AG Tomboy cropped jeans | on sale at 6pm, full-price at AG, not cropped at Nordstrom, in white at Piperlime
CP Shades Carine high/low top | link goes to ebay
Dieppa Restrepo loafers | same style, mine are nubuck
3.1 Phillip Lim Ryder satchel | $100 off at Forzieri until 10/13 with code 057B8A
Wardrobe minimalism is such a weighty and oft-discussed topic around the blogosphere. Even more lately it seems (see Sarge in Charge’s latest post and Une Femme’s post just this AM on simplicity). I’ve explored the idea of a pared down wardrobe for years, and even threatened to do it a few times, to no avail. Recently, I did a full closet overhaul/inventory to try and get rid of things and ended up not getting rid of much at all. I just couldn’t. Remember my white t-shirt posts and my revelation that I have at least 20? Do you know how many of those I got rid of? none. Not one. No matter how much I try and justify having 20 white t-shirts (because each one is different, blah blah blah), I DO NOT NEED 20. But I couldn’t let go of any of them.
I have too much, and I don’t want it anymore. For a person as over-analytical and critical as me, less is more – in terms of clothing anyway. And my lifestyle is such that I don’t NEED a lot; I don’t need work clothes and weekend clothes, I just need clothes.
**I’ve been writing this post for hours, editing, and removing a lot because it got out of control – I got off on a tangent of mammoth proportions, although it wasn’t really a tangent. But it did take away from the original goal of this post which was to discuss what exactly a minimal wardrobe IS. And how you achieve it.
To me, a minimal wardrobe would consist of what I would pack for a week’s vacation. Not a week to the beach, a week somewhere similar to where I live now. What would I pack so that I would look and feel my absolute best EVERY DAY without thinking too much about it. THAT is what I aspire to. That is minimal to me. What is it to you?
I love simplicity in style and the minimalist approach to outfits. I like the CP shades shirt, and wish that you could buy the label online. I also purchase them on eBay. You look like you’re ready for a fall jaunt, and maybe a pumpkin spice latte, too!
I have been struggling with the idea of a minimal wardrobe for the last few years. I did make some progress with shoes and I am definitely not buying as many things as I use to do. Now I am living in Germany with a third of my closet (the amount of clothes I could fit in a medium size suitcase) for 3 months, it’s been a challenge because I went from summer to a very cold weather in weeks so I needed to bring things for three seasons (summer, autumn and nearly winter). On the other hand I am not working so I don’t need as much clothes as if I would…A minimal wardrobe depends on your lifestyle, the place you live…so many variables I’ll keep on trying and good luck to you Grechen!!
For me, minimal would be having a wardrobe where I can get up in the morning and easily pick out an outfit that makes me feel great and is appropriate for the day with minimal fuss. That means, I don’t have to try on ten different tops with my skirt to see what looks best, but I have ten different tops that would go with my skirt, and it’s whatever I grab that day. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that means, though. It might mean picking a “uniform” and color palette for the season–like “skinny pants or pencil skirt, drapey top, blazer, statement necklace and flats” in “black with camel and leopard accents”–and all of my pieces work in that formula.
Basically, what I’d really like is a grown-up Garanimals wardrobe, which I guess translates to something like the Eileen Fisher “system” dressing. But I want my wardrobe to feel more organically put together than that, so I’ve never done it.
Grechen Reiter says
i wish cp shades sold more online also. they do have a few places that carry good selections – calypso has some of the best pieces online – i’m obsessed with this one: http://www.calypsostbarth.com/clothing/shirts-tops/view-all/teton-patch-pocket-linen-shirt
i wish it was more fall-like here, but it’s not. i have to pretend.
Grechen Reiter says
whoa. that would be a NIGHTMARE for me!! but it would be an interesting challenge…i love layering though, so it could be fun 🙂
a minimal wardrobe totally depends, you’re right. should be relatively easy for me, since i don’t work outside my home. i’m up for the challenge i think! i’m going to try and get to my idea of a minimal wardrobe in the coming year…
Just say the word, and I’ll send you some fall leaves. We have an abundance in Maine. I didn’t answer your question completely. My idea of minimalist dressing is streamlining my style, so I don’t have clothes that I rarely wear. It’s a challenge, though, because I love so many things! Don’t get me started about linen, cashmere, and artful accessories. Jen, I laughed about your Garanimals line and can relate. I own a lot of Eileen Fisher, precisely because of her mix & match-ability. Lunaday, I envy your access to European designers.
Grechen Reiter says
i’m going to try for it – by my 42nd birthday i’m going to have a “minimal” wardrobe – my idea of one anyway…
i think your idea of minimal is great – it’s not about the number of tops, it’s more about how they go with what you have. i guess i have always tried to make sure that most of what i own goes together (hello!! all neutral-wardrobe 🙂 ), but i can see how if you get caught up buying this top to go with this skirt, you could have a lot of disconnect. i don’t think minimal has to be in terms of the numbers of things you have, but i think, for ME, it would help to have fewer.
but then i get stuck on the white tees again: i feel like i need a crewneck, a v-neck, a scoop-neck and a slouchy top, and then long-sleeve versions too, so that’s 8 white tees already. ugh!
I just got back from a three-week trip to the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver and Seattle). I never felt deprived with my minimalist wardrobe, so I, too, am striving for that kind of “everything I own could fit in a suitcase” minimalism at home. The problem I have is that whilst trying to create a minimalist wardrobe, I feel that every item must be perfect in order to justify its closet space, and to justify wearing regularly. But I’m so picky, very few things meet my standards. So I buy something that is “good enough,” and then six months later, buy something similar that is marginally better, all the while trying to achieve perfection. Does anyone else feel that they can never find the “perfect” wardrobe if they limit themselves to fewer pieces?
Laurel, before we moved to Maine, I lived in the Pacific Northwest for years. I lived in layers, and still do. I understand what you’re saying, because I’m also very particular about my clothes. I don’t strive for “perfection” anymore, though, since it’s impossible to achieve. So I’m increasingly content with quality pieces. If I buy items that I truly love, not because they’re bargains, I end up keeping them in my closet.
Sarge in Charge says
I definitely like that idea- stick with a palette and a few shapes, and then almost everything will work together- and hopefully will all get worn. I sorta do the same thing with my house, now that I think about it. I pretty much only buy things in a few colors and find that I can rotate things around easily when I need a change.
Similar to what Laurel wrote, I find that whenever I travel I can get away with a very minimal wardrobe (in my suitcase…I too wish I could translate this to my closet at home. I have also cut back on buying impulse purchases, but also am plagued by wanting every piece in my wardrobe to be perfect. Sigh. It’s not happening anytime soon on my budget! I find that for me, being minimal has meant really thinking purchases through, and sticking to basics that I love. Those are the pieces that are in constant rotation. Quality is paramount to me, so it helps me to be “minimal” by not shopping at some of the “big box” stores.
RJS, I live in Ottawa, Canada, so come winter, we can swap tips on keeping warm! That’s when it’s really hard to have a minimalist wardrobe because you end up wearing everything you own layered at the same time!
Laurel, I’d like to exchange layering tips and techniques. There’s already a brisk bite in the air. I’ve found that a few lighter pieces work well, because they’re not too bulky. Otherwise, I’ll look like a baby bear. BTW: I love Canada, and we want to visit Ottawa someday. When I do, I’d appreciate shopping and coffee suggestions:).
Grechen Reiter says
YES. this is the problem i’ve found – i try to find THE PERFECT whatever and it paralyzes me. or in an effort to find the perfect white tee, i collect twenty of them. each of them perfect, in a way. maybe there’s no need to have THE ONE perfect pair of skinny jeans, or boots, or whatever. something close will be okay. i think what i want to try and do is just buy what i love – what really speaks to me – and that way i’ll always love it, even if something else “better” comes along. that’s what i’ve realized by going through my closet lately, that i have SO MANY things that I really do love that i don’t need anything else.
of course, as i say that, i’m adding things to my cart at shopbop in anticipation of the friends & family code…
THERE is the problem. although i do have lots of amazing cashmere sweaters and cardigans, i do not have a good open, long cardigan. – see the issue? i can get lost in all the types or styles of pieces i’d like to own: a cropped military jacket, a long, oversized military jacket. why not just A MILITARY JACKET? because each one is different and goes with different things. so how do we/I convince ourselves that we only need one jacket that will probably serve the majority of our needs, instead of two?
Grechen Reiter says
i started to spend more $ and collect more things when i started shopping more at H&M, ZARA and forever21 over the summer to fill the needs of my changing body. i go in and see such great deals (and at zara, things I really really want) and i buy them. Some pieces have served and will continue to serve me well in my wardrobe, but others have come and gone. i think i can get back to a more minimal wardrobe if i stop shopping at those places, and save my budget for more special items.
Here’s my minimalist story: At the beginning of the summer I had to spend a week in Austria because my mom fell and broke her leg (long story) and I packed a perfect minimalist wardrobe, and thought AHA! But when I got back to NYC the weather was 99 degrees everyday, and yet subzero freezing at my job, and my “perfect” wardrobe didn’t work at all!
I work p/t at a very low-key place (academic library) where I wear whatever I want, and the rest of the time I work at home, so like you I think I should be able to have a very minimal wardrobe, and yet my closet and drawers are overflowing, even after a huge purge.
In the past I’ve resolved to make do with what I have, and gone for 9 months with buying anything new. It has helped, in that I’ve been better able to identify actual holes in my wardrobe (rather than the ones I perceive 😉 ) but it’s difficult.
I don’t have the thing about the “perfect” items of clothing that other people have described. I am perfectionist about accessories, however, but somehow I think that’s easier. Perhaps I am just kidding myself.
Grechen Reiter says
i’ve thought about doing a “no-buy” for some time, but i don’t think i could do it for 9 months!!! I do think it would help me to identify what i truly need vs. what i want. But like i’ve said before, there’s nothing that i truly need. i mean, who “needs” 10 cashmere sweaters? especially when you live in TX? if i didn’t buy anything else for a year, i would still have enough…i might feel behind or like i don’t have “the perfect ________”, but not like i don’t have enough.
Joanna, we just wish it was “easier.” I’m insane about accessories, and have spent hours trying to pick the perfect ones. Grechen, when I lose weight, I hate having to replace my favorite pieces. Sometimes, I have them altered. Obviously, that’s not always possible. It’s like losing a dear friend, though, when I give them to Goodwill or consign the clothes.
This is a great thread! After reading all these comments, it got me thinking. I wrote earlier that I’m rather picky, but on reflection, I don’t think I am. When I said I’m looking for the “perfect” whatever, I think my list of wants is rather reasonable. I am now wondering if the things I want in a garment are hard to find–that designers and manufacturers aren’t meeting my needs. I want knit garments that can be machine-washed and don’t develop a hole in the first or second wash. I want jersey that isn’t so see-through you can spit through it. I want colours that don’t fade. I want things manufactured in North America. I want pant legs and shirt sleeves long enough for my 5’8″ frame. I want something I can wear in an airplane straight to a nice dinner. I want pants with zip pockets to securely hold my boarding pass and passport. I want shoes and raincoats that are waterproof. I don’t think that’s too much to ask! So I keep striving for “perfection,” which to me really means–things that are worth the investment and fit my lifestyle and can stand up to the test of being one of just a handful of items in a minimalist wardrobe. Le sigh.
RJS, do you wear lots of mohair and cashmere in the winter? That’s how I keep warm without being too bulky. As for shopping tips in Ottawa, my number one tip would be to shop in Montreal! 🙂 That’s what I do. There are so many fabulous Quebec-based indie designers, it’s heaven.
TOTALLY agree with both of you about CP Shades. Why don’t they sell online? It’s really hard to track down the pieces that I want. GRR…Isn’t the point to make shopping and purchasing easier for the consumer? Tangent…Sorry!
I knew a woman who had a week’s worth of clothes. She literally wore the same thing every Tues., every Saturday, etc. I couldn’t do that, nor would I want to! It would take away the spontaneity of getting dressed according to my mood and what I wanted to express that day.
I’m all for minimal, in theory. In fact, I believe in it as an ethical way to live. But I haven’t found a way to successfully achieve that in my wardrobe. Still a work in progress…Updates to follow. 😉
Laurel, in answer to your question, I always wear cashmere and alpaca in the winter. I like mohair, but it’s too itchy for my sensitive skin. Funny, you should mention shopping in Montreal. I can’t wait to visit Quebec, and I also adore indie designers. I think that we’re both on the same style page:).