In search of beauty and simplicityThis weekend we took a trip to the mall. It was not just our neighborhood mall, which proudly hosts the usual Gap, Macy’s and JCPenney’s, but the fancy mall in the nearby town, where I can go around stores like Hanna Andersson and Lush.
Malls are not generally a place where I long to be. I don’t enjoy shopping and the proximity of too skinny and too excited teenage girls and their moms who cannot let go of skinny jeans just because they are skinny enough. It doesn’t put me in the best of moods. But what to do on the long suburban New England winters? There aren’t many options so we end up in the mall quite a lot.

Anyway, at the big mall this weekend I entered one store that has held a certain fascination on me for a very long time: Anthropologie. It must have been the first time I entered the store in the past two years. Overpriced, smartly marketed crap, right? I didn’t need it. And yet, this Sunday I went inside, just for a walk, just to waste some time.

I felt very happy when the hostess/greeter lady (they had one of those) admired the baby’s dress that I had knitted. Then hubby took the baby and I had the chance to walk around, all by myself, in the middle of all the beautiful things that seem to come from another era. I remembered why I loved this store, why every single item of clothing or furnishings seem to match my style. While I did not want it all, I loved being surrounded by the beautiful (expensive, not in my budget, never to be bought) things. Only one item really caught my interest (wanted to have): a beautiful, long, black, 100% wool skirt. The rest of the things were not such great quality (not natural fibers) but they were beautiful nonetheless. It suddenly occurred to me that I had missed such things. So it started me thinking: is my quest for a simpler living clashing with the natural need for beauty? Why do I have to give up on all of the pretty things? Or do I?

I realized that stores like this only market, take advantage and sell for good money some core elements of the simple living: vintage (which is simply old, but doesn’t smell of moth balls, or is only made to look like old), hand made/hand embroidered, bits and pieces reminiscent from traditions from all over the world (mainly Old Continent, right?), things that seem to be thrown together from antique shops and flea markets. They are only put together in a very consistent, very deliberate style (just read this fascinating article to see how deliberate), in a “sophisticated” (how I dislike this word and all its pretentious connotations!) French boutique look that apparently sells very well.

So do I really have to let beauty go when I pursue my simple living goals? The answer for me is: on the contrary. Beauty comes with quality, with durability, with time and love. My baby’s all-cotton dress, that took me over two weeks to design and knit, was probably the most beautiful thing in that store at that time.

Well, I am still fondly thinking of the beautiful wool skirt (on sale for 130 dollars–yeah, sure). Oh, I just found it on Ebay being called “Librarian’s Delight”(of course!), and for only 50 dollars. Hm …

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