I read this quote from Japanese filmmaker Akiro Kurosawa's autobiography, "Something Like An Autobiography"
"When you are shooting, of course, you film only what you believe is necessary. But very often you realize only after having shot it that you didn’t need it after all. You don’t need what you don’t need. Yet human nature wants to place value on things in direct proportion to the amount of labor that went into making them. In film editing, this natural inclination is the most dangerous of all attitudes. The art of the cinema has been called an art of time, but time used to no purpose cannot be called anything but wasted time."
And I thought, if visual presentation–that is, the way we dress ourselves– is an art, this wisdom applies too, to choosing what we buy and wear.
In film-making, the traps are effort and falling in love with your idea: who cares if it advances the story or not, it's such a cool shot! In choosing what to buy, the comparable trap is that the item is pleasing or even beautiful, especially if it's so on someone else.
I've freed myself from Converses, ruffles, short skirts, long cardis, ponchos, motos, boxy tops, pastels, all of which can look terrific on others. Better to admire a Philip Lim pale colourblocked menswear blazer on my girlfriend than to install it as a museum piece in my closet.
Yet another trap is learned fatigue. As Janice of "The Vivienne Files" says, "We tire of our clothes before they tire of us." If there is one habit I have tried to undo, it's that.
I've worn the same bright, snuggly wool muffler nearly every cold day for five years. Recently, I found myself trolling for a new one. The whiny, demanding voice of boredom had crept in.
I examined my consumer-programmed attitude. Had anyone ever said, "Don't you ever wear another muffler? No. Do I have other mufflers I can rotate in if needed? Yes. And mufflers eventually vanish from coat-checks or are left on buses. Never retire one, it will leave on its own!
I bow before Kurosawa's wisdom: I don't need what I don't need.
Having discovered the good sense of the decades-old advice in "Simple Isn't Easy" by Amy Fine Collins and the late Olivia Goldsmith, I see that finding your look and refusing anything else feels like a rut only if you buy, literally, new-is-better propaganda.
So, first purchases of 2013 (and the only ones till the leaves are out) was this Eric Bompard extrafine cashmere shirt, simple, easy and on sale, for which I waited.
I also bought three pairs of slim fine-wale cords from Land's End. They'll be right for our chilly spring and the colours, lavender, parchment and vermilion, take me out of winter black. At $17 a pair (sale price) and free shipping, good buy.
Jewelry is my Achilles' Heel, so I try to save for the occasional indulgence. Beauty can override need; as a creator of breathtaking images, Kruosawa would understand. There will always be room for a graceful pair of earrings.
But not a muffler.