FASHION

I Spent a Month Without a Mirror—And It Changed My Philosophy on Getting Dressed

Getting dressed—remedying nakedness, by definition—has never been just that in New York. Here, you’ll find outfits, not clothes. Curating an ensemble requires a recipe: Levi’s, mary janes, button-downs, accent socks.

As such, mirrors are necessary tools: Our sartorial spell check, if you will. We’ve developed a sort of dependency, even. Think of the frequency with which we assess our reflections throughout the day: in bedroom closets, apartment foyers, the grainy subterranean windows on subway cars, the glassy facades of storefronts. In truth, the propensity might qualify as addiction, if there weren’t so many more destructive vices available to us.

This October, however—contrary to a lifetime of conditioning—I found myself in France, mirror-less, for the better part of a month. Fashion’s equivalent to flying blind.

To be clear, this was neither an editorial prompt, nor a thought-experiment, but rather, a fact of circumstance. While my colleagues flocked to Paris for Fashion Week, I landed two hours east in the region of Alsace, on a small natural wine domain. I’d come to work for the duration of wine harvest—the three-odd weeks of labor required on any given vineyard when the year’s grapes ripened to their ideal point. Traditionally, volunteers gravitated toward various wineries across the globe to pick, press, sort, and stomp the fruit before it exceeded its prime, all in exchange for housing, food, and of course, capital E–Experience. Think of it like an agricultural summer camp for wine-addled adults. And in my dormitory for sommelier-adjacent grown-ups, it just so happened that my assigned room lacked a mirror—as did our shared restroom. For the first time in adulthood, I would spend nearly a month clothing myself without the reassurance of my own reflection.

Routinely, our mornings began before seven, at which point we’d distribute ourselves among the vines with the intent to pick as much fruit as possible before the heat became unbearable. Given the nature of the work, there was a pragmatic uniformity to my outfits: Blundstone work boots, crew socks, leggings or spandex shorts, a sweatshirt, an outer shell (both for rain, and for warmth). The simplicity of the template did not, however, alleviate my desire to select the right combination of said items—nor my ever-present fear that, without a mirror for revisionary purposes, I’d worn something backwards, missed a button, overlooked an ill-placed stain.

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