What Good Is a Clothing Fast?

By December 3, 2012 culture, faith 7 Comments

paperdoll-templatebodyhairclothes-41Some of my greatest moments of discontent occur in my closet.

Each day, I stand in front of a clothing rod at least four-feet long packed with hangers holding tops and skirts and dresses and pants—and I am lukewarm toward 90% of it. I scan my options and know there is that perfect Something Else out there at the stores. Then I pick one of my favorite tops and move along.

Once I’m dressed, it’s fine. But the process of choosing reminds me that I am a terrible shopper and have made poor purchase decisions resulting in a closet full of ill-fitting and oddly disparate items.

So when I learned a clothing fast was the second exercise in Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny against Excess, I wondered if I should choose something else. But I followed her suggestions, limiting my clothing for three weeks. I selected seven tops, one sweater, one pair of jeans, and one pair of slacks. (Running wear, undergarments, pajamas, and socks were not regulated.)

I’m so glad I didn’t skip this fast. Here are a few things I learned:

1. The perfect Something Else doesn’t exist.
Consumerism tells us the best clothes are the ones you haven’t bought yet. New clothes are a huge treat, but they will not silence the discontent of having a whole closet full of nothing to wear. That discontent is temporary. If I can get through those few moments of looking at my options and just choose something, I honestly won’t think about it the rest of the day anyhow.

2. Clothing isn’t the only thing we use to manage our appearance.
Although I may not spend a ton of time and money managing my outer appearance, I still spend an enormous amount of time and energy managing how I appear to others. I want to be respected for my work, my ideas, my intellect. I want to be labeled as creative and interesting. And I wish I had more of all that, so I try to manage the lack by hiding it behind other stuff (sometimes clothes). You can’t buy these things at a store, but if you could, I would be first in line. [sigh.]

3. My closet betrays me.
Sure, I don’t shop as a hobby. But my closet is packed. I took Jen Hatmaker’s challenge to count my clothes. Here’s my tally:

33 short-sleeves tops // 16 long-sleeve tops // 20 sweaters & zip-up jackets // 3 pairs of pants // 3 pairs of jeans // 5 pairs of capri pants // 2 pairs of shorts // 6 skirts // 17 dresses // 8 coats & jackets // 15 pairs of shoes

That’s 128 items, not including my running wear, undergarments, pajamas, socks, and accessories. (Oh! And three tops from India. And my wedding dress, but that’s not in my rotation.) Who knew that in my closet, I have enough tops to wear a different one every day of the month without repeating. I could wear a different dress to church every Sunday for four months without repeating. I have shoes I’ve only worn once or twice, that go with one specific dress that I’ve also worn only once or twice.

My daily discontent is a product of consumerism, not true need.

4. Beauty is not wrong.
God created the world to be pleasant to the eye (Gen. 2:9), to make our hearts soar with wonder and awe. I don’t think it’s wrong to make things lovely, including our own outer appearance. For me, it’s a matter of money and effort spent on things that are passing.

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