Have you ever stood in front of your closet and felt overwhelmed by choices and the sheer amount of Stuff? Have you scrambled on a busy morning, changing your clothes multiple times before getting out the door? Do you ever stumble across articles of clothing you’d forgotten you own, and find tags still attached?
I’ve known for a long time that when it comes to style, I’m a minimalist at heart, in regard to both quantity of items and clean visual effect. But I’ve struggled with achieving the kind of well-edited wardrobe that would allow for space between hangers and the kind of simple chic I associate with French style and my own style icons.
My own history and (often) fear-based habits have been stumbling blocks to achieving my ideally minimalist style. First, during college years and for a little over a decade afterward, my wardrobe consisted of maybe 6-10 pieces total at any given time, due to low-paying jobs that left little for anything after rent and food. I lived in constant fear that one or more would fall apart or somehow become unwearable and I wouldn’t have the budget to replace them. (This was before the days of cheap, fast fashion and a thrift store on every corner.) Finding clothing that fits me well has always been challenging, so even now when I do find pieces that I love and that fit well, my tendency is to want to buy multiples and hoard in case of future shortage. (I make no claims that this is rational.) There’s also a part of me that loves and craves novelty. I’ll admit I get a little high contemplating wearing a new piece for the first time.
But I’m also drawn by the simplicity and ease of a minimalist wardrobe, and am finding that having a selection of really good, versatile pieces that play well together quiets the More Monster™ like nothing else. There are certainly global reasons to cut back and pare down, not the least of which is the impact on the environment of ever-increasing consumption. But I think there’s also a toll on the individual psyche: that sense of being overwhelmed by (and owned by) Too Much Stuff.
So when I run across minimalist inspiration, I study, I let it wash over me like a cool, clear stream. The video at the top of this post is one example (perhaps not for the exact pieces, but rather the idea). Some of my fellow bloggers have also provided the kind of inspiration that keeps me on the path toward my “fewer, but better” wardrobe. One is Stephanie Hoff Clayton at Odyssey Home, who has really distilled her style down to a very pure expression. While her style is more edgy than my own, I’m inspired by how she selects some very unique pieces but makes everything work beautifully together. You’ll see her wear some items repeatedly, but in different arrangements and combinations.
Finnish blogger Mette at the blog Metscan has applied her minimalist aesthetic to her wardrobe and home decor. She maintains a steely discipline when it comes to editing her wardrobe and accessories, but she has any situation covered and everything beautifully expresses her individual style.
Blogger hostess of the humble bungalow has also cultivated a distinctive aesthetic that includes mostly black, white, and grey simple separates, pearls and scarves. Her focused approach to style has also inspired me.
A minimalist wardrobe doesn’t have to be all black, or even all solid neutrals (though that does help), but it does have to be cohesive, which is often the hardest aspect to get right. Angie Cox of YouLookFab selects bright and printed pieces that remix well with other items in her wardrobe. Though some may not think of her look as “minimalist” (I do) she gravitates toward clean lines, one or two focal points in the outfit, and very sparse use of accessories. I think if you’re attracted by the idea of minimalism but are also a confirmed color junkie, she provides some great examples of how to happily marry the two.
In fact, Angie penned a great post last week about opposites and creating wardrobe cohesion. As someone who is drawn to different elements of very divergent styles (e.g. modern classic, softer/artsy, urban/edgy) I find it very reassuring to know that I don’t have to choose just one persona in order to have a cohesive wardrobe. I agree with her that the simpler and cleaner the designs, the easier it is to blend styles. When incorporating color, stick to a color family. For Angie above, it’s what she refers to as “warm sour brights,” while I find my most workable color accents are softer autumnal tones. I also find that keeping to a long-over-lean silhouette, at least for the majority of separates, greatly aids cohesion. My lifestyle right now doesn’t support an “Express Lane” wardrobe (12 Items Or Fewer) but after a recent closet edit, there was light at the end of the tunnel, or at least a little space between the hangers.
Not everyone is into minimalist style. Some of my favorite style bloggers have a very exuberant, pattern-mixing, wild and OTT kind of style. I admire their eye and ability to pull disparate elements together to create a unified whole. And everyone’s definition of “minimalism” may be a little different; for some it may incorporate the visual effect but not the number of items in a wardrobe, and for others the reverse may be true.
Does a minimalist wardrobe or style appeal to you? If so, how do you define “minimalist”?
Many thanks to both Stephanie Hoff Clayton and Angie Cox who gave permission to use their photos.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 United States License.