6 Things That Programming Has Taught Me About Fashion

Bet you never expected to see that title. But it’s true, and it also applies to my other passion: design, but that made the title too long. So without further ado, here is what programming has taught me about fashion.

1. Less is More

I have heard this quote numerous times over the years: “The real hero of programming is the one who writes negative code.” It refers to an incident with Bill Atkinson in 1982. The project managers demanded a daily report of how much code had been produced. Bill submitted “-2000 lines” since he had removed code in order to make the program run faster. The point of this story is that in programming the best programs are as simple and concise as possible. They are the easiest to maintain, the most flexible to use and the most elegant to read, and they are usually just as (if not more) powerful than their more complicated counterparts.

The same concept applies to fashion, in my humble opinion. The smaller and simpler your wardrobe, the easier it is to maintain and get dressed in the morning. Also since it’s so curated it often makes a bigger impact than a larger, but more scattered, wardrobe.

2. Make a Plan

A lot of time programming is spent just thinking through the problem. Even though errors are no longer as time consuming or as costly as they were back in the days of punch cards, it’s still important to think through a problem abstractly with a pencil and paper first. This can be difficult when all you really want to do is start building something and to see results ASAP.

It’s the same story when it comes to our wardrobes. Oftentimes we want to just get right to the fun part: SHOPPING! There’s just something about the instant gratification of seeing all those shiny new things hanging in your closet. However, it’s important to plan, strategize and minimize first in order to avoid costly and time consuming errors later. Not exactly as sexy and fun as whipping out the plastic right? If you don’t have a game plan yet, definitely check out the steps that I use to take inventory and make a shopping strategy.

3. Trends Come and Go, but Classics are Forever

I had two bosses (for a very short amount of time) who chased after every trend du jour. That company didn’t last very long, as you can imagine. Don’t get me wrong, trends are awesome, I’m enjoying working with a few new javascript animation libraries and my new d’orsay flats. However, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between a trend and a classic.

Any programmer worth their salt needs to know the basics, and while these techniques and languages aren’t exactly sexy, they are reliable and have proven their versatility over the years. For every job, there’s an appropriate solution, and it often isn’t the hottest new technology. In the same way 80% of your wardrobe should be classics and basics that feel like a second skin and have proven their versatility over the years. When in doubt, I almost always reach for my classic pieces instead of the current trend.

4. Global Variables are the Worst 

When you are learning to code you will have global variables everywhere, it’s all part of the learning curve. Eventually you learn to package everything away in modules and objects (my poison of choice) and realize that it’s better if all of your variables are local in order to avoid side effects.

Your closet should also have modules, groups of clothes that all mix and match well with each other and other modules. Beware that one global variable that doesn’t belong to any module, which in my case were a pair of rainbow pumps I bought on a whim. Although they might seem like a quick solution to your wardobe doldrums, realize that they are more trouble than they are worth and let them go.

5. The Devil is in the Details

I’m looking at you, asshats who don’t comment on your code. It’s the little things like commenting your code, documenting functions, using indents correctly, and naming variables reasonably that give me a much better impression of you as a person (and a coder).

The same principle applies to clothing as well. It’s the little details that matter such as having brass buttons instead of plastic, sending clothing to the tailor to make sure it fits, hemming pants to the correct length, tossing out white shirts once they get pit stains, and cleaning your clothes according to the instructions so it doesn’t look dingy. All of the little things that summed together make me think, “What a class act” instead of “oh my god what kind of slob put this together?”.

6. Do it Once, Do it Right 

The principle behind this is really quite simple. A programmer attempts to save time by using a quick and dirty hack. In reality, you can’t reduce the amount of time it takes to write a program, you just postpone it. That time saved with a hack will be taken back by constantly having to fix and maintain that crappy code, instead of quality code which will just purr along until it needs an upgrade much later.

Similarly, people often try to save time and money on their wardrobe by buying cheap clothes, skipping wardrobe planning, or constantly buying new clothes to “fix” their wardrobe. In reality the cheap clothes constantly fall apart, you’re missing essential pieces, and your wardrobe is overflowing with clothes that don’t go together. So take the time now to do it once and do it right by planning your wardrobe, buying quality pieces, and caring for it correctly.

These are some of my observations, and while I’m guilty of a few of these (hello quick hacks and un-hemmed pants!) overall I feel like I’m doing pretty well. Any of my fellow coders have anything to add to this list? And am I the only person who takes rules of thumb and lessons from one of my interests and applies it to a completely different one?

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2 Responses to 6 Things That Programming Has Taught Me About Fashion

  1. Kali says:

    That’s a very interesting comparison! (sorry i’m catching up on my blog reading so many comments at once 🙂 )
    I guess there are life principles that can adapt to many unconnected fields.

    I can add one point to your list: use inspirations wisely. You can copy a part of code, or an idea from another code, but if you don’t understand it or don’t integrate it properly into your code, it just messes everything up. Whereas if you understand the principle of what you’re taking inspiration from, you can tweak the code to match your system and global sheet.
    It’s the same for style really: you can take inspirations from catalogues, mood boards, pictures or people around you, but if you don’t understand what inspires you and how to integrate it within your wardrobe, taste and body shape, it looks “borrowed” and doesn’t integrate very well… If that makes any sense.

    Also, sometimes when you realize things like that in your life, everything changes around you. Talking about simplicity and code, these past two years, as I simplified my life, I noticed the design of my blogs and sites has simplified as well. Have you noticed a similar correlation between your mood/life changes and your designs?

    • Erin says:

      🙂 I always love hearing from you Kali!

      Absolutely agree! I thankfully I have (mostly) grown out of the copy-and-paste javascript phase. Sometimes I fall back into bad habits and I usually regret the decision a few days later when my program starts breaking 🙂

      I have noticed a correlation. I’m not sure if this process of simplification is simply my aesthetic tastes informing my lifestyle or vice versa. Either way it’s made my life a lot easier! And I agree, I find that an interest or aesthetic in one area tends to creep into other areas of my life.

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