Why I Hate One-Size-Fits-All (and Love Stretch Denim)

A guest post by Melanie Rothschild

one size fits all

Photo by Melanie Rothschild
Venice, Italy

I think the very term one-size-fits-all is dodgy. It plants the idea of “one way-ness” when for most things in life, there are many, many ways to achieve, measure and value the things we do. One way might be a good fit for some, some of the time, but can’t really be considered a viable form for all.

Stretch denim however offers a much more livable and I believe apt model for thinking: it presents a sturdy framework, along with some wiggle room and in the end, it treats us with respect because it doesn’t over promise.

The two terms represent a fitting picture for thinking about our own creativity. If presented with a particular set of directions for how to go about exercising your own creativity, I’d warn: beware of one-size-fits-all approaches.

While any method might be a good fit for some one, I believe that rather than a single how-to approach, enhancing creativity relies on some fundamental understandings. Once those understandings (the sturdy framework) are integrated, I believe there’s a tremendous amount of stretch in how the specifics can be undertaken.

So often we encounter instructions that tell us we must proceed in this or that particular manner in order to achieve the “correct” result. To take a basic example, I love to cook, and I certainly acknowledge the need for recipes. However, I rarely if ever actually follow the instructions as written. To me, the vital element, the satisfying part, is my own creativity, my own take on the dish.  But here’s the rub: it’s relatively easy to give oneself permission to “stray” when the issue is food—after all, the proof, as they say, is in the eating, and if the result tastes good, you have a tangible indication that it was okay to wander. It’s much more of a problem, however, when we’re not dealing with something as concrete as cooking. In many areas of life, and in particular the arts, it can be much more difficult to ignore the rules, to abandon the one-size-fits-all approach, for fear that we’re not “doing it the right way.”

I’ll use chicken soup as a further metaphor for illustrating this elastic approach to creativity.

Could it really be that there’s just one absolutely perfect recipe for achieving the best chicken soup the world over? Can anyone seriously uphold the idea of one divine method to attaining culinary perfection with this dish and all the others being second rate also-rans? Of course not.

Depending on readily available resources, individual tastes and lifelong conditioning, the range of preferences for what hits the spot is vast. There is a basic structure: a flavorful stock, along with some amount of chicken and possible other ingredients like vegetables (and maybe something like rice or noodles).

But how could we really consider there to be a single best form of this venerable dish? I’ve heard declarations of the finest version of chicken soup to be one, which contains freshly chopped cilantro sprinkled on top. Yet, my own husband runs away at top speed from anything with even a hint of cilantro (personally, I quite like it). All of this is to say . . . the idea of a one-size-fits-all or best methodology for most things is, I believe, dramatically over promised.

I suppose that one-size-fits-all models might be helpful some of the time, although I’ll admit that I wasn’t able to come up with a single example. But the idea of realizing an underlying structure (the basic components of chicken soup) rather than rigidly adhering to a particular ingredients list, really sets you up as an independent soup diva. Combining tasty stock, some chicken and a gathering of veggies, leaves a lot of room for movement, exploration and discovery. And, just as with doing your own art, or any sort of creation you’ll want to call your own, the same idea applies: the fun and satisfaction is in taking the basic structure and playing with all the ways you can stretch it to find just the right fit . . .  for you.


Melanie Rothschild is a self-taught artist whose elaborate interior accessories have been sold in stores throughout the United States including Neiman-Marcus, the shops at the Smithsonian Institution, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center and hundreds of others for almost two decades. Her work is shown in fine art galleries and has been licensed to Target. She considers moxie, an irreverent nature, and a respect for mistake-making to be the tools of her trade. Melanie has a master’s degree in the Study of Creativity and an undergrad degree in Anthropology. She is from and lives in Los Angeles. “Like” Melanie on Facebook today!

Click here to see more of Melanie’s artwork and a short preview of her documentary, MISTAKE.

Celebrate Your Creative Self 160You might also enjoy Celebrate Your Creative Self by Mary Todd Beam.





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