How to build a SMALLISH wardrobe
So you have made the decision to slowly move towards a small, sustainable wardrobe. You have de-cluttered your wardrobe and you are (hopefully) left with a few old favorites. Now it is time to start working on a wardrobe, that will make you happy in the long run. To decide, what stays, what will be replaced over time, what will be added in the future and which items to avoid for good. Step one was about making the decision to change. Step two should have only taken a day. From here onward is where we slow down, work on our patience, learn anew how to dress ourselves, and find out how we can live with fewer items in our closet, that make us feel more comfortable, more confident. Basically, how to build the perfect small wardrobe (over time).
This is a journey, really. It took me almost one and a half years to arrive where I am at today. And I'm not nowhere near where I want to be as far as sustainability and quality goes. Building the perfect wardrobe is about refusing temptation, sticking to what works, and choosing your own style over trends. It is about finding cuts, colors, materials and makers, that agree with your sense of self. It sounds too easy, but in a world where we grew up to consume and are surrounded by the most intriguing commercials all day long, this can be difficult. Avoiding impulse buys is still, at times, difficult for me.
I'm happy you followed me here though, as this is where it gets really interesting. This is, where you get to explore yourself, your style and preferences. Remember that feeling of "I have nothing to wear"? Well, that was probably, because your wardrobe, although plentiful, did not match your life and your personality. After all, the perfect wardrobe, is about you and your individuality first. Does it have to be more sustainable? I think so! Here is why: simpler, more natural and organic materials will definitely feel better on your skin. Knowing where your clothes are produced, and that the manufacturer cares about its employees, safe materials and production, as well as the environment will ultimately also make you feel better in your skin!
It will be a process, but the following pointers will get you there. With some trial and error, room for improvement and patience we can all have our perfect minimalist wardrobe over time.
Define your lifestyle
This idea is so simple and yet, so radical.
Do you own 5 sets of sweatpants, but you neither run, nor do yoga? Do you own 5 different colored pencil skirts, although you are a stay at home mom? Do you keep buying sequin shirt, after sequin shirt, although the last time you went dancing was a decade ago? Do you see where I am going with this?
It is simple. You want clothes that you can do the things in, that you do a lot! Every day, really. I am a mother, blogger and photographer. My jeans can't be too tight. I need to be able to move fast, whenever my toddler needs running after. I want clothes that can be laundered easily. I'm a hands on mother and both me and my daughter will get dirty during play. When I'm at a photography job, I need to be able to bend, jump, climb, lay down, get back up and do it all over again. For the long hours I spend in front of the computer editing and writing I want to be comfortable - no cutting waistbands, no itchy materials. I tend to be cold - cardigans get used heavily by me. I love to cook without aprons, garden without care, dance in the rain and be comfortable during my evening on the couch. My inner guru loves doing yoga, but I would be lying if I said, that I have included it into my daily routine. Long story short - my keywords are practicability and comfort.
I am also a wife and a lover. A cute date outfit or two? Sure. However, I'm straight up kidding myself if I bought one nice dress after another. And this is, where the idea gets a bit radical. It can be hard to distinguish between who we are (at this time in our life) and who we wish we were sometimes.
Another LBD for the next fine dining experience? Do you even live close to fine dining? Are you even the type to spend a couple of hundred dollars on a meal. Is your babysitter available on short notice? No, no and no? I don't think you will be needing that little black dress, even though your vision of you and your husband sitting across from each other holding hands, only separated by candlelight, wine glasses and foie gras is just too wonderful.
You loved your business job. Banking was your passion. After you had little Mason though, your passion shifted to baking cupcakes and going to the playground. You don't think you will ever go back to the 9 to 5 grind. Honestly, don't hold on to your business attire. I know it made you feel confident, smart and powerful. But it is also ok that you are happier now, running after your toddler.
I wish I could find the motivation to include more workouts into my life. But until I hit the gym four times a week, I don't need a drawer full of bright colored workout gear.
So think about what your daily life asks of you. Write down a few keywords if it helps. Afterwards, think about what you ask of your wardrobe to accommodate your lifestyle? Let go of who you were in the past and who you might wish to be in the future, because quite frankly, you are not dressing these people right now.
Find your personal style
Understandably, personal style will evolve and therefore is not an absolute constant. However, if you don't take the time and thought to develop your own style, you will always stay a victim of trends. And my friends, fashion trends can be minimalist wardrobe suicide. If you always shop the latest trends, regardless of your personal style, you will always be left with too many new items, that you don't love. How could you love something, that someone else chose for you and not yourself? With one golden exception: it is absolutely ok to get excited about fashion trends that suit your personal style once in a while.
A lot of times in the past I was drooling over a new trend. To name just a few: androgynous outfits, tulle skirts and ethno prints. I am definitely to curvy for the first. One time I took my tulle skirt out to the ballet and it was glorious. However, that does not make it a wardrobe staple. For the ethno prints? I still love those! I do. Turns out though, not so much on myself. All the colors and shapes of the prints make me quite nervous.
Personal style is all about self expression. Take you experiences from the past and play around with them. Don't follow trends blindly, but ask yourself if they ring true to you. And forget articles like "10 must-haves every woman needs in their closet". You are not "Every woman". Rather, you are you and that is why, you have your very own list of must haves.
As with my photography, or my blog, personal style is something, that typically develops over time. But when you get it right, it feels one hundred percent right. I have realized, that being authentic, is a prerequesite to creative success, happiness and also, personal style.
Choose your color palette
Sticking to a specific color palette is the number one thing that keeps me sane and my wardrobe small. My biggest issue with my old wardrobe was, that I had a ton of clothes, but nothing ever matched. It was frustrating and in hindsight cost me so many hours of my life spent trying things on, thinking about what to pack for a vacation, and matching all these colorful items.
You may think that sticking to a color palette might be very limiting. I find the very opposite to be true. While it is a restriction, it also gives me much more freedom to combine within my range. Besides, I picked colors that delight my soul and therefore I won't get tired of it.
Personally, I stick to all hues of grey, browns, black and white (your classic neutrals, really). In addition I like just a little bit of blush/soft pink to mix it up. Mustards, rust & berries for the fall and winter months.
This makes shopping a lot easier and it makes it simple to combine everything in my closet.
Now if you think neutrals are completely boring, that is fine, too. Your color palette could be a very bright one. It is also ok, to have one or two items in your minimalist wardrobe, that you absolutely adore, that are not in your color spectrum. Generally though, deciding on which colors will leave you feeling the prettiest is a huge relief.
Pick your uniform
With uniform I am not talking about a uniform in the literal sense. More so, I'm speaking about basics. The most practical wardrobe is one that consists mostly of items, that you can layer, mix and match. In addition, you will have a few more eccentric pieces. The majority of the perfect minimalist wardrobe should consist of whatever your "basics" are. For a business girl, this could be dress pants and blouses. Personally, I consider blue jeans, a basic t-shirt and a textured cardigan my ultimate everyday uniform.
My basics are a handful of tees, long sleeves and jeans. Some leggings and sweaters. 2 or 3 jeans.
Basics can be worn by themselves, or dressed up with other items if the occasion requires you to. In the past I always had to many "special pieces" and never enough basics. The result was a lot of headache over putting my outfits together. Not anymore.
Learn how to "unshop"
I'm tempted to one day write a whole post just on "unshopping" as I call it, as it is a very wide subject. But here is a brief abstract.
To me, "unshopping" means determining what are merely "wants" versus actual "needs". To resist the temptation to shop large quantities. The strength to resist brilliant marketing schemes. Basically, to be selective.
My minimalist wardrobe is about reserving my space for clothing that I absolutely love. It is also about building a more sustainable wardrobe, that consists of lasting key pieces, that will endure more than one season. Quality over quantity.
"Unshopping" is also about doing research, learning about materials, eco-friendly shopping habits and choosing ethnical manufacturers, as much as possible. After all, I, the consumer, have the power to make a difference. With every dollar spent.
This should be a given. In the past though, I did keep up with itchy tags, scratchy sweaters, or tight fits for the sake of style. Older and wiser I realize, that only if I feel good in my clothes, I will also look really good in my clothes. Confidence is sexy. So, above all, your clothes should make you feel comfortable in your skin and on your skin.
In future posts, I will pick one or the other argument from this entry back up and go into further detail, but for now, I hope that this post was informative and useful on your journey to your perfect minimalist wardrobe.
Don't forget that this is a process, a journey. A "live and learn" sort of thing.