I have always hated excess in my closet, and I usually want to get rid of an item as soon as I don't like it anymore. Detoxing my wardrobe has never been a problem for me and yet, for years, I was stuck in the vicious cycle of never having anything to wear. I used to follow the same approach to shopping as most other fashion-conscious students on a budget: I shopped mainly at places like H&M and searched for bargains there, to get the most amount of clothes for my money. While those purchases might have satisfied me for one or two seasons at most, I also got what I paid for, i.e. cheap clothes just don't last that long. And: Since my shopping strategy was based on bargain hunting, I would buy on a whim and make rash decisions, which meant I often bought items that weren't quite my style and didn't harmonise with the rest of my wardrobe. A good bargain would also make me compromise on things like the feel of the material and the fit, so on multiple occasions I bought items that I never ended up wearing because they just didn't feel good on my skin or did not flatter my shape. Basically, because of my shopping strategy my closet was filled with many imperfect items, which meant that after a wardrobe detox, I pretty much had to replace the majority of my clothes; and the vicious cycle started again.
Clearly, my shopping strategy had to change. On a quest for a better method I came across minimalism, which is a relatively well-defined concept in areas such as art and design, but I think it also perfectly applies to fashion (or rather, personal style):
"Minimalism is not defined by what is not there but by the rightness of what is and the richness with which this is experienced." John Pawson
Letting minimalist ideas guide your approach to fashion does not mean sticking to a visually minimalist style (although it can); instead it is about embracing the minimalist concept of having less but making sure that everything you do have fits your aesthetic taste and lifestyle perfectly. To me, a minimalist approach to personal style consists of the following elements:
- Simplicity. The focus lies on creating a fuss-free wardrobe consisting of a small, but perfectly curated selection of items, that is tailored to your aesthetic preferences and lifestyle and contains no imperfect items that take up space and distract from the essence of your style.
- Function. Rather than accumulating a bunch of individual pieces, the minimalist approach involves collecting a set of harmonizing items that are optimally adjusted to your lifestyle. The approach requires a close analysis of your daily activities and both your practical and emotional requirements. The final goal is a wardrobe that suits your needs exactly and allows you to quickly put together an outfit for every occasion.
- A defined personal style. Above all, the minimalist approach is about defining your own personal style, and building your wardrobe around it. There is no point in reducing your wardrobe to a small number of expensive, high-quality items, if you are going to be over them by next year, so developing a strong, refined personal style and a stable awareness of your preferences is key.
- Self-expression. Personal style is a means of self-expression. Rather than following current fashion trends, the minimalist approach is about perfecting a signature look and creating a unique collection of items that closely reflects your style and aesthetic judgement and is free from imperfect items that taint that reflection.
- Quality over quantity. The approach is about choosing quality over quantity: the fit, fabric, colour and cut of every piece in your wardrobe should match your needs and preferences, and garments must be well-crafted to last several years.
- Investing. The minimalistic approach is based on the idea of investing money and, more importantly, time and thought in your wardrobe. Note: you do not need a huge budget. In fact, I think that a big budget can sometimes zap creativity, because it removes the need to carefully weigh up your choices. Investing in your clothes means putting in time and effort to find the best quality and fit within the confines of your budget (e.g. choosing a well-designed 80£ jumper over several less-than-ideal 20£ ones).
- Originality. The minimalist approach does not prescribe a certain set of ‘wardrobe essentials’ and is not dependent on a visually classic or minimalist look. Rather, it suggests a method for making choices: You can have a bohemian, extravagant or eclectic style and still use the minimalist approach to stock your wardrobe full of well-selected items that fit your taste and lifestyle.
- Evolution. Following the minimalist approach does not mean settling on one look and sticking to it for the rest of your life because even a well-defined personal style will evolve, alongside your lifestyle and aesthetic preferences. Instead, the minimalist approach is a continuous process of defining and refining your style, re-assessing your needs and adjusting your wardrobe accordingly.
A defined personal style and a matching wardrobe can’t be cooked up in a weekend, it is a long process that involves a lot of planning, introspection and sometimes, simple trial-and-error. To keep me on the right track I have created a little list of rules; feel free to adapt it according to the areas you want to focus on.
- Define my personal style
- Aim for a small collection of high-quality items
- Focus on creating a strong foundation of key pieces and basics
- Do not buy anything that is less than perfect, especially do not scrimp on fit or material
- Spend as much time and thought as needed to find each item
- Own only items that I wear frequently, can see myself wearing for several seasons and that will last for several years
- Return or sell items if they don't work out (always keep receipts)
- Care well for my clothes, i.e. wash them properly, hand wash if necessary, don't leave them on the floor, take them to the dry cleaner, etc.
I intentionally named this post 'a minimalist approach to personal style' (as opposed to 'a minimalist approach to fashion'), because the minimalist idea is so applicable to other lifestyle areas that are dependent on your style, such as your living space or your beauty routine. In fact, I would say that my make up and beauty routine is almost completely minimalist-ified; my wardrobe is probably closer to the 70% mark.
Click here to see my other wardrobe planning posts, and here to find out how I use the minimalist approach to build my own wardrobe. If you are just getting started, I suggest you start with a big wardrobe detox and a lifestyle analysis.
*image via Tetinotete