7 Fashion Lessons I've Learned From My Garden

Despite living in an apartment with little land to till, one of my greatest hobbies is gardening, which is actually quite closely tied to fashion. Yep, you heard me right: Gardening and fashion do mix! And despite the cold snap we're experiencing post-Earth Day in the Chicago area, the hearty little start to my 2015 herb garden is holding up pretty well. (That is, with the exception of my poor basil plant, which has been forced to flee indoors 'til the break of warmer weather.) So, I thought it might be worthwhile to take a few moments to pay homage to the art of gardening by sharing seven lessons I've learned about fashion from my experiences whilst gardening.

Let's preface these lessons with a quick pause for some of the more obvious parallels. Yes, you technically kind of have to be wearing clothes to participate in both gardening and fashion (at least to be taken somewhat seriously). Yes, clogs have made their grand stand upon the altar of each art form. And yes, Martha Stewart has wowed us in gardening and fashion... for quite a while. But with further unearthing (and further puns), one discovers that both fashion and gardening require you to dig in and observe what might flourish from the creative process. Oh, and they both tend to get a bit messy sometimes, along the way. So without further ado — and hopefully less puns — let's see what gardening has to teach us about fashion.

1. Embrace Color Theory

Whether you're planning a garden, or creating a custom look, color will make or break you. Just as there are outfits for every occasion, there are gardens for every purpose (produce, herbal, sensory, recreation, etc.). Even though you have to consider the function of a garden foremost in its preparation, most gardeners still take quite a bit of time considering visual appeal. And without fail, beyond size and placement (for optimal space, and growing conditions), planting with color relationships in mind tends to be a pretty weighty aspect of those considerations.

The simplest way to ensure your garden, or outfit, remains visually harmonious is to buff up on some basic color theory. Start simple. Use color palettes to predetermine the hues you'll be working with, and when in doubt, utilize complementary colors (colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel), or analogous colors (which are three colors that reside side by side on the color wheel). But visual harmony goes far beyond just choosing colors from the color wheel. Whether worn or gardened with, each color palette we utilize comes with emotional implications, so taking some time to consider what emotion or ambiance you're aiming to create will help you choose a color palette with the power to brighten your day or mellow your mood.

2. With Time Comes Change

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As any gardener knows that each season brings change and the opportunity to add new flora to your plots or pots. Sometimes this means adding elements to areas where you have planned for growth, but sometimes the addition of new plants to your garden signals the need for pruning and weeding in order to maintain what's already thriving, and to allow for more space. Fashion mirrors these seasonal changes, and just as we gear up for new summer trends, we find ourselves having to shift away from our late winter and spring accessories. We pack up our boots, scarves, and beanies and trade them for sandals, sunglasses, and wide-brimmed sun hats. We gravitate toward fresher color palettes, and we adapt our makeup for sun-kissed cheeks and the emergence of sweet summer freckles.

3. Florals Brighten Your Day

It's pretty simple — pretty things make us happy (well, a lot of us). Studies have shown that finding a way to add beauty or positive imagery to your daily routine means big benefits for your health. And while everyone's perception of beauty varies, many of us associate flowers and new plant growth with spring and summer, which in turn conjures up feelings of excitement, renewal, and often, relaxation. When planning my spring and summer gardens, I make a point of including roses, lilies, and lavender, without fail. They bring me joy, and lift my mood whenever I walk out my door and catch a glimpse of their little flower faces.

That same concept is why, despite years of being made fun of as a result by colleagues at the various jobs I've held (many of which have included "boys club" type office atmospheres, that while fun, tended to view anything floral as a mark of geriatric status), I find myself splicing blouses and sundresses with floral patterns into my wardrobe. Making use of floral patterns in your wardrobe is a great way to connect with nature and boost your mood, especially if work keeps you indoors.

4. Experience Helps

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Diving into the world of fashion can be pretty daunting. Digging into the world of gardening is equally daunting. Luckily, with time you begin to recognize patterns, pick up on seasonal shifts, and adapt the knowledge you've picked up over the years about how hardy certain herbs are, which blooms thrive best out of direct sun, and what healthy, nutrient rich soil looks like. Gardening has taught me to maintain my patience, and to accept that everything blossoms when it's ready. Our closets aren't immediately stocked with all of the fabulous outfits we dream of, but if we start with a few classics, in time we'll learn to pair them with beautiful statement pieces, and even branch out into bold new looks. And turning to mentors and outside inspiration is always a great place to begin our exploration.

5. Mmm, Texture!

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If you're familiar with the 2001 movie Amélie then you might have a rough idea of where I'm going with this one. In Amélie, the heroine finds joy in some of life's simple pleasures, namely the sensation of running her fingers through a sack of beans.

Well, gardening is inherently full of opportunities for similar sensations, from digging in the dirt to caressing the soft fuzz of sage leaves. While some textures irk us and send chills up our spine in the most cringe-worthy ways (for me this is dry towels on my wet nails, or chalkboards under said nails), other textures leave us wanting nothing more than to luxuriate in their folds. Gardening has instilled in me an appreciation for sensory indulgence, which has, of course, carried over to my appreciation for varying textures in fashion. It's so easy to get caught up in wearing only cottons or synthetics, but taking the opportunity to infuse your wardrobe with silk, corduroy, cashmere, and more will be a truly enriching experience.

6. Layer To Create Depth

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Another visual concept worth considering while planning a garden is the appearance of depth. When you're working with a plot (or a variety of containers), it's important to adequately use your space, creating the impression of a lush, but well structured area. The use of tiers and planting with the height of flora in mind goes a long way to add proper perspective to your plot. And although in fashion we layer often for more practical reasons, like temperature regulation, adding stockings, sweaters/jackets, or other pieces serves us by creating added visual interest as well.

This concept can be taken one step further in the overall consideration of our wardrobe and what it says about us as a person. We are by no means the clothes that we wear, however, if we're being conscious in our style decisions, we can highlight our personal preferences and pay homage to our interests and inspirations. And while you may not be able to pull off a full plaid pants and leather jacket combo at your conservative corporate gig, topping off a polished pair of black slacks with a pyramid studded belt and some hot heals might be enough of a hat tip to your punk roots to get you through the day.

7. Variety Adds Flavor

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One of my biggest motivators when it comes to gardening is practicality. Yes, I love flowers, and plant them regularly, but what really brings me gardening fulfillment is cultivating a vibrant and healthy variety of herbs, vegetables, and fruits. And while I don't get a chance to plant everything edible that I'd like to, I have some great standards that I fall back on every year, unable to go without the great tastes they bring to my table. Unsurprisingly, my wardrobe mirrors that practicality factor pretty closely. And while I'm making a sincere effort to expand this year, I'm also guilty of clinging to my favorite jeans, hoodies, and sundresses.

The more variety one can foster in an ecosystem, the better it thrives — generally speaking. So I've learned that although my space is limited, trying to add one or two new specimens to my garden each year is not only beneficial for the greater ecosystem that I contribute to, but also a wonderful opportunity to learn more about how each plant in my plot relates to its neighbors. My closet, it seems, provides a similar opportunity, allowing me to delve deeper into my own psyche with each new look I incorporate into my comfort zone. The more I expand and filter my fashion preferences, the more I learn about how I see myself in the world, and how I choose to encourage others to perceive me.

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