Earlier this year, the concept of minimalist came up over coffee with a friend. She had been inspired to spring clean (well, more precisely summer clean) her house having been inspired by the Netflix documentary “The Minimalists”. It was such a good conversation about what the concept of minimalism mean for each of us.
For me, minimalism is not purely about asceticism, a decluttered house or even the #minimalaesthetic I see trending on Instagram (although I do love scrolling these hashtags and accounts for inspiration). Although these are important aspects of it, for me, minimalism at its core is about letting go of things that don’t add value to my life and shedding the layers of things that don’t serve me to make more space for the things that do. I think this can be applied to things, but also experiences and how we spend our short time on this earth. Sometimes, in fact, letting go of things can also add value to another’s life as I discovered when I inherited my friend’s Shelley tea cups as a happy outcome of her decluttering.
This conversation also made me reflect on how I incorporate the concept of minimalism into my wardrobe. A classic, simple and cohesive wardrobe is definitely something I aspire to, although creating one has been a work in progress (but won’t our wardrobe’s always be?). For me, minimalism is a practice and my wardrobe is something I’m constantly refining. However, below are a few key principles I’ve developed over the years, in order to create a more minimal wardrobe.
1. It’s all about the mindset
Mindset was the biggest shift I made when transitioning from a wardrobe where I felt I had nothing to wear, to a one wardrobe filled with pieces I genuinely love and which cater to the needs of my lifestyle. I used to feel guilty spending money on clothes, I bought clothes haphazardly because they were “on sale” or without thinking of how they fitted with the rest of my wardrobe.
I used to buy dresses which I would wear once or twice over basic items which actually made up the bulk of my day-to-day outfits. When I made the shift to invest in everyday pieces that were comfortable, I loved and intentionally considered how each purchase would fit within the overall landscape of my wardrobe and life it suddenly became much easier to get dressed in the morning.
2. Edit regularly
Cliche as it might be, clothes are a canvas upon which we project our identity and image we want to show the world. However, just like personal growth, our wardrobes aren’t stagnant and what we like and feel comfortable wearing evolves and changes – and I think there’s something beautiful about that. I love investing in timeless pieces that I wear for years but the reality is that clothes do eventually reach the end of their lifetime, we are sometimes gifted things or buy things that don’t quite work for us, or our bodies and everyday needs change.
I don’t feel that we should keep these pieces “just because”. For me when I edit out the pieces I don’t, for whatever reason, wear, I find it much easier to style and get more use out of the remaining pieces in my wardrobe. I also think that clothes that I don’t wear (if in good condition) are more likely to go to good homes if I re-purpose them earlier as opposed to years down the track.
3. Capsule collection
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of a capsule wardrobe, a small collection of classic, foundational pieces. Getting the basics right makes it easier to add a few statement pieces now and again. Noting down the basic pieces I’m missing from my wardrobe and slowly building them up over time has been a game changer for creating a streamlined minimal wardrobe and simple, cohesive looks.
4. Neutral territory
If most of my wardrobe is based around a neutral colour palette I find it so much easier to style them in different ways without worrying about classic patterns and colours. My rule of thumb is to keep most of my wardrobe (say, around 80 to 90 percent) based around a neutral colour palette and then add a splash of colour for extra interest.
5. Make sure you love the items you buy
A week or so ago I was walking home from work wearing this dress and I and genuinely got so much joy out of seeing it’s skirt billowing in the wind as that was one of the features I most loved about the design when I bought it. Wearing it made me feel beautiful and made me walk a bit straighter and more confidently. If you’re on the fence about an item, don’t buy it. Wait until you find that item you can’t live without. If it’s a bit more expensive, consider saving up for it or buying it second hand.
6. Use outfit formulas
There is a reason jeans and a white tee is one for the style ages or jeans, ballet flats and a striped tee epitomes French chic. These are outfit formulas that work over and over again and are made up of pieces that you probably already have in your wardrobe. If you understand some of these basic formulas it will make it easier to style the clothes you already have in a way that is classic and timeless.
7. Take an intentional approach to “trends”
Although I do prefer classic, timeless designs that doesn’t mean that I forgo trends altogether – goodness knows I fell for balloon sleeves hard in 2020. However, like colour or patterns, I try to use them as “accent” pieces and, even though it sounds like an oxymoron, I do look for more “classic versions” of trend pieces (for example this black dress) which I’ll be able to continue to wear even after balloon sleeves make way for the next style.
8. Learn from the masters
I love finding outfit inspiration on Instagram, Pinterest, blogs and magazines. When I do, I analyze the outfit and try to replicate it using pieces from my own wardrobe.
9. Take some space
I love shopping, but sometimes we can get so caught up in the latest “it” dress or style, that we don’t step back and consider our wardrobes as a whole and what we really need. I find taking a few months off shopping now and again gives me time to genuinely enjoy wearing the pieces that I’ve invested in (after all, isn’t that the whole point of fashion?) and to take inventory of what is and isn’t working within my wardrobe.
10. Make it your own
At the end of the day we are all unique as is the clothes make us look and feel our best. I say, take all these rules with a pinch of salt and make them work for you.
About the Author: Bridie Leah is a collection of visual and written stories for the everyday minimalist; mindful, timeless style and design and meaningful conversations around life, connection and creativity.