By Alden Wicker
When I graduated from college I was 20 pounds heavier than I am now. It took three years to drop all that weight, slowly but surely. Ceasing to binge drink like a college student likely helped, but I attribute the bulk of the loss to yoga and meditation.
Yoga and meditation both helped me get in tune with my body and mind. They’re tools that teach you how to slow down and assess what is going on. You learn to be honest with yourself, to gently probe down to uncover the real reason behind your actions.
After picking up meditation on the regular, I found myself having gentle, honest conversations with myself whenever I started craving junk food. “Are you actually hungry?” “Um … let me see … yes. But not super hungry.” “What do you want?” “Cupcakes!” “Really?” “Well, I want something sweet.” “How sweet? Because last time you ate a cupcake you thought it was … a bit too much.” “That’s true. And I don’t really feel like eating a cupcake by myself today. That’s sad. Maybe I could just pick up a fruit smoothie.” “Lovely idea, my dear!”
And if meditation helped you cut the junk from your diet (as studies have indicated) why can’t the same thing hold true for your closet? Fashion is loaded with just as much—if not more—emotional baggage. There’s emotional shopping, just like emotional eating. And we lie to ourselves all the time when it comes to clothing: about fit, about whether we’ll actually wear it, about how it will transform our lives.
Yes, building an excellent wardrobe takes mindfulness.
Mindfulness in Shopping
First, you have to get familiar with your likes and dislikes, and the shape of your body. It may seem silly to meditate on your clothing, but with the amount of money you’re spending on stuff you end up hating? Just go with it.
Close your eyes and imagine what you were wearing when you felt most beautiful. What was the fit? The color? What did it evoke for you? Hold the image of your favorite outfit in your mind and examine it from all angles. What kind of fabric is it made out of? How does it make you feel emotionally? How does it feel against your skin?
When you see images of models or celebrities or fashion bloggers, acknowledge the feelings that they evoke in you. Jealousy? Inadequacy? Yearning? Pity? Hostility? An eye roll? Ask yourself, if you find yourself coveting the clothing you see in ads, why you covet it so. Perhaps you long to be at the beach yourself, so a beach-y Ralph Lauren ad draws you in. Then address the fact that buying a Ralph Lauren bikini won’t put you on the beach or win you a man with a chiseled jaw. That it’s just clothing.
A Pendleton Sweater, made to last
Not to say that meditation means you won’t ever shop again! It just helps you make better decisions. Maybe, when you see a certain Pendleton sweater, you recognize it as something you would just love. The fit and colors are just perfect, and you’ve been repeatedly searching for just such a sweater in your closet to throw on and coming up short. It could be, quite honestly, a great addition to your closet.
In any case, always sit with the idea of the clothing you want to buy for a few minutes, a few hours, or even a few days. Turn it over in your mind and see how your emotional connection to it changes. Perhaps, like an toxic friendship that doesn’t serve you, it falls away. Or perhaps, after some time, you realize that it would serve a useful and beautiful purpose in your life. There’s no right answer, as long as you’re being honest with yourself.
This careful, thoughtful, honest approach to fashion has a couple benefits. First, it will save you money as you let go of impulse shopping. Second, it will lead you naturally to well-crafted, lifetime pieces, instead of fast fashion bought on a whim and then stuffed under the bed.
Mindfulness in Organization
Mindfulness and meditation come in handy when you’re cleaning out your closet, too.
Oh, boy, do we lie to ourselves about our closet. That piece of clothing you haven’t worn in two years. Why do you keep it? “Because it’s beautiful!” you might say. But dig deeper. Perhaps it’s a designer brand that represents prestige to you. Perhaps it’s a suit that represents a fear of getting fired and having to interview for new jobs. Perhaps it represents fitting in with your college friends, or being the kind of person your parents want you to be.
Acknowledge the emotions that letting go of your clothing brings up. But also recognize when clothing isn’t serving you anymore. That your first J. Crew sweater you could ever afford is pilling, and you now can afford better. That you work in a field that never requires suits, and that is awesome. That you like wearing black, and that is OK because Mom and Dad can’t tell you what to do anymore.
Lay the items where you can see them and let them be there for a few days so you can get used to the idea of letting them go. Then let them go! Consign, donate, or recycle them. And watch space open up in your closet for new and better things.
You know, like that Pendleton sweater?
About the Author
Alden is the founder and editor-in-chief of EcoCult, covering all things sustainable in NYC and beyond, including fashion, beauty, food, and events. She’s been published in Refinery29, EcoSalon, xoJane, Well+Good, Huffington Post Green, Narratively, LearnVest, Societé Perrier, and Greatist. She also runs a blog about electronic music with her boyfriend called Under the Sound, and is a co-founder of the Ethical Writers Coalition. Check her out on Twitter at @AldenWicker and Instagram @EcoCult