If you’ve followed along over the last few months, I’ve written more and more about my reliance on shopping, specifically for clothes as a pass-time, a stress-reliever, and simply as something I enjoy doing on a regular basis. Pair that behaviour with overwhelming guilt about my consumption and my desire to do better by the planet, and you get a lot of contradictions and frustration rolling around in my head. While I know that simply not buying clothes would be the most ethical, sustainable, and eco-friendly solution – I am not there yet. I still enjoy fashion, putting together outfits, and finding a great item whether that be from a local shop, an ethical brand or a thrift store. Slowly but surely, I am trying to mitigate my drive to consume fashion, and my love of beautiful things, and marry my behaviours to my values. Adopting a minimalist (or minimalist aspiring) wardrobe has helped me to feel better about how I consume clothing and how I curate my personal style. I’m going to share the steps that I use to create and maintain my wardrobe. I’ve pulled things from the resources I’ve used over the years; from books like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and New Minimalism to Youtubers like Use Less and Jenny Mustard. I’ve taken ideas from minimalism, sustainable shopping, and capsule wardrobes and mashed them all up into a system that works for me and hopefully will be helpful for you too.
- Decide on three style adjectives to describe your personal style. Jenny mustard suggested this tip in her video “How To Find Your Personal Style.” She suggests writing down all the words you can think of to describe your personal style. Then go through the list and circle the top three words that encapsulate your own style. The words you choose should be able to describe your overall look and individual outfits within your wardrobe. You might not use all three adjectives to describe every single outfit you put together, but one of the words should fit with every outfit. Having these three words helped me to discern what I should bring into my wardrobe and what I should let go of. There are plenty of items that I really like, but that don’t actually fit my style. These are the items that I love the idea of, but just never end up wearing. By defining your style in three words, the items that don’t fit become very apparent. You don’t want more than three adjectives because, firstly, you want to be able to remember them all easily and secondly, you may find it difficult to narrow in on your personal style if you’re using more descriptors. The more style words you use, the more items will fall within one of the categories, making it harder to create a cohesive look and really curate your style. Also, you don’t have to limit your descriptors to words associated strictly with fashion; expand the list to reflect your lifestyle and your values as well. The three words I chose are conscious, casual and contemporary. Here are some more to get you started: sophisticated, chic, preppy, classic, edgy, casual, sporty, unique, luxe, feminine, androgenous, minimalist, maximalist, simple, bold, vintage, whimsical, contemporary, colourful, monochrome, practical, vegan, Scandinavian, Western, medieval, mod, seventies, etc…
- Decide on your number of items. A lot of minimalist or capsule wardrobe systems have a specific number of items that you should widdle your wardrobe down to. This is basically what I am recommending as well, however, I think you have to come up with your own number, for your space, and your specific needs rather than adhering to a system someone else has created for themselves. For me, I try to keep less than 40 items hanging in my closet. The number of each category of items is not important to me, but it does include shirts (t-shirts, button downs, long sleeved shirts), sweaters (pull over and cardigans) dresses (casual and occasion-wear), skirt(s) – I only have one, pants, blazers, scarves, hats, belts. Not included are underwear, pjs, work out clothes, jackets, shoes, but I do go through those regularly as well to make sure they are not piling up. 40 items (or less) in my closet is the perfect number for me to feel good in the space that I have. When I accumulate more, I start to feel overwhelmed by the options and frustrated by the clutter. I suggest you go through every item in your closet and assess it by asking “do I love this?” “Have I worn this in the last six to twelve months?” “Does this fit my personal style?” (refer to your three style adjectives). If you don’t love it, why are you holding on to it? If you haven’t worn it in the last six to twelve months, try putting it away for a season or two. If you aren’t excited to see it when you pull it back out, and you still don’t reach for it, it may be time to let it go. If the item doesn’t fit with your three style adjectives, try to be discerning about whether or not it’s worth holding on to. Maybe it would really suit one of your friends instead. If it’s still in good condition, chances are it will get more use from someone else.
- Invest in what you already own. Instead of buying another pair of 40 dollar pants, why not invest that money in a pair you already own? I got my first pair of jeans tailored over the summer, and now I am a total convert! They are by far my favourite pair of jeans now. A few weeks ago, I took in another three pairs to be taken in, and to have a few repairs done. I spent more money at the tailor than I was expecting to, but it was really worth it because it has given the items that I already owned new life. If I hadn’t gotten them repaired and tailored they probably would’ve continued to go unworn, only to probably have ended up in a donation bin months later, then potentially thrown into a landfill because of the minor tears and imperfections. My clothing is my responsibility, and though I am not the one tossing it in the garbage, I don’t know how many of my items I donate are ultimately thrown in the trash. The longer we can keep and wear the clothing we already have, the better. Another point is that by getting the items tailored, I feel more connected to my clothes because they fit me perfectly and I’ve invested in them. I also feel more connected to my community through supporting a local business. We are so disconnected from the manufacturing of our clothing – we don’t get to see the makers who work so hard; we don’t have a say in how they’re made; and we don’t really know where our money is going and who it is supporting. By paying for tailoring, I know that my money is supporting the skilled labor of a member of my community. I’m developing a relationship with someone else in my neighbourhood. I’m supporting their well-being by supporting they’re business, and they are giving my clothing a longer life which is great for me, and better for the planet. And on top of that, I have several pairs of jeans that fit my butt perfectly 😉
- Store away clothes – even the ones you still really like. Since starting a capsule wardrobe, I’ve discovered the benefit of putting away clothing that I still like wearing. Obviously you’re going to put away your big chunky knits when spring and summertime rolls around and you’ll put away your tank tops after summer ends, but I’m talking about putting away some of the items that you could potentially wear all year round. Retire some of your basic faves even if you could wear them all year. That way, when you go to change your wardrobe around again, you will have items that you’re still really into and excited to wear again. Not only do you get the benefit of the excitement of shopping your own closet, but you also give your ride or die items time to relax and elongate their shelf life, if you will. This can also work with items that you’re getting sick of. If you put them away and out of sight for six months, suddenly they feel shiny and new again. Rather than letting them sit in your closet for the same amount of time, seeing them everyday and feeling fatigued by all your options, instead and store them away for a while, and see if absence makes the heart grow fonder. Obviously you have to adjust your wardrobe according to the seasons based on temperature and activities but go one step further and decide on a look or a colour palette for the season, and omit anything that doesn’t fit, even if that includes items you still really like to wear on a regular basis. By keeping your clothes moving in and out of your wardrobe, it keeps you engaged with what you have, and creates excitement when bringing items back in to switch up your look.
- Create a wish list and keep it updated. Since beginning my “No Impulse Shopping Challenge” at the beginning of August, I started keeping multiple wish lists on my phone – one of which is a clothing wish list. I’ve found that keeping a list of the items that I want to purchase has greatly reduced the frequency of my clothing shopping. I’m not necessarily shopping less – I still love going in to stores and browsing, but having the list keeps me on track with what I actually need and what would add value to my life, rather than being tempted by things are pretty but totally unnecessary. Not only has creating a wish list helped me to not be so swayed in the stores, it has also lead to more considered and measured purchases. I know what I’m looking for, and I know what criteria I have when trying to find the items. My criteria is to first look for it secondhand, then if I can’t find it, look for it locally from an ethical brand, and finally if I still haven’t found it, look for it online from an ethical or eco-conscious brand. By following this criteria I feel so much more excited and satisfied with my purchases because I know that I’ve really taken the time to find the item and have done my due diligence to purchase it in a more sustainable way than simply buying from a name brand or a brand whose practices I know nothing about.