Read an Excerpt
In the Beginning,
There Were Fig
It's a lot like a Zen koan:
In order to forget about clothes,
you have to think about them.
"Honey, have you seen my fig leaf?" Adam called to Eve from across the grove of Japanese maple trees in the Garden of Eden.
"No, Sweetie, but have you checked the forest floor? I don't know how many times I've tripped over it on the way to the waterfall."
In the beginning, it was paradise. Clothes didn't matter. Eve wasn't rushing off to the office; Adam wasn't trading stocks online. There were no bills to pay, no in-laws to impress, no performance reports to worry about. There was no shame in nakedness. Heck, there was no alternative! Not until Eve took a bite out of that darn fruit did either of them give any thought to suits, ties, shirts, belts, bras, panties, boxers, slips, nylons, socks, blouses, T-shirts, skirts, dresses, or shoes.
You might look at the first couplebefore the whole fruit-snake scandal thing happenedand say those were the good ole days. But you know when someone says that, they're missing the obvious. These are the good ole days right now, fully clothed.
Once original sin happened and Adam and Eve were embarrassed by their nakedness, the wonderful door opened to dress-up clothes, dress-down clothes, date clothes, work clothes, gardening clothes, travel clothes, trendy clothes, classic clothes, clean clothes, and dirty clothes. We are experiencingheaven right here on earth, with clothes on.
Eve was a smart and sassy gal. I'm sure she had the vision. I think she was secretly stringing leaves together and making peplum jackets with matching skirts and accessorizing them with twig brooches that had little berries hanging from them, because it is our nature to adorn. God made us that way. Even though there may not be an exact passage about that in the Bible, I feel really confident about that fact. Eve would have had Adam in a tux by that first New Year's Eve, you just know it. It's woman's nature to decorate, to futz with things, to create something out of not much of anything. Isn't that how a lot of "Eves" hook up with their "Adams"? The light bulb goes off once she's dated him for a few weeks and she thinks, "Gosh, I could make something out of this guy!" So she marries him and gleefully dives into the project of molding a terrific guy out of an ordinary one. But waitI'm supposed to be talking about fashion, aren't I?
For those of you who are convinced nakedness was best, let me show you how wearing clothes can feel just like being naked: you know what it's like when you put something on that's just right for your body, your coloring, your lifestyle, your comfort zone, and you go out in the world and completely forget about how you're dressed. It's out of the way. There's nothing about your clothes that distracts you or others. They just are, so you can just be. In the very same way that Adam and Eve weren't worrying about clothes, neither are you.
It's a lot like a Zen koan: In order to forget about clothes, you have to think about them. And if you think about them, put some time into them, then you can promptly forget about them.
Will Do You
Have you heard the term C & E Christians? They are Christians who make a point of getting to church at least twice a yearat Christmas and Easter. That may not be your schedule, but that's about the number of times you'd need to study your wardrobe in a year to be like Adam and Eve, not thinking about clothes.
Here's what you'd have to do. Around August, you'd think about your life in clothes over the next six months and make some notes. You'd think about what you need them for, what kinds of clothes for what parts of your life, the impression you want to make in your clothes, for just six months. You'd look into your closet and see what's there that is already working. You'd say, "This is good, I think I'll rest now." After a little rest, you'd look at what is missing from your closet that, if those items were there, would make the next six months in clothes be the best ever. You would make a list of the missing items, after which, you would say, "This is good, I think I'll rest now." You'd rest for a little bit and then you'd go out and shop for the items on that list. Afterward you'd come home and say, "This is good, I think I'll rest now." After a little rest, you'd play "mix and match" in your closet to put outfits together, and you would say, "Ah, this is good. I am so pleased with myself, I think I'll rest now." And then you'd take a longer rest, drifting off to sleep with a smile on your face. You'd sleep soundly, content with these great outfits that you will wear over the next six months. And because you won't have to think about clothes, you can focus your energy on doing good deeds, forgiving others as you would have them forgive you, and fulfilling your missionary commitments or whatever else it is you do.
Time to Shop Again
Six months go by and around February, you look at your wardrobe again. You assess your needs over the next six months, over spring and summer. Maybe you are going on a cruise or a trip to Italy. You want to focus on travel clothes as well as your work and play clothes for the summer. You want a nice outfit to wear for Easter or maybe for Passover. That's fine, just put those considerations in your notes. Think it through, plan it, then go out and shop for those things on your list, bring them home, hang them up in your closet and enjoy your clothes for the next six months without thinking about them! Sounds heavenly, doesn't it?
A Little Bit of
What about maintenance, you say? Well, any religions include a daily practice, such as prayer, meditation, or chanting. You can take a little bit of that same mindfulness and aim it at your clothes. You notice a button about to fall off on your jacket and you calmly sew it back on. You kindly take your suit to the cleaners when it is dirty. You iron your skirt when it needs ironing, things like that. Not major things, minor things. As you care for them, they care for you.
The Price You Pay
What's the alternative? Wavering from the path of good clothing habits could be a living hell. It often is. I hear it all the time. Sure, you can ignore your clothes and shout to the rooftops, "I don't care!" Maybe nothing bad will happen right away. Maybe ten years go by. Then you wake up and your clothes don't fit you anymore. You pretend it isn't true. You try to ignore the pinching waistband and the fact that everyone around you is wearing styles you haven't picked up on yet. Your pleated skirts don't pleat anymore, but then no one's wearing pleated skirts anyway. You're down to one or two things that work for you. You block it out, hoping maybe the problem will just go away. Only when it gets painful enoughyou have to go to a dinner for work and your boss is counting on you to network with prospective clientsdo you face the problem: "I've gained ten pounds, I have nothing to wear." Then your devilish mind goes nuts: "I'm a failure, I look terrible, I'm never going to get this right, maybe I can call in sick, but then my boss will get mad and I'll get fired. I'm a fraud, a loser, stupid. Why am I in such a mess?" you lament.
You think about going shopping. You haven't been inside a store in years. You break out in hives the minute you get near a clothing store (at least you tell yourself you do), and so you go pull on your faithful, ratty old sweatpants and go play racquetball instead.
Only when you put it off until you have barely one-half hour to shop for something, do you dash into a store that's playing loud music. You take the advice of the first salesperson you meet, even though you suspect she's lying. You vow this will never happen again. You go to your boss's event in something that almost works, but not quite. The immediate crisis is over; you get through the dinner with the prospective clients but with no confidence because you were worrying about your clothes the whole time. Realizing the error of your ways, do you go out and buy a wardrobe that will serve you? No, you wait until you're in a more serious bind and then race again for the temporary fix that never works.
There could be other problems. I've heard them all. Your life changes. You get divorced. You move to a different state with a different climate where wool doesn't work. You change jobs and your suits don't fit in with the laid-back atmosphere of your high-tech job. Or you wake up one morning, look in the mirror and ask yourself, "Who is that person? I don't recognize her anymore."
Or, you wear your clothes to shreds. The knees are worn through your favorite pants, or the slacks you wore every day for three months are shiny as a lake in moonlight from being at the cleaners over and over. You've neglected your relationship with your wardrobe. Like any relationship, if neglected time and again, you wake up one day needing it and it's not there.
An Answer to Prayer
Is there hope? Plenty! If you just change your ways (I'll provide all the steps), the blessings that await you are immeasurable! Besides the gratification that comes from the simple practice of taking care of your wardrobe so it can take care of you, there is pure pleasure in dressing your personality, defining yourself through clothes, experiencing the scrumptious beauty of color, texture, design. There's a fashion playground out there and like life itself, the more we engage in it, the more we get out of it.
Oh yes, life has become more complicated since the original sin, but I think it's all working out for the better. Fig leaves don't come in every color, and some people really need every color in the rainbow in their closets. Also, those fig leaves would get pretty scratchy once they started drying out. And then they'd start crumbling. You'd be at a dinner party and your leaves would start crumbling, garnishing the first course. It'd be a big mess.
Now you have so many thingsall much better than fig leavesto choose from for that dinner party. And just so you won't get overwhelmed with all the choices, I'll stay right here by your side. I'll be that little voice in your ear as you go shopping. I'll guide you to make the right choice for you. I'll be there in your closet in the morning as you're getting dressed. I'll help you plan for next year, for the next job, the next marriage, the next party, the next moment. I'll work out the wrinkles in your clothes life.
I'm devoting this book to making clothes so easy for you that you can forget all about them. You'll be so comfortable in your clothes that you'll have to pinch yourself to tell whether or not you're naked.
Excerpted from In the Dressing Room with Brenda by Brenda Kinsel. Copyright © 2001 by Brenda Kinsel. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.