The notion of having a curated wardrobe, decluttering your possessions, and adopting a minimal lifestyle is getting more and more popular in the online world these days, and for a long time I didn't pay much attention because I thought it wasn't for me. Although I agreed with it all in theory and I can appreciate it on an aesthetic level, I also love displaying sentimental bits and pieces on my walls and in my living space, and I have never once found myself daydreaming about a monochrome capsule wardrobe made up of 30 pieces of clothing. It always seemed like there were too many rules you had to follow that don't fit with my lifestyle or personal tastes.
But after looking into it in greater depth and following some great bloggers and YouTubers for a while, I can see that actually, there are no rules, and that it's up to you to adapt the principals of minimalism to your life in a way that works for you, not the other way around. You don't have to be come a hardcore minimalist who counts everything they own and turns it into their whole life. You don't even have to feel comfortable with calling yourself a minimalist, but you can incorporate elements of the lifestyle at your own pace and see where it takes you.
Although I wouldn't refer to myself a minimalist, I do know that it doesn't have to be a one size fits all thing, and there's no rule book you have to live by. The bottom line is you're the only person you have to justify your choices to, so if you've got a reasonable level of self control then once you make the decision to stop buying mindlessly, it's up to you to follow through on that. There's no minimalism police who'll get mad at you for not being "minimal enough" or for having too many different colours in your wardrobe, it's your journey and you can do it in whatever way works for you.
Although I really enjoy a lot of the resources on minimalism I've found, I feel like most of the bloggers and YouTubers in that sphere are already well and truly established in their lifestyles, so although their advice can be really helpful, sometimes it's difficult to relate to when I'm right at the start of my journey and I'm still trying to figure things out. I can't exactly implement a one-in-one-out policy with my wardrobe when I'm in a style rut and have just moved to a new country with a totally different climate.
Everyone's life is different and some bits of advice I've read are fantastic, while others would never work for me, so I wanted to put down some of my thoughts when it comes to curating my wardrobe in my own way and show you that aspects of minimalism can be for everyone as long as you adapt it to your life in a way that works for you. Hopefully reading my thought processes might help some of you if you're also at the start of your journey, or if like me you've previously felt too intimidated to even begin.
You Should Own As Little As Possible
Despite the name, minimalism is not necessarily about owning the bare minimum you can get by with. Although some people might feel accomplished in owning as few clothes as possible, that's not something that appeals to me because I would personally feel like I didn't get to have fun with my style or experiment with it. Minimalism is actually just about not hanging on to excess stuff that you don't wear, or buying any more of it. If you have 100 pieces in your wardrobe but you love and cherish every one of them, and can honestly justify owning them to yourself, then who's to say you're excluded from the minimalist club because it's over some imaginary "allowed" number of items? As long as it's legitimately valuable to you then it's not junk, is it?
I'm sure by now everyone has heard this phrase, but the things you keep should either be functional and necessary, or they should spark joy. It's become a bit of a cliche but it's still the best way to describe it. Everyone can think of items in their wardrobe that spark joy and that make them feel great, so wouldn't it be incredible if everything you owned made you feel that way? Rather than hanging on to things because you feel guilty about getting rid of them, or because you've formed some sort of emotional bond with the item, just let go of those things and you'll feel so much better getting dressed every day when you don't have to mentally weave through all the clothes that don't make you feel 100%. You don't have to get rid of 90% of what you own, you just have to be honest with yourself and let go of the things that you don't need or love and you're on the right track.
Minimal Style is Compulsory
This misconception is the main thing that turned me off the idea of minimalism for quite a while, along with the fact that there seems to be a very clear style that's become associated with the movement. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, that very clean, modern, monochromatic look with a wardrobe that consists almost entirely of black, white and grey. While I think this is beautiful, it's just not me. It's not what sparks joy for me and wearing outfits in that style wouldn't make me feel comfortable or like I'm being true to myself.
But just because that's the most common style that's associated with minimalism, doesn't mean I can't try to have a more intentional and minimal lifestyle but still dress in a way that I like. No one ever said I had to strip away my personality so I'd fit into some idea of what a minimalist looks like. If you do enjoy that style, then more power to you. I think it can look beautiful, elegant and understated, but it's taken me a while to realise that just because that's not right for me, doesn't mean there isn't room for me to take an interest in minimalism and to try and adopt the principles of it into my own life when I'm choosing what's in my wardrobe.
This was another thing that initially drove me away, because I've never thought a capsule wardrobe would be for me, and frankly I still don't. Although I'm sure they're a really helpful tool for people who are trying to identify and define their personal style, or for those who feel like they need to implement some disciple into their lives and want a challenge, it's by no means essential on the path to a curated wardrobe. I personally don't feel comfortable with getting rid of things for the sake of reaching some arbitrary number, and only being "allowed" to own a certain number of items feels far too restrictive to me. My main issue, which I talked about in my style rut post, is that I feel like I have nothing to wear to work. One of the key reasons for this is that I don't feel like office attire sparks joy or reflects my personality, but a girl's gotta eat, right? So how could I ever create one wardrobe that both sparks joy and is practical when those two things are complete opposites for me?
The answer is that I have to have two separate wardrobes - one for work and one for fun and there aren't many clothes that cross over between the two. I treat them as two totally different things as they both have different needs in terms of getting them to where I want them to be. In saying that, some of the ideas behind a capsule wardrobe, like making sure that all your items work with each other is definitely something I'm keeping in mind as I'm building up my work wardrobe because the last thing I want is to buy anything that feels like dead weight a couple of months down the track, but I don't personally think I'll ever have a need to do a capsule wardrobe experiment in the traditional sense.
Build a Wardrobe to Suit Your Lifestyle
This is a piece of advice that's had a big impact on me and made me realise that I need to take a good, hard look at what I own and be realistic and let a lot of things go. A great suggestion is to draw a pie graph and divide it up based on the amount of time you spend doing certain activities/the clothes you wear, i.e. work, weekends, loungewear, exercise, formal occasions, etc. Your wardrobe should be a reflection of this. Why have 20 formal/occasion dresses when you hardly ever go to events? Why have 10 pairs of trainers if you never work out? Or in my case, why have a wardrobe where two thirds of it are clothes you can only wear on weekends when you spend 5 days a week at work?
Most of the content I've read about minimalism comes from people who are fortunate enough to work from home, or who generally don't have to dress for an office environment. This means that I haven't found much advice when it comes to creating a curated workwear wardrobe, because most of these people have different needs to me. While I don't (and hopefully never will) work in a full blown, suit every day corporate environment - because the thought alone makes me feel dead inside - I still feel restricted in what I can wear and I think at this point the only solution is to just suck it up and be realistic about it.
If I take the time to think about what I can wear that will also make me feel happy and confident, and I invest the money into making this a reality, then I'm sure I can find a way to make it work for me. Also as a side note, if you do wear a suit to work every day and it makes you feel empowered and kickass then I hope you don't think I'm being rude, it just doesn't make me feel that way at all.
Define your Style
Another common piece of advice is to think of a few words to exactly pin down your style, and then use those words as your guide when deciding on whether or not to buy or keep something. While this is a great piece of advice, especially if you're still trying to define your personal style, this one only half works for me. When it comes to weekend clothes I know my style well enough that I don't feel like I need words to help me pick out things that appeal to me, plus I still enjoy experimenting and wearing pastels one day and all black the next and I feel totally comfortable doing that. But in terms of a work wardrobe I have actually found this to be really helpful.
I didn't think I would, but once I started really thinking about my work wardrobe and creating a pinterest board for workwear inspiration, it's become really helpful to pin down exactly what I'm going for and it really helps you stay on track when you're looking for new items. Of course, if you have a uniform, or if what you wear at work and in your day to day life don't differ too much then you won't have the same issue as me. But either way, if you're looking to really define your style then I definitely recommend looking for some visual inspiration and then finding your words because it can be a really good tool when you're not really sure what you're trying to go for.
Work With a Defined Colour Palette
The idea of this is to pick a few primary colours and base your whole wardrobe around them. Of course, most people choose neutrals, so something along the lines of black, white, navy, grey, denim, camel, etc., and then you add a couple of accent colours into the mix. To me this advice seems like it's really catered towards people who either aren't very confident with matching up different pieces and putting outfits together, or people who are going for that minimal style. I don't fall into either of those categories so I'm not sure this one is for me.
While I certainly agree that all your basic items that you rely on all the time should be in neutral, safe colours, there's nothing that says your pieces that get changed around more often have to be limited. For example, if you often wear a black skirt or pants to work, what difference does it make what colour your top is? It can be any colour or any pattern and it will still go with your basics. Given that dresses are essentially an outfit on their own, why do they have to be neutral if you're teaming them with neutral accessories?
And of course this doesn't work at all for my fun wardrobe, because although black is a staple and I enjoy combining it with say navy and red, I also love pastels and if I find something amazing that's vintage I'm hardly going to pass it up because it doesn't fit into a defined colour palette. As I said, I definitely think your basics should be in neutral shades, but there's no reason your entire wardrobe has to be neutral if colour is what sparks joy in you.
Quality Over Quantity
Now this is definitely a piece of advice I'm getting on board with. I can't say that I'm never going to buy from more affordable shops ever again, and I'm certainly not in a position to invest in a designer wardrobe, but instead of being about money this is more about textiles for me. I'm really keen to learn more about which fabrics breath, wash and last better than others, and I'm hoping to build a wardrobe of staples that will last more than a year or two. And with my change in climate, I need clothes that are practical and will actually keep me warm through a Canadian winter. I feel like there's a lot to learn and there's plenty of conflicting advice out there. Some people say to only go for natural fibres because they breathe better, will last longer and are automatically better quality. But I've read that a lot of companies use blends of both natural and synthetic fibres because they stretch or hold their shape better over time. Plus things like leather boots aren't going to last in the rain, and apparently cotton isn't very good for keeping you warm (something about sweat wicking)?
This is definitely one I'm still trying to navigate when choosing new items. I do know that I don't like stiff, acrylic jumpers or thin, scratchy polyester shirts or dresses because I find them uncomfortable and polyester always seems to need a wash after one wear because it absorbs smells so quickly. But technology has come a long way and there are plenty of synthetic fibres that feel really comfortable these days, you just generally have to pay more for better quality. Now I'm constantly checking labels to see what clothes are made of and how the garment feels to determine if I think it's worth buying or not. If you've ever looked into it yourself and have any advice or can link me to some resources about what I should be looking for I would love that!
I thought if you're in the same position as me you might like some links to some of the people I've been following online who create minimalism or intentional style related content. Most of them don't share a similar sense of style with me, but at this stage it's been really interesting to me to gather inspiration and ideas from a range of different perspectives and to get my head around the basics as I've been easing my way into the whole thing.
- The Private Life of a Girl - I've been following Sophie's blog for years, back before it was mostly a blog about minimalism, and I think having her in my feed and being exposed to minimalism before I started to actively look for content myself has been a huge influence in opening me up to the whole idea.
- The Anna Edit - of course I got into Anna's blog & YT channel because originally she was mostly a beauty blogger, so it's the same story with her as it has been with Sophie. It took me a while to get into it, but eventually I started to love her capsule wardrobe content and I really enjoy hearing the thought process behind each of her purchases because every one is intentional and that's the way it should be.
- Mademoiselle - Jamie is one of the only people I've seen address the issue of work-wear (because she's not a full time blogger/YTer) and I have loved that content from her, plus the way she shoots her lookbooks is great.
- Anushka Rees - I don't think her blog is particularly active these days but she's got a great archive to dig through. I've recently picked up her book, The Curated Closet, and have been working my way through it and really enjoying it.
- Muchelle B - her channel is more about minimalism as a lifestyle so I think she's got something for everyone.
- Un-Fancy - if you're interested in the idea of a capsule wardrobe Caroline's journey is a really good one to read as it's really thoroughly documented and she's even got a downloadable planner if you want to go down that path.
- Style Bee - Lee has an excellent series called her Closet Mission which I found to be a great resource when I wanted to start really giving some thought to my wardrobe. With this blog and the one I mentioned before it, I've found their posts about their processes when working towards having a curated wardrobe more useful for me than their current content, but you might love that too.
- Jenny Mustard - Jenny's channel covers a lot of different topics, but everything is done with a minimalist aesthetic. The one video I really want to direct you to is one she only put up a few days ago, but it really aligns with what I'm trying to say - that minimalism can be whatever you want it to be and you don't have to follow anyone else's rules.