A Minimal Wardrobe

Dear Readers,

How many of you consider yourselves minimalists? 🙋‍♀️ I’ve been on the minimalist train for a while. In terms of physical possessions, I feel like I have a normal amount of things—dishes, books, a laptop, etc.—but when we talk about clothes, well, that’s a different story.

Before we get into my journey to minimalism, let me first ask you to raise your hand (literally or rhetorically—you pick!) if any of the statements below describe your attitude toward clothes.

  • I enjoy classic, timeless silhouettes, colors, and fabrics and feel worn out chasing trends.
  • I make so many decisions, all day every day; I prefer to keep my wardrobe simple.
  • I’d rather spend more money on a quality piece I love than buy a lot of bargains to fill space in my closet.
  • Packing for a trip or going to an event is simple to me. I know just what I’d wear if invited to a special occasion, right now, no questions asked.

If any or all of the above statements resonate with you, minimalism is for you!

My journey to a minimal wardrobe began a few years ago when my boyfriend shared with me a few articles he’d been reading about capsule wardrobes and the imposition of a personal uniform. As a person who struggled with decision fatigue, the idea of a personal uniform really appealed to me. I also knew by that time that I could never hope to keep up with the fast-fashion train, and had given up the effort.

Wardrobe clean-outs have followed–annually, if not more often. I have a strict rule with myself: if I don’t wear something for a year, it goes out in the next purge. After having followed this personal rule for about 5 years, I can now begin to sense when an article of clothing has ceased to be useful to me, and give it an early boot. Last week I recycled worn-out clothes at H & M, sold some nicer pieces at a consignment shop, and donated the left-overs.

But reading (and writing) about the purge itself is boring, so let’s get to the good parts.

Why Purge?

To purge means to cleanse. Just as our homes need to be cleaned, the corners swept and the windows washed, our wardrobes must be subjected to a critical eye. A huge reason for this is for better flow—flow of our lives, flow of our emotions, and flow of our personal growth and self-definition.

10 x 10

Have you ever heard of the 10 x 10 fashion challenge? The idea is to pick out ten pieces of clothing from your wardrobe and style them into ten different looks for ten days. And don’t take “ten pieces of clothing” too literally. This doesn’t necessarily count socks, bras, scarves, belts, and shoes. The point is to see if you can do more with less.

It sounds hard, but it’s actually fairly easy. What I needed to know, though, was if I could do it. If I was really so committed to minimalism that I could actually carry a lot of different looks with just ten basic items, plus accessories.

10 x 10 on the road

Before I committed to paring things down so drastically for my wardrobe & lifestyle, I had to be convinced it would work for me. And so I decided to try packing just ten basic items for my week-long trip to Seattle this September. It was actually easy. I made a list, as I often do, and packed a pair of jeans, a pair of straight-cut grey jeggings, a pair of shorts, and several of my favorite t-shirts and sleeveless blouses. By the time that I got to the seventh or eighth items on my list, I was struggling to think what else I would take. I wasn’t even convinced I would need six possible top options. (One piece of clothing was a bridesmaid dress–and yes, I did include that dress, that I wore once, as part of my ten item limit!)

A few months later, I again packed ten items for my family Christmas visit to South Carolina. They were…

1.) Boot-cut jeans (American Eagle)
2.-4.) Pink, olive, & navy t-shirts (H & M)
5.) A candy-striped blouse (Universal Threads, Target)
6.) Hand-embroidered white blouse (A Salvation Army steal!)
7.) Bell-sleeved grey sweater (Marshall’s)
8.) Black mini skirt (Hot Topic)
9.) Three-quarter length elephant top (Marshall’s)
10.) Three-quarter length Hamsa tee (Lucky Brand, Marshall’s)

In addition to the above items, I also packed a pair of elephant shorts & a graphic tee, ten pairs of socks (WHICH WAS OVERKILL FOR SURE), eight pairs of panties (ALSO OVERKILL), one bra, tennis shoes, a scarf, black flats & tights to go with the mini skirt, and a pair of flip-flops for the shower.

I wore every top that I packed but ended up not wearing the mini skirt, or the flats and tights.

So… guess what? After I got home from South Carolina and before I turned around to go to Arkansas… I washed the above items of clothing and packed them again because… why not?? 

All this to say, I’ve proven to myself that 10 x 10 works, and I am confident that you will be able to, too.

10 x 10 for life

I have modified the challenge a bit to suit me personally. I am doing my best to consolidate myself to ten basic items for each of the four seasons. However, I understand that just ten pieces per season isn’t quite going to cut what I need. Again, I’m not counting a pair of socks or sandals as an item of clothing; I’m talking about tops, jeans, skirts, etc., and keeping them to a reasonable, classic, stylish minimum. As of today, I am down to about sixty items of clothing–shorts, skirts, t-shirts & blouses, sweaters & cardigans, jeans & joggers. And I’m sure I’ll do more consolidating in the coming weeks.

A Word About Purging The Right Way

I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that our constant sick-cycle of binge-purge (bulimia of the closet, anyone?) wreaks havoc with our precious natural resources, such as water consumption used in the dying process of textiles. So before you take anything new into your wardrobe, always ask, “Do I really need this?” If the answer involves a lot of self-justification or even a bit of equivocation, the answers is probably a no. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.

When you do buy, buy as ethically as you can. Not only is water used to dye garments, humans work to make them. Make sure that you empower and support and sustain your fellow men & women with what you buy, and from whom you buy.

When you do buy, know what you are buying. But natural fibers, and say no to synthetic fabrics–especially polyester, if you can help it. Did you know that polyester is plastic?

And when you do purge, purge the right way, too. Too many hundreds of pounds of textiles are dumped into landfills each year. (And remember what I said about polyester being plastic?) Investigate how you can reduce your footprint by recycling your textiles (check out textile recycling at Madewell and H & M!). Perhaps even better, inquire about donating clothes to women’s shelters or thrift shops. Sell your clothes on eBay or Poshmark and donate to an effective charity.

– – – – –

Sixty articles of clothing… even saying the number sixty, six sets of ten, ten sets of six, feels like too many. I can’t possibly need that many clothes, can I? And yet, it’s a huge step from where I started!

Minimalism means something different to everyone. It’s not about counting your clothes, it’s about making your clothes count. But it is also about counting clothes… about recognizing your own madness to acquire for what it is, and your madness for even trying to keep up with the steam engine that is fast-fashion. It’s about saying no to things you don’t need, and yes to things that truly spark joy and excitement and passion and creativity in you… when you wear them, when you see them, when you use them.

What’s in your closet? What used to be there? What do you want to be there some day? And what are you doing now to make your closet dreams and goals become a reality?

Best,

Camille

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