My newly-minted and self-assigned 501 project is similar to one I was given in college by one ball-buster of a professor. The assignment was titled ‘5 Items or Less.’
The assignment was for my first Retail Merchandising class called ‘The Ethics of Fashion.’ It was not very popular with most students. They texted underneath the folding desks while I sat near the front rapt with attention. We were given our final assignment the first day of class.
‘”You are going to pick five items and wear only those. Every day. Until the end of the semester” said our Professor, as TA’s handed out the sheet of paper detailing the rules of our uniform project. All mouths and eyes were newly opened as even the girls who had been sleeping were jostled awake up by their neighbors, who were shocked at this turn of events.
My then-boyfriend – a slim apparel design major and musician – had worn the same Levi’s everyday for two years. They were worn, ragged, and utterly rad. He had bought them while on a west coast tour and simply refused to replace them. Finding a 30×36 inseam anywhere is nearly impossible, so if he was following tenets of minimalism out of necessity then I could do so in the name of collegiate achievement.
I picked my five items carefully. A denim tunic, to be worn as either shirt or dress. A pair of black jeans. A denim jumpsuit. An olive-green waxed jacket. A grey cotton sweatshirt.
This new minimal me was tougher, rougher, a bit androgynous. She spilt beer on her Barbour every weekend. It would bead off and she laughed it off. Her black jeans hid bike grease from biking back and forth to studio. The denim tunic got pen, paint, and pasta stains from drafting cabinets and floor plans late at night. Her mental faculties were freed for other ponderings as her wardrobe was routinized.
I wanted to keep her around even after I had turned in my paper.