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5 lessons from accidentally owning only one pair of pants

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I’ve been thrust into an accidental extreme-ish capsule experiment.

Last Thursday, I noticed that two holes had opened up, seemingly out of nowhere, in the inner thighs on my jeans. (Note that this is my ONLY pair of blue jeans.) This put me in a bit of a dilemma: I wear those jeans probably 4-6 times a week, including to work, and inner thigh holes effectively put them out of commission. The holes are too big to just sew up, and patching the holes wasn’t really an option. After all, I still need to look put-together and professional at work, even though the dress code is casual.

So that meant I had to get a new pair of jeans. I was loath to just buy the same pair again; though I liked them, the fact that they only lasted a year before significant tearing didn’t appeal to me. That meant I had to go comparison shopping; and worse, I would probably need to order the new jeans online in order to get my size (long legs). In the meantime, I would have to rely on the only other pants I wear regularly: white jeans.

Before going shopping, I researched durable, well-made jeans. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of unbiased information out there; most of the answers were along the lines of “oh, I’ve had a pair of True Religion jeans for four years and I love them.” And of course, most people don’t wear a single pair of jeans day in and day out like I do. Until Nudie Jeans made jeans that are legitimately built for women, I decided, I was effectively on my own.

On Saturday, I spent hours at the mall, leafing through dozens of racks in multiple stores, looking for well-constructed jeans. It was a frustrating exercise; women’s clothing as a rule is made so poorly these days. Ultimately I decided to buy a pair of Levi’s—but, of course, I had to order my size. So here we are, five days into the “single pair of pants” edition of my wardrobe, and I’m waiting anxiously for my new jeans to arrive.

In the meantime, I’m doing some learning. Here are five things I’ve discovered during this unexpected experiment:

Losing a wardrobe staple forces you to get creative.

As I said before, I pretty much live in blue jeans. So, without them, my outfit options have decreased to “outfits with white pants” or “dresses.” As I’ve curated my closet, I’ve chosen pieces that are very versatile, so it’s less a wardrobe challenge than it is a wardrobe shift. I’ve come up with several fun, previously unworn outfits, including one consisting of a flowy white-and-grey patterned button-down, white jeans, and white poppy-print Keds. (I’m affectionately calling it my “bring it on, universe” outfit.) Something interesting I’m noticing: Almost everything I wear looks just a bit fancier over white jeans.

Sometimes, no matter how much you like something, it’s just impractical.

I love wearing white. It looks good on me. But now that I’ve worn white jeans four times in the past week, I’m forced to admit what was easier to ignore when I only wore them less often: White jeans are a silly, silly thing. When I wear them, I have to be so careful: Avoid wearing lipstick in case I touch my face, no sitting down without checking out and/or covering the surface first, try not to walk through grass, don’t put things in pockets because they might leave dingy outlines…it goes on and on. I already stopped buying white shirts because no matter how good they look on, I’m just not a careful enough person to deliberately keep them nice. (Plus it’s impossible to prevent sweat stains.)

Moreover, I don’t want to have to be a cautious person. I want to be able to cut through yards and sit on fences and brush my hands off on my pants and be able to eat without worrying about drips. So even though I love white, it may be time to remove it altogether from my closet. How fascinating!

A minimalist lifestyle must be thoughtfully prepared for unexpected inconveniences.

Thanks to lesson #2, I’ve realized that clearly I didn’t design a foolproof wardrobe consisting of truly interchangeable, equally useful pieces. I didn’t notice how rarely I wore my white jeans until I had no choice but to wear them. When you choose to own fewer things, you have to think ahead and consider potential pitfalls. What happens if your only jacket gets lost? What’s your contingency plan if you have unexpected guests but only two plates in the house?

These occurrences don’t have to be disasters as long as you have a solution in advance. Maybe you drop by your sister’s house and borrow a jacket of hers as a temporary solution, maybe you use cutting boards as a cool rustic eating surface, or maybe you don’t like your brainstormed options and decide that owning an extra wouldn’t be a bad thing. It’s up to you. But as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Women’s sizing really, really needs to change.

It shouldn’t be this difficult to replace an item of clothing. Any woman reading this already knows that women’s sizing is eye-rollingly, ridiculously inconsistent. I have a size 4 dress from Michael Kors and a size 12 dress from H&M, both of which fit me perfectly, and I typically range from 8-10 in jeans, depending on the store, the brand, the fit, and even the color. And buying from stores that use European sizing numbers…forget about it. In my shopping this weekend, I tried on jeans from size 27 to size 32 (European) with varying success.

Why, exactly, do we have arbitrary vanity sizing? Why can’t we have sizing like men, who just need to know the number of inches around their waist and the number of inches their legs are long? Is this something I can start a petition for? Because this is absurd. I should have been able to order the jeans I wanted immediately, rather than going and trying on dozens of pairs first. That would have saved me a lot of time and a trip to the mall. And that last bit matters, because:

It’s so easy to start walking down the slippery slope of buying.

Malls. Malls are so dangerous for people who like stuff (as most minimalists do) but only want to buy very few, specific things (as all minimalists do). When you’re surrounded by racks and rocks of glamorously lit clothing and accessories, it’s easy to catch your eye and remember you this would also go really well into your capsule…and that would look amazing on, even though it’s not in your color palette…and your wife could use one of these…and suddenly you’ve turned into a ravenous beast with armfuls of clothes and a sizzling credit card. (Just me?) In fact, I have a confession to make…when I ordered new jeans from Macy’s, I also purchased a shirt for my husband, just to get over the free shipping threshold. Sure, I can return the shirt locally, but it would certainly have been better to not even bring that tempting item into our home.

So what am I taking away from all this?

  1. I don’t ever want to go try on jeans again. Whichever pair ends up being more durable (the previous pair or the new one), I’ll just keep reordering from here on out.
  2. Eventually, I plan to replace my white jeans with something less finicky. I’m thinking a faded black. It’s nice to have more than one color option, but something dark will go just as well with my wardrobe and be much easier to take care of.

Have you ever been in the position where you have to creatively fill a hole in your wardrobe? What did you do, and what did you learn from the experience? Let’s chat!

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