up but felt weirdly out of place with respect to my age. I wanted to look the part so I could start feeling it. Now, I still am on too many days wearing the same clothes, not looking quite sophisticated or edgy or unique or any of the other things I want to be. For a month after I turned 17, I nearly forgot that I was 17 and I felt at once old and young, mostly too young to be good enough at pretending to know what I’m doing.


I haven’t been told that I look younger than I am for a while now, I think. One of my teachers said that I look young at the end of last year. I wonder if it’s my body or if it’s my clothes or if it’s my behavior or if it’s societal expectations for what it means to be a certain age. I think about the people I know who supposedly look younger than they are. Today there was a girl who said she gets told she looks 12 all the time even though she’s a high school senior. There is a girl in my school who I would think looks her age or even older, and she said she gets mistaken for both an 8th grader and a teacher. I haven’t been meeting a lot of new people much, and maybe people have gotten used to me and figured out that I’m not as young as they think I am.


It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The you hate me, I become hateable type thing? But instead it’s you think I’m young, I act young thing. This is how I felt, like vomit, like a messy savage in rag clothes.


Occasionally I put together outfits intentionally, in an experimentation of sorts, violating all sorts of fashion rules, I bet, but becoming something that I mean to make. And who decides fashion? Who decides what is acceptable? On what grounds? (And who decides what is “age appropriate”?)


It’s a bit weird. Now that I’m 18 and a legal adult, and I’m almost entering my 20s. For a few years now I have liked 20-30 year olds’ clothing better than the teenager store stuff, but didn’t necessarily have the money or resources to buy all the clothing at once or even find it all in my size. So now I’ve missed my opportunity to show off my sophisticated years ahead of my age styling skills that maybe I don’t have. I have been afraid that I will grow out of this, that my style will change so much so fast, or that I would go on a year abroad trip and come back wearing completely different clothing–the styles that I haven’t liked now. That I would go to become all layery again or be a minimalist or maximalist in style. And I have long since figured out that there is no perfectly ethical clothing, that it’s all complicated and confusing like life, that nobody really knows what they are doing in some way, that a lot of people are just good at acting the part, that really the best I can try to do is be a minimalist in consumption habits, because I do not and should not have the right to just use up whatever I want on this planet.


Hello. Hi. So, how are you?

So…um…how have things been? Yeah, let’s not try too hard to catch up, half a year later, as we try to figure out what there is to catch up on. (I’m talking to you, Imaginary Reader. Unless you are a Real Reader. Then, hi! Hello there. So…) Life is crazy or amazing or hard or–something, things are always changing and staying the same, there is so much and so little to be talking about. Oh, and senior year of high school stuff, school and colleges and whatever else is associated with the senior year of high school. Actually, that might lead into a post I want to write. Maybe next time. (Because I kind of already have a topic for this post.)

There was a time when I had trouble writing because I had so many ideas that I didn’t know where to start. Then I realized that it doesn’t really matter. Pick a place, any place. (Let’s start at the beginning. A very good place to start.) As long as you actually start. (I’ve found–and need to remember again–that once I get past the fear that drives procrastination, it’s not so bad. And it might be kind of good, at least.)

I think I may need to try minimalism again.

At the high school Student Activities Fair last month, I signed up for nearly every volunteering or community-positivity-type club, and more, while knowing that I don’t have time to take on more activities. (I don’t know if it would be a waste of time to join a volunteer club*. The club would be fine without me, but it occurred to me that it might be a great way to spend time if a person ever had enough of it. There’s something about generic volunteering that makes me feel forever young. *I said join a volunteer club, not start volunteering. I already volunteer.) As soon as I left, the harsh realization that I would not be at the meetings for any one of those clubs (except for the clubs that I actually was already in but signed up for anyway) hit me. This year, I have had to quit a club that I joined at the end of last year as well as quit an activity. (On the other hand, I have joined another club this year, but to enhance my experience with one of my pre-existing club commitments.)

I need to declutter and simplify:

  1. All the stuff in the house.
  2. I deleted a whole bunch of emails that I’m not using anymore so that it’s less annoying to search for emails that I want to use. I’m working on deleting browser bookmarks. I have saved so many articles to read (that I have not yet read) and other pages as reference resources (that I don’t actually reference). There are so many of them that it’s hard to read and see what I have. If I don’t actually read and use these, there is no purpose to keeping them.
  3. Digital and periodicals reading list. I think every so often I need to ask myself which blogs are adding value to my life. I have sorted through the blogs and news I read and put them in three categories: weekly, monthly, and no. The sites that more frequently produce content (or produce more content less frequently) that I find worthwhile to read are categorized for weekly reading. I found that most of the blogs I read don’t have posts that often, so I could probably read them monthly. Then there are blogs that I find are not worth spending time on, either because the posts are boring or I have lost interest in the blog.
  4. I could do what Maja did: “I made a list (yes, an actual list) of what’s important to me, and gradually peeled away the things that didn’t make the cut. Then I spent more time on the things that were actually on that list instead.” I think that is basically minimalism. Which is great.
  5. Clothing. I think the capsule wardrobe didn’t work for me because I didn’t have enough clothing to build a capsule wardrobe. Over the summer I bought a bunch of clothes (that didn’t meet the ethical standards I set at the beginning of tenth grade…another topic I want to post about…but since tenth grade I have seen that ethical fashion and sustainability are a lot more complex than I wanted them to be) that fit style guidelines I have been working on throughout high school. The other day I wore an outfit that I was not used to (and disliked at first) for a certain occasion, but I actually liked it a lot better than what I usually wear. So I see my style shifting yet again. (Or maybe it is always shifting.)
  6. Food. I need to learn how to cook. Again. I suppose I can actually cook, but it’s scary. Things burn or get all mushy or spill all over the place…And I want to start taking specific, feasible steps* to cut down on the amount of meat I consume, because that is the one of the most effective lifestyle changes a person can make to reduce their carbon emissions**. (*I tried to phase out CAFO meat and tell my parents to do the vague thing of cooking “less meat” a few years ago, after reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules, and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,  but I didn’t have a solid plan. So it was like I wasn’t even doing it.) (**According to William MacAskill in Doing Good Better, the most important lifestyle choices for carbon footprint reduction are reducing meat intake, reducing travel, and reducing electricity and gas usage. MacAskill then goes on to explain that there may be a more cost-effective strategy to reduce one’s carbon footprint–through donating to Cool Earth–but that one may want to reduce meat consumption to help animals. And it’s still more complicated than that.) I also want to eat more local.
  7. Work habits. Single-tasking, deep work and deep breaks. Do all the things they tell you to do in Learning How to Learn (great course, by the way!).

Maybe this wasn’t exactly an interesting post. But I need to start somewhere. There were a lot of subtopics within this post that I may write about in future posts. Thanks for reading, and don’t get lost in all the trash*!


* literally–in the world. literally–under the bleachers. metaphorically–of society’s lies and contradictions. metaphorically–all the mean things people may be doing.

reflections: changes made and to make

Sometimes I get discouraged because of the little progress I’m making in simplifying my life and living more sustainably. I have a long way to go, but I’ve also come a long way in the last few years.

Changes I’ve made in the past few years:

  • Showers
    • I stopped using the old harmful shampoo and conditioner, and started using soap and apple cider vinegar rinse.
    • I wash my hair less often–a few days a week.
  • Clothing
    • I’ve defined my style and become more careful and selective in the clothing I choose to buy.
    • I’ve made fewer and fewer impulse purchases.
    • I’ve learned about capsule wardrobes, sustainable fashion, and clothing companies.
    • I’ve gradually turned away from less responsible companies and turned towards more responsible companies.
  • Simplifying
    • I purged and let go of a lot of belongings and electronic files.
    • I culled the emails in my inbox from more than 2,000 to less than 50. Now it fits all on one page.
  • Miscellaneous
    • Instead of drying my hands with paper towels every time I wash my hands before putting in or taking out my contact lens, I now use a reusable, cloth towel specifically designated for that (that way, I know it’s clean without generating as much waste).
    • I’ve also thought a lot more about my priorities, and approach things differently now. I’d say I’m more minimalist now than I was before.

Changes I’m working on/ want to make:

  • Getting enough sleep and consistently waking up early enough to ride the bus, so I don’t have to ride the car as often.
  • Taking shorter showers.
  • Reading my emails less often. I’m trying to only check it once a week, but sometimes I need to check it for certain things, and then it’s hard to resist reading the rest of my emails.
  • Living with less waste. Some examples are with contact lens solution bottles and yogurt cups, which can be recycled, but still involve a lot of plastic.
  • I want to try gardening this year, so I get to grow some of my own food and learn about that.