Why I Dress for Other People, But I Decorate for Myself
Lessons learned from thinking less about fashion and more about backsplashes.
Updated Oct 12, 2018 5:01 AM
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When I first began working from home in March, it only took so many consecutive days of wearing the same sweatpants and oversize T-shirt to confirm a long-held suspicion about my desire to put thought into what I’m wearing: It’s entirely contingent on whether or not I’ll be seeing other people. Since fashion functions as a language I use to say things about who I am, it’s not as satisfying for me if there’s no one around to listen or engage with it. That said, despite working in fashion for five years—and maintaining an interest in it much longer than that—I didn’t feel a gaping void of creativity when this vehicle for self-expression was rendered obsolete. The time and energy I once spent thinking about getting dressed was quickly consumed by something else…my living space.
Over the past nine months, it’s become clear that while I dress for other people, I decorate for myself. My ability to glean maximum enjoyment from my home is only conditional upon experiencing it personally—the opposite of the way I enjoy fashion. After spending so much time indoors, I have a deeper appreciation for how decorating a home ladders up to a greater sense of permanence. Fashion, on the other hand, often evolves on a dime based on time of day, situation, and weather. I used to think that because it’s so easy to change into and out of different outfits, they offered the most satisfying medium for exploring personal style. Lately, though, I’ve been reflecting on the ways in which this carousel of constant reinvention actually makes it challenging to figure out what I truly love. Honing in on the style of my apartment has helped me clarify that more than getting dressed ever did.
If you’re in a similar boat (and by “similar boat” I mean you’re not thinking about fashion that much these days, but you’re thinking a whole lot about kitchen backsplashes and burl-wood dressers), here are the most salient things I’ve learned so far from reexamining the principles of getting dressed within the context of decorating.
Pay Attention to Your Routines
While my outfits are subject to change based on external variables—like a thunderstorm or an important meeting—my home decor revolves around my indoor habits and routines, which tend to be pretty consistent. Paying close attention to these routines has resulted in some of my most satisfying decorating choices. Because I don’t spend a lot of time in bed beyond the hours I’m asleep, I can get away with using a rickety vintage screen divider as a headboard. I do spend a lot of time sitting on my couch—probably more than anywhere else in my apartment—so I opted for a supersoft synthetic upholstery called Monochromatic Plush from Interior Define that feels good against my skin. The fact that it also happens to be chartreuse is an equally reliable daily mood boost.
Test Before You Invest
I find it’s much easier to avoid the siren song of trends with home decor than it is with fashion, not only because home trends cycle through at a steadier and more sustainable pace, but also because decor is grounded in long-term functionality. (In other words, it’s much easier to experiment with a sweater than a sofa.) But I’ll be the first to acknowledge that zeitgeist-driven lust still persists on occasion. When it does, I like to “test” out the trend in question with smaller items that can easily be swapped in and out as my taste changes or my living space evolves, just as I often do with fashion accessories. I’ve been obsessed with checkerboard stuff recently (a major phenomenon of late, if my Instagram feed is any indication), so I’ve dabbled in a few low-stakes items like a throw pillow from Jonathan Adler and these Baina bath towels.
Don’t Stress About Everything Matching
When I first signed my lease and started picking out pieces for my apartment, I defaulted to a question that often comes up when getting dressed: Do these things “go” together? I was so stressed about making sure everything fit perfectly, but I’ve since realized that honing in on my design style is a lot more enjoyable (and successful!) when I think of it less like a puzzle and more like a soup with lots of different kinds of ingredients. It doesn’t have to go together in a traditional sense—in fact, it’s usually a lot more interesting if it doesn’t. Mix and match vintage pieces from disparate eras, play with varying textures, and take comfort in the knowledge that you can always tinker or rearrange. Prioritize intuition over conformity. That’s what makes it yours.
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