A Story About Self-Expression Through Clothing & Creativity

The days are getting shorter, and I can smell autumn in the distance, coming closer.

The farms along the Amstel displayed their best pumpkins. The supermarket ran out of cinnamon powder. The animals give off a rounder appearance as if they are enveloped in an oversized knitted scarf: fluffy sheep, fluffy pigeons, fluffy ducks. The dogs were wrapped in thermal clothes.

There has been plenty of rain (which I love) and I’ve been baking batches of chewy chocolate cookies because they just smell… festive. The other day, a friend delivered Indonesian food in the morning: chicken porridge, street-style fried rice, and ketoprak (some sort of warm salad with peanut sauce). One of my favorite past time is coming home–through food.

The number of infections from COVID-19 in the Netherlands was quite alarming this month; so we spent more time at home. I changed my capsule wardrobe last week, replacing my sleeveless linen tops and summer dresses with sweaters and hoodies. All the blankets are out from the cupboards.

I was so used to expressing myself as the ‘creative tropical girl’ through the clothes I’m wearing. The sleeveless linen dress. Jeans and a short-sleeved shirt with a light cardigan. Oversized blouse and denim shorts. Flat shoes, leather sandals, or sneakers.

I feel like I’m so… ‘me’ in them; and I just miss that feeling.
Sometimes, dressing in layers and layers of thermal clothes, with boots, bulky sweaters, and coats… I feel like I am losing myself. Who are you? This isn’t you. (well, probably, we’re not really talking about clothes here, eh?)

So, last week, I tried to be creative (which I may be lacking a little these days) with my capsule wardrobe. I chopped and cropped some pants and sweaters. I tried layering my summer wardrobe with my winter ones–to find a combination where I could still feel like myself; but also feel warm. I started dressing up again in the morning every now and then, even though I won’t leave the house. Eyeliner. Eyebrow pencil. Lip balm.

When I first moved here to the Netherlands and had to get some winter clothes, I was only thinking of getting something basic, low-maintenance, functional, and practical, preferably in blue, grey, or black (after so many cycles of washing, my grey sweater shrunk; so cute, though!). But I realized I do miss having colors in my life.

Mustard yellow.
Moss green.
Terracotta.
Pumpkin spice.

I am trying to be more mindful and minimalist with my wardrobe (one in one out, necessary buying only, leaning towards thrift stores or responsible brands), so at this point, one way to add colors into my life without buying more clothes is through accessories.

I want to make my own jewelry again; from clay, or woods, or yarns, something that can make me feel like I am wearing myself, my colors, my creativity. (Maybe everyone will get handmade jewelry this Christmas!)

I have been browsing for some inspirations for statement jewelry and although I know how to make pendants and earrings from clay, woods, or yarns, I have never made a ring with these materials. (I ‘made’ silver rings on a silver workshop, though).

Funny, because actually rings are my favorite piece of jewelry and whenever I shop for jewelry, I am always attracted to rings the most. So, I guess, it’s something I’d like to do for the end of the year: making my own statement rings and bring back some colors into my wardrobe (and my life, for that matter.)

There’s a saying that you’ll be more creative when you’re facing constraints and limitations. There’s a psychology behind it, and I have to say that it’s true.

I realized how I’ve been trying out new things and avenues since I got here. Designing a journal with a stationery brand, making my own stickers, opening my online shop, binding my own journal inserts, accepting commissions for my illustration works, learning how to make animated GIFs, editing videos…

Even in Indonesian, we often say, “Kreatif karena kepepet” which refers to a situation where you just need to be creative because you must, because that’s the only way you can survive”.

At the moment, I think working with my art, journaling a lot, and trying to be creative despite what is happening in the world is how I am going to survive this upcoming winter.

I hope you are well, my friends.

love,

Hanny

Photo by Liam McGarry on Unsplash
Photo by Sarah Boudreau on Unsplash
Photo by Cayla Bamberger on Unsplash

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  • I live in denim shorts all year long, that makes me feel the most of my self.
    In the winter, sometimes I wear legging underneath the short, and sometimes I have to sadly change into pants.

    But now I express myself through stripes sweater πŸ˜€

  • I am so envious of you being able to be so creative. Up to now, I am still working on where is my creativity are. I tried all those thing you did, on journaling etc, but to take the next step… I am too scared….