I have come to accept that my personal style will never be described as “Minimalist”. I tried a 30 day capsule wardrobe challenge last year and hated it. While most people report a feeling of freedom when they limit their clothing choices, I felt stifled. The simple truth is that I love clothes. I love playing dress-ups and expressing myself through fashion. My style is very eclectic, drawing inspiration from multiple decades, movements and pop culture icons. I don’t feel that my personal style can be distilled into a capsule wardrobe.
When I began embracing a more minimlistic lifestyle, I thought carefully about how I could work those principles into my wardrobe. The 30×30 challenge clearly revealed that a capsule wardrobe wasn’t going to work for me. I wanted to make my wardrobe more minimal without depriving me of the variety that I love. And I’ve managed to come up with a few strategies that have worked very well for me.
Start with a cull
Step one in my minimalism journey was having an enormous wardrobe purge. I was ruthless in this process and threw away about one third of all the clothing I owned. I hit the reset button on my closet and my brain.
Identify bad habits
As I was clearing out my closet, I noticed patterns in the clothes I didn’t wear. I’d fallen into the trap of buying lots of similar types of things which then sat in my closet untouched. For example, I owned a ridiculous number of stiletto heels. I absolutely love high heels, but I don’t wear them very often at all. I have a couple of pairs of mid-height heels that I reach for regularly, but my closet was overflowing with spindly sky-high heels that made my feet cry. I really wanted to be the kind of person who wears stilettos every day, but I’m genuinely far happier in sandals, boots or wedges. In the months that followed, I recognised the tug I felt when I saw a beautiful pair of shoes in a store, and stopped myself from buying them.
Embrace your current size
My body shape has changed dramatically in the last six years. When I hit 25 I gained a little weight, and my body fat started distributing itself in a totally different way. I suddenly grew a pair of hips, my waist became more defined and my bust got larger. This changed the way that a lot of my old clothes fit me. For a long time I felt disappointed that many of the outfits I loved no longer felt comfortable to wear. But I then realised that with a totally different shape, I could experiment with cuts and styles that hadn’t really suited my old figure. I got rid of the clothes that don’t work with my current shape. Now when I reach into my wardrobe, I know that everything fits and everything suits me. I feel more confident and I spend less time obsessing over what to wear.
Keep only what you need
I took a close look at staples like underwear, sleepwear, socks and stockings and made an assessment of how many of each I truly needed. I now only buy these items to replace something that has worn out, and don’t go crazy stocking up on basics because they’re on sale.
Try before you buy
I used to have a terrible habit of walking into a store, picking up an armload of clothing and taking it all to the checkout without trying it on. I’ve lost count of the number of times I guessed at my size, only to get home and realise my purchase looked awful or didn’t fit.
Now I have a rule that I’m not allowed to buy an item unless I’ve tried it on first. At least half of the items I pick up have gone back on the shelf because a quick try-on has revealed that they don’t suit me. Sometimes I choose something and I feel like I can’t be bothered taking it to the fitting room. That feeling is a signal that I need to put it back on the rack. If I don’t like it enough to be bothered trying it on, then I don’t like it enough to give it a space in my wardrobe.
Only buy it if you love it
I have become extremely fussy about the clothes I buy. In the past I’d buy anything that tickled my fancy, but now I limit my purchases to items that I truly love. If I’m shopping for a particular item, like a new pair of boots, I make a list of exactly what I want. I’ll note the specific style, the height of the heel, the colour and what outfits I plan to wear them with. Then I will only buy an item that ticks all the boxes. I don’t settle for things that are almost right.
Maintaining a minimalist wardrobe is an ongoing process. I will have a little mini-cleanup every month or so to take stock and identify anything that’s worn out or hasn’t been touched recently. This helps me to keep on top of what I have, and ensures that my wardrobe is filled only with items that are earning their place.
Fashion is one of my great loves, and I don’t ever want to give up my gorgeous wardrobe. But thinking more critically about what I’m buying has definitely helped me to save money and space. I feel like I’ve got an even better handle on my personal style and I feel more confident because I’m honest about what suits me. I don’t think that you have to have a capsule wardrobe to work minimalism into your closet. All it takes is a critical eye, an honest mind and a little time to find the approach that works for you.