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When less is more

By Tiffany Tan  (China Daily)

10:57, January 22, 2013

(China Daily)

With consumerism and fast fashion booming in China, Tiffany Tan susses out if the Chinese are ready for capsule wardrobes - a collection of only a few essential pieces that can be mixed and matched.

Imagine owning 200 articles of clothing but wearing fewer than two dozen of them. This is what Sun Yumiao has decided she will do in 2013.

The reason - she won't have to think of what to wear every day, unless she's attending a party or doing something outdoorsy.

On New Year's Day, the 25-year-old Beijinger surveyed her closet for what to wear for the rest of winter and the coming spring. She selected four blouses, three turtlenecks, four sweaters, five cardigans, two coats, three pairs of trousers and two pairs of jeans.

At a time when consumerism and fast fashion are booming in China, why is Sun doing a U-turn?

"I want to simplify my life and focus on the really important things," she says, during a break from her government translation work one afternoon. She talks about reveling more in the little joys of life, like the flowers in the park near her home or the heartfelt singing of a cab driver - rather than worrying about how to keep up with the latest fashion.

She made the decision after reading Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie - a book about the importance of human relationships over possessions and accomplishments - and after visiting a sick friend last month.

Her friend, Sun says, used to spend two hours a day on her hair, makeup and clothes.

"Now, as I lie here in the hospital," she quotes her friend as saying, "I realize these things are not so important after all."

Wang Mingming might have nodded in agreement had she been present. In 2009, the resident of Ningbo, Zhejiang province, pared down her wardrobe to seven sets per season after the death of a friend's father made her realize possessions are temporary. She says she became tired of pouring time, energy and money into staying trendy.

"I wanted to see if I could have the same, good quality life while owning fewer things," says Wang, a customer service representative at a marketing firm.

She picks out her seven sets among old clothes at the beginning of each season, sometimes introducing two to three new items. Wang says she makes sure she does not wear the same outfit within the same week, and uses shoes and bags for accent.

The 30-year-old admits that seeing clothing ads sometimes makes her long for new attires, but she doesn't regret the path she has chosen. It gives her more time for her other interests, she says, like doing yoga every evening after work, reading about astrology and getting facials on weekends.

In the world's most populous nation, young, middle-class urban women like Sun and Wang, who have voluntarily gone on a clothing diet, are rare. China only discovered modern fashion in the 1980s, following domestic economic reforms, so the ongoing trend is to shop more - not less.

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