Consider the role of the costume designer working on the Australian production of the musical Hamilton.
He creates clothes for the cast using carefully chosen fabrics and colours to help tell the story.
And he’s done so during a pandemic, while dealing with the geographic distance to our far-away land, multiple lockdowns and a global shortage of elastic.
Yes, elastic. You know that cheap, stretchy stuff that’s a precious commodity these days?
It’s an essential component in theatre costumes so they are easily accessible for performers needing to change quickly.
And devoured by makers and sewists for months of compulsory mask wearing here in unfortunate Melbourne.
I know about the latter – I got caught up in the hunt to find elastic last year.
I’m no performer, but there was something dramatic − and emotional − about queuing down the street to get into my local fabric store less than 48 hours before lockdown.
This was after nearly 20 years of visiting the same place, never needing to line up to get in, and sometimes seeing more staff than shoppers inside.
(That’s social distancing before our time.)
Elastic actually has remarkable properties.
It will stretch when you apply pressure, and compress when you remove it.
But if it doesn’t, it probably needs to be replaced.
It pops up in many useful places, such as waistbands, shoes and fitted sheets.
Recently the elastic closure on my Moleskine diary was accidently ‘chopped’ into two pieces.
It was February and too early in the year to give up on my new diary.
And I didn’t want a new one.
That seemed wasteful, plus I’d have to re-enter all the birthdays and important dates that I’d already handwritten in my diary.
Nor could I glue it back together like I do when fixing a broken fridge magnet or repairing rigid objects like toy parts.
I didn’t want to do nothing (though it was an option) as my diary wouldn’t be as functional.
But credit to elastic’s inherent stretchiness, I managed to pull the broken parts together, stitch both sides with black thread and reconnect it into a usable closure again.
It’s wonky, but with black thread on black elastic, its uneven appearance is only noticeable because I just told you.
So, consider that sometimes the best solution isn’t the neatest looking one, nor the one with the most planning or thinking.
It’s the simplest.
In solving maths problems, an elegant solution is the result achieved with the simplest, or smallest, effort.
When writing copy, the goal is to write lean and stay on topic.
The KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) can be applied to both to avoid unnecessary complexity.
I’m not sure if it extends to a smash-hit Broadway production running up to eight performances a week, with so many beautiful and intricate parts (not just the costumes but the sets, too).
But in the matter of my broken strap, and wherever possible, try to keep it simple.