I’ve been playing with the idea of a consciously small wardrobe since 2014. I’ve tried different approaches and have read ravenously on how other people curate their minimalist wardrobes. Basically it all boils down to three approaches, and I’ll take you through the pros and cons of them all. See if any of them resonates with you while you are reading.
The 3 types of minimalist wardrobes are:
1. The Uniform
One of the most famous uniformers, Steve Jobs.
A uniform so ubiquitous nobody sees it as one.
The Uniform: For your main life activity (i.e. work) you chose a strict outfit formula – white blouse and black pants (Matilda Kahl), dark blue suit (Obama), turtleneck and jeans (Steve Jobs), gray t-shirt and jeans (Mark Zuckerberg) – obtain a sufficient number of those, and just wear that. Works if you really do not want to pay more attention to it and if seasonal weather changes are manageable.
A lot of people practice this strategy unconsciously. And, at least for men, there is a gold standard of uniforms called suit. But even among more informal people you can easily find folks with an interchangeable collection of jeans and t-shirts and/or button-downs. Few of them call it a uniform, but it does the trick.
Outcome: Never have to think about it again (only slightly adjust to weather).
2. The Marie Kondo
The Marie Kondo: You keep only stuff that brings you joy, hang all you have in your wardrobe and do not change it seasonally (partly because you have so few things it does not make sense). My favorite blog describing this kind of wardrobe experience is Paris to Go. Bea Johnson’s approach to fashion is a similar one.
Outcome: The interaction between occasions and season indicates you what to wear. For example, a formal summer occasion means that one dress, because there is no other dress. Done and done. Works if you enjoy restrictions and very streamlined decision making.
3. The Seasonal Capsule
What the difference between the strategy 2 and 3 would look like in my wardrobe. However, that wardrobe actually normally looks like this because I share it with another person (who, btw, practices a mix of strategies 1 and 2).
Seasonal capsule: you select a restricted number of pieces that you will wear this season, the rest is stored away. There are several marvelous blogs documenting this approach. My favorites are Into-Mind, Un-Fancy, Style Bee and Project 333. As you can see in the picture above, the feeling when you contrast the strategies 2 and 3 is quite different. The seasonal wardrobe works better for me because I prefer everything I see to be a real option for today. Thank you very much, but I do not want to see things irrelevant for the season.
Outcome: You can draw things from your wardrobe with your eyes closed, because all of it is curated for your style and season. Works if you keep the discipline of sticking to rather few items (~33-37 pieces, footwear included tends to be the internet consensus) and not adding stuff mid-season. This one works especially well for recovering shopaholics and browser fashionistas because the joy of selecting pieces is not stripped away completely. It’s paired down, though, to few times per year for new items and the rest of the browsing pleasure comes from shopping your own closet.
If you are aiming for an even stricter approach to your capsule, there are additional options:
Seasonal capsule, lightly controlled: As above, but you make sure you wear all of those items at least once (by switching the clothes’ hangers), either once a season or more often. Even more discipline.
Outcome: As above, but also controlling for “wardrobe impostors” that you love the idea of but actually never wear. Works if you then get rid of the poorly worn pieces.
Seasonal capsule, strictly controlled: As above, but your goal is to wear every piece as much as possible (for example, at least 10 times), you document it and this drives your styling decisions.
Outcome: As above, but is even stricter with rarely worn pieces. This approach obliges to question and, ideally, get rid of, those items that don’t get worn often enough, aiming at most wearable and versatile wardrobe. Even more discipline, the data nerd fetish + an excel sheet! This is the strategy that I follow, you can learn all about how I got here and how exactly I do it here (part I) and here (part II).
Every person practicing one these, of course, add their own twist and adjust them to their lives. But all three strategies have the potential to open space for several straightforward benefits in your life.
Which one of these three strategies – if any – sounds the most appealing to you? Would you like to try it? What do you think these changes could trigger in other areas of your life? What are the obstacles that you foresee?
A year after… 2018-02-13
Nothing has changed in the overall concepts, obviously. However, in 2017 I gave uniforms a chance by wearing 7 dresses for 3 months, here you have the rationale and here the lessons learnt. As I already suspected, that was too boring for me. And since January 2018, just to recover from the uniform boredom, I’m doing the all-visible strategy. I’m down to having around 30 pieces that need hangers, so it all still fits inside the wardrobe (and something is always in the laundry bag). It feels very abundant and slightly overwhelming to have all those garments displayed and available. Seeing the seasonally inappropriate ones does feel a bit weird, but make me look forward to wearing them!