How many times a week do you look at your clothing and think, “I have nothing to wear” even though you have hundreds of items in your closet? How often do you find yourself stopping in at Target or somewhere similar and picking up a few new pieces because they were on sale, even though you don’t really love them and didn’t really need them?
You might think an overwhelming closet filled mostly with items you only feel mediocre about is the only option, and unless you’re a particularly decisive and organized person, you’re doomed to a lifetime filled with mornings of “I have nothing to wear!” lamentations, despite the fact that you have hundreds of items in your closet.
What if I told you there was another way? A better way? A way that allowed your closet to be a source of inspiration and confidence, rather than stress and indecision?
It might seem like an impossibility, but it’s not and the key is simple—slow down and fill your closet only with things you absolutely love.
Quality Over Quantity
We’ve all heard the phrase “quality over quantity,” but while many of us agree with it in theory, particularly in the American culture, it’s the exact opposite of the habits we actually practice. When it comes to clothing especially, we’ve grown so accustomed to a seemingly endless number of cheap clothing items that we rarely stop to think about why that’s the case.
If you’re anything like me, you likely always viewed luxury stores and brands where a shirt costs more than $8 as places reserved for the rich and famous. Sure, the clothing might look gorgeous, but who could ever afford it on even a middle class salary? But have you ever stopped and taken a hard look at how much you spend on clothing from year to year?
The average American family spends at least $1700 on clothing every single year. In 1930, the average American woman owned just nine outfits, but today that number has risen to 30—one for every single day of the month.
In his piece, The Case for Expensive Clothes, Marc Bein says, “The next time you buy something, spend a whole lot on it. Enough that it makes you sweat a little.” The point, Bein explains, is to make you stop and consider whether or not you really want the piece.
The truth is, those high quality pieces that cost a little more aren’t just for the rich and famous, but they do require a shift in mindset about your closet.
It requires an actual practice of the habit of quality over quantity—recognizing that more is not always better, being deliberate about the number of pieces you bring into your wardrobe, and questioning whether or not you really need that $8 t-shirt in a seventh color.
Simplicity and Sustainability
If you follow tech news at all, chances are you’ve heard about men like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs—famed not only for building billion dollar companies, but also for wearing the exact same thing nearly every single day.
The idea behind such a practice, a sort of extreme version of a wardrobe uniform, is to reduce decision fatigue. Namely to make it easier to get dressed in the morning because your closet doesn’t overwhelm you with options, which in turn allows you to make better decisions later when faced with important ones.
If you’ve ever felt that burden of having nothing to wear even as you stare at a closet filled with dozens of pieces, simplifying your wardrobe has the potential to save you a lot of time, energy, money, and frustration.
Despite wardrobes tripling in size over the last hundred years, the average American only wears 20% of their wardrobe on a regular basis. But you still spend hours looking through the other 80% before going back to that 20% you love.
This kind of consumption not only wastes your own time and energy, but it wastes the resources of the planet. The United States generated 15.1 million tons of textile waste in 2013, of which 12.8 tons were sent to landfills.
Fast fashion has completely changed the industry and our planet isn’t equipped to deal with the demand on finite resources or the negative environmental impact of so much waste.
By shifting to that quality over quantity mindset, it saves you time choosing what to wear each morning and it saves the planet because you’re buying fewer items and wearing them longer.
Function and Fashion
They say beauty is pain and there are just some sacrifices you have to make in order to look amazing, but that’s just one (rather faulty) way of thinking.
We associate comfort with things like yoga pants and oversized t-shirts and convince ourselves that we just have to deal with pants that dig into our waist and shoes that make you feel like your feet are going to fall off.
When it comes to my own clothing, the thing that causes me to relegate a piece to the back of the closet the quickest is ease and comfort. I used to be a sucker for picking up clothing in the store that looked amazing—fabulous dresses, high heels, and shirts from super funky materials. I’d usually wear them once or twice for some special night out and every time I considered them again, I’d choose something else because they’re just so high maintenance.
The truth is, you can look amazing and be super comfortable if you choose to be. You don’t have to sacrifice function for fashion.
Despite every single list of “closet essentials” for women having at least one, if not multiple, pairs of high heels listed, I don’t own any and I never intend to. Sure, they look fantastic, but they’re uncomfortable and every single time I put a pair on, I’m wishing I’d worn flats within 20 minutes.
A Better Way
If our culture has gone the way of fast fashion, turning closets into hot messes of poor quality items causing us way more stress and anxiety than necessary, then what’s the alternative? The answer is slow fashion.
Instead of buying anything that strikes your fancy because it’s cheap and won’t put much of a dent in your wallet, slow fashion encourages you to focus on the quality and longevity of your clothing. It encourages your to declutter your closet, define your style, and transform your closet into a place that inspires and gives you confidence each day when you pull pieces out of it.
The result is a simpler life—a life where you don’t spend so much time each day trying to decide what to wear or countless hours each month and year shopping for new pieces that are probably going to fall apart in a season, thus requiring you to spend more time and money replacing them. And who doesn’t want that?