Monday, October 29, 2007

Wearing Black: The Benefits of a Simplified Wardrobe

Neil Gaiman, wearing black

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz writes of how many choices we face every day, and how that can be a curse rather than a blessing; freedom of choice can become "tyranny of choice."

I thought of that today while reading author Neil Gaiman's journal, where he writes about the simplicity of black:
You know, the main reason I've been wearing more or less the same thing for about 20 years is that I don't ever have to wonder what to wear. It makes life easy.

My assistant Lorraine just asked me what I wanted to wear to the Beowulf premieres in the UK and the US and I realised with a sort of creeping horror that I didn't know. I already wore a tuxedo-and-bow-tie to the US Stardust Premiere, and I wore a leather jacket black tee shirt and and black jeans to the UK Stardust premiere. That pretty much completely exhausts my range.
In ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, authors Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau also write about organizing your wardrobe around one color. They give the example of a woman, Karen, whose winter wardrobe uses black as the central (but not the only) color.
"Simplifying my wardrobe has brought many benefits," says Karen. "I save money on clothes. I save time on shopping. I have more room in my closets. And the anxiety of knowing what to wear is over. I'm so much less overwhelmed."


Anonymous said...

I love it. One of the decisions I made over the summer when I was studying for the California bar exam was that I would wear black all the time to simplify my daily routine. It was great. If you wear black all the time you can repeat pieces frequently, whereas if you wear your red shirt twice a week and your blue shirt twice a week people will probably notice. Also, black generally wears well and is easy to care for and therefore needs to be replaced less frequently. I think that if you buy all black you can buy fewer pieces of better quality, and look great all the time.

So that's my two cents!

Jeri Dansky said...

That's a great testimonial to the benefits of an all-black wardrobe; thank you for writing!

Paula said...

I used to be all-black, all-the-time. It was boring and depressing, but it kept me from an overly fussy daily routine and marathon shopping (which I loathe) and which can lead to impulsive spending.

Then I started watching "What Not to Wear."


A very large percentage of the victims are nominated for this show with its attendant humiliations because their friends and family are convinced the all-black syndrome is frump city.

What the wearer thinks is chic, simple, and slimming is apparently viewed by onlookers as depressed, dated, and dowdy. It evidently screams, "I hate to shop, I don't own a mirror, and my self-image is in the dumpster."

And (much as I hate to admit it) they do have a point.

Since we're declutters here anyway, it probably wouldn't kill us to cull the closet twice a year. Worn-out (hint: inside seams are turning gray) and out of style black items should leave on a regular basis. If you try the rest on and actually look (ouch) in the mirror, acquiring a few new replacement pieces in well-fitting, more contemporary cuts is probably a decent investment.

In stores, try EVERYTHING on. To minimize impulsive spending, decide on an accent color or two you really love and limit shopping to those three colors--black, color A and color B.

If we never had to go on another job interview or to a public presentation, that would be one thing, but life isn't (usually) like that. Harsh as it is, people judge us by what we wear.q

Jeri Dansky said...

Paula, thanks for the comments. I would suggest that if anyone finds his or her wardrobe to be boring and depressing, a change might be in order. :-)

Another point is that not everyone looks good in black! When I had my colors done I was delighted to get the confirmation that black was a good color for me. But I'm not an all-black person myself; I also wear emerald greens, rusty oranges, etc.

And I totally agree that getting rid of clothes that are worn out or don't fit well is a Good Thing.

Ariane Benefit said...

I have done that for over 20 YEARS!!! I find too many choices a big time I have a kind of uniform to my wardrobe. (Little did I know I was ADD-Friendly even back in the 80's!)

I have mostly black pants, skirts and dresses. Lately I added a few brown and gray. I add color with my shirts and accessories. I have mostly black sweaters, shoes, coats and jackets too. And I have about 15 pairs of the same black socks. and 5 of the same white. I used to have only black purses and watches, but now I have a great red leather purse and a watch too. I love color so when I find a great shirt I like, I buy it in all the good colors : )

Thanks for the post. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

Jeri Dansky said...

Ariane, you sound somewhat like someone I just read on an on-line forum

"My morning getting dressed routine goes like this: Black socks, black slacks, any shirt, black sweater and/or black jacket if needed, black shoes."

And talking about a simplified wardrobe, what about Steve Jobs (at least in public): always a black turtleneck and some blue jeans. No wondering about what to wear for him!

Cynthia Friedlob said...

As you know, my newly published Amazon Short, "How to Get Dressed Without Driving Yourself Crazy," deals with this very issue. In it, I recommend a uniform, too.

I'm a big fan of the simplicity of the uniform and the color black. Like Ariane, I have a red purse to use on occasion (and some red Keds, too). I've also added some gray to my miniscule wardrobe and have a couple of pale blue tee-shirts.

I like to joke that my fashion sensibility is just like Coco Chanel's: she liked lots of black but made sure that she added a white shirt or at least a white collar to her ensemble so that light would reflect near her face. I opt for a turtle neck in a softer contrasting cream color underneath my black hoodie that I wear with my black yoga pants.

The height of French/L.A. fashion!

Jeri Dansky said...

Great Amazon Short, Cynthia - well worth the whopping 49 cents.

Here's one of my favorite lines: When you were a child, were you convinced that monsters lived in your closet? Well, now that you’re an adult, the sad truth is that you’re right. You have shoes that are impossibly uncomfortable, clothes that will fit after you lose the ten pounds you gained five years ago, and at least one very expensive ensemble that you wore only once, then realized that you must have had extremely low blood sugar or a severe hormonal imbalance the day you bought it.

Lots of good advice - thanks for writing this!

Jeri Dansky said...

You can now get Cynthia's "How to Get Dressed Without Driving Yourself Crazy for the Kindle, rather than as an Amazon Short.

Cynthia Friedlob said...

Good Heavens, Jeri, what a nice surprise! How thoughtful of you to update my "How to Get Dressed..." article info. Thanks for adding the Kindle link!