Luxury is in the details

TL; DR: Customizing your clothes in meaningful ways increases their emotional value.

Calla Lilies and Puppets

In early 1999 I had the pleasure of attending an opening for an exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art. It was an extraordinary party. I knew nothing about the artist being celebrated or his work. This was before internet was widely available, so I went into the exhibit knowing strictly nothing about Diego Rivera, his work, his motifs or his loves.

The museum has a lovely room, at the time it was called the Fountain Room, although this has surely changed since the museum underwent a monumental renovation. The Fountain Room was big brick-walled space with a glass ceiling. It was a kind of walk-through area without many exhibits, which I heretofore had simply used to get from one wing of the building to the other.

On this night, however, it became a magical space which will haunt my imagination until the day I die.

Long before we arrived in the room, we could hear the mariachi band playing, lending a romantic flair to the whole evening. The room was lit only by candles and lanterns. The bespoke fountain was laden with oversized papier maché calla lilies. The tables had black tablecloths, the centerpieces, large, exquisite bundles of real calla lilies, appearing to hover in space.

Later in the evening, several larger than life papier maché puppets in the effigy of some of Rivera’s most romantic and recognizable subjects sauntered through the room: the bride, the flower carrier…these images, by their size were almost grotesque. Yet they were so intimately linked with the subject matter, so representative of the scale of Rivera’s work, that they seemed so appropriate.

My words will never do the evening justice. Still, to this day I like to disappear into that evening in my imagination to relive all the details, the feeling of every single moment having been orchestrated so that we get a feeling for the scope and scale of the genius we were celebrating.

An evening in hypertext

As I mentioned, this was a time towards the beginning of internet accessibility. I had only just learned what hypertext was (or at least my understanding of it at the time), was that when words appeared in a different color, or were underlined, it meant that I could click on them and get more info. I guess it might have been the start of links, but I didn’t know that word then.

I was convinced that the party was an evening in hypertext. If I thought some detail of the evening was beautiful, and I mentioned it to the friend I went with, she would be able to relate the detail, in some way, back to Diego Rivera, his biography or his work. I was astounded at the level of detail that went into that event. It was an Art History class in and of itself.

Life in hypertext

As you may have imagined, I am someone who loves to tell stories. I am enamored of details. When my husband and I married later in 1999, I believe that our vow to “make our lives a work of art” was very much influenced by that party I attended in Diego Rivera’s honor: I wanted a life rich in details, which, even taken out of context could still be beautiful. I wanted a life which, inasmuch as possible, every single detail was meaningful. To be honest, even my nom de plume for this blog has been influenced, in part, by that evening in 1999!

This is a high bar. For the first sixteen years of our marriage, we more or less kept that vow. Not always intentionally, but because we had no distractions in the form of little humans, we were rather skilled at putting meaningfulness at the heart of our decisions.

The last five and half years have been a blur.

However, since I started my “Buy no clothes in 2021” challenge, I find that I have a little more space in my brain for this sort of pursuit.

So let me introduce you to my first-in-a-very-long-time project in hypertext:

What? That just looks like a pair of jeans with a weird stripe (albeit carefully) sewn onto a seam.

Yes, yes it is. It is just a pair of jeans with a ribbon sewn onto a seam.

A ribbon laden with meaning

That ribbon was the decoration on a beautifully wrapped baby gift we received when my first scalawag was born. The gift came from two people who are precious to me: Georges and Françoise. They were the couple who led my group therapy sessions while I dealt with some serious anger and self-loathing issues prior to having babies.

I thought the ribbon itself was lovely, and not just because it came from Georges and Françoise, so I kept it. About a year and half later, it was used by the eldest scalawag as the lanyard for his “press pass”. I had an old press pass from my days at the radio station lying around, and he, at 18 months old thought he needed one too. So the ribbon became his press pass.

Press Pass in action on a teeny tiny scalawag

The press passes faded in glory, but I could not get rid of the ribbon.

In the meantime, one of the scalawags had a favorite pair of pants that featured a detail which never failed to make me smile: just inside the lower part of the cuff, there was a cute boyish striped ribbon. The pants were too long, so when I would roll them up for him to wear, the cute ribbon would show. I was actually sad when the pants started to fit in length and the ribbon couldn’t be seen anymore!! (I saved that ribbon, too, by the way!)

That’s when I got this idea. These jeans are ones I sometimes roll up, depending on the weather, the shoes I am wearing or activities we will be doing. I love these jeans. I love this ribbon. I loved the idea of adding a meaningful little detail to the cuff of these jeans.

Sure, the colors won’t go with everything I wear. But the detail is significant enough to me to bring me joy when I see it!

The luxury of detail

As I actively try to quell the demons that push me to constantly want something new, I find that customizing what I already have in my closet helps immensely. The little details that make each item truly mine make each object more precious, dare I say, even feel more luxurious.

I recently unboxed an iPad Pro. If you have ever unboxed an Apple product, you know the luxury of the experience. It’s the carefully thought-out packaging, the streamlined details that make it unforgettable.

I am choosing to make that kind of simple luxury part of my everyday life by adding tiny details to my own closet in ways perhaps imperceptible to anyone but me. These details are making me love what I own. And honestly, this was what I wanted all along!

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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