The minimal wardrobe, revisited

Over the past few months I have been steadily decreasing the amount of clothing I own and curating what I leave behind into a collection that is largely mix and match and full of favorites. I have had inspiration from Miss Minimalist, Shari Braendel, Living More with Less, The 333 project and more. Black is my base color with some grey and dark brown thrown in. My “uniform” is still evolving but essentially is a tank or shell, cardigan and pants and although I love black, I am also trying to include some softer colors because I think they are somewhat anti-aging.  Now that I’m 40 not looking my age is a bigger deal to me than I care to admit…

This morning we did a big closet purge. My husband and I went through both of our parts of the closet and shed two garbage bags of clothes. Whatever didn’t bring “joy” left, especially if it didn’t fit or was stained. I got rid of a pair of heels I wear maybe once a year. They kill my feet anyway. I think I can do better. A pair of boots I never wear and a pair of sandals too. My underthings were purged a couple of weeks ago. No more underwear that pinches and I am seriously considering ditching all the underwire. What kind of awful person designed those?

I have decided that if I don’t LOVE it, I don’t bring it home and if it was in my closet it has been ousted. Life is too short to wear frumpy clothing and to feel fatter than I am.  It’s bad enough I’ve gained 10 pounds, I don’t have to cater to it with baggy sweats and oversize t-shirts. Why do we do that to ourselves?

What did I discover this year about my style and clothing choices? Well, as I noted above, I prefer to wear a sleeveless shell or cami with a cardigan. Even short sleeves bug me unless they are form fitting. So now the majority of tops in my closet are sleeveless and I have only 2 long sleeve and 5 short sleeve tops left. I don’t think that the absolute number of items in your closet is what counts though. I think it is what  you wear and like that matters. If I have only 33 items but I don’t really like them and feel deprived, well then that isn’t right. Simplifying/minimalizing/decluttering shouldn’t be about a number but rather getting to a place where what you have left is beautiful, useful and actually used. Less clothing means you have to do laundry more often, something I am terrible about.  So I am ok with having more clothing  I actually wear so that I only have to do my laundry once every 2 weeks. (I also re-wear stuff a couple times to stretch that, especially jeans)

The most useful advice I have gleaned from a conglomerate of the above sources is this:

1. Develop a style. Or figure out what yours is. “Good girls don’t have to dress bad” is an excellent resource for this if you have no clue. Make sure your style is flattering to your soul.

2. Pick a few flattering colors and stick with them. The same book can help you with color choices also. I am a “clear” and black is a good color for me.  But I also add in some rose, beige and grey to soften it a bit.

3. Take everything out of your closet and go through your clothing one piece at at time. Try it on if you must to see if it still fits. If you “think” you could make it work with such and such an addition, ditch it. You won’t. Move on. If you won’t fix it, throw it out. Ditto for anything stained beyond help.

4. Consider your shape. Large bottom? Then focus on balancing out your top. Big top? Balance out the bottom. Curvy goddess? Don’t talk to me.

5.  Don’t let your “stuff” hang out. Modesty is more attractive than your DD cleavage or your g-string “peeking” out of your low cut jeans. Muffin top is nauseating. Get some higher cut jeans girlfriend.

6. Quality over quantity. The beauty of developing a style or uniform means that you can focus on picking up a few really great quality pieces that will wear well for the long haul rather than constantly trying to keep up with trends. Consignment shops are great places to find inexpensive quality clothing. I am particularly fond of the clearance racks. My favorite black cashmere sweaters were $7 each. But don’t be afraid to sludge on something really great if it fits your style and will be a basic item in your wardrobe. Please stay within your budget though. Going into debt to dress yourself well is neither a good idea nor necessary.

7. Be realistic. If you are still hanging onto clothing from your 20’s because you think you’ll eventually fit back into them, wake up and smell the coffee. If you haven’t already, you probably won’t ever. It probably won’t look good now anyway unless it’s a Chanel suit. In that case, do yourself a favor- go on a diet and wear that bad boy!

8. Some things never go out of style. Ballet flats, riding boots, simple cashmere cardigans, pencil skirts and a tailored blazer in a basic color like black will always be a good bet.  A simple stand of pearls, diamond/CZ studs and a gold watch or Timex with a black strap go with just about anything.

9. The French know a thing or two about timeless style. Pick up a couple of books on the way French women dress.

10. Learn how to wash your clothes properly. You can hand wash or delicate cycle wash cashmere and it will love you for it-just be sure to air dry flat! Separate your darks and your light colors. Wash similar fabrics together to avoid your fluffy clothes from shedding on your non-fluffy clothes. Air dry fleece to keep it’s loft. Use vinegar as  softener to make your clothes unbelievably soft. Get some color safe bleach and borax for odd smells. Fold or hang your clothes immediately to avoid ironing! Caring for your clothes is even more important than wearing your clothes. It only takes one load of wash to ruin your wardrobe if you don’t do it right. Oh yeah, check your pockets!!

And so here is my personal list of must have’s:

1. Black ballet flat-I just bought these on my trip to NYC because I was getting a blister from my kitten heels. More expensive than I would have paid normally but I was in NYC and my feet were not tolerating it. These were uber comfy!

2. Black pants-I have several pair from black ankle length jeans to pull on style to wide leg trousers. My favorite pant fabric is ponte. It is ever so forgiving. Even when you gain 10 (or 13) pounds.

3. Cashmere cardigan- I have several because I wear them ALL THE TIME. But owning at least one is probably a good idea and carrying it when you aren’t sure what temp it will be when traveling is also a good idea. It’s warm but it breathes. I even wear my cardigans in the summer.

4. A basic black leather belt. Mine is from the Gap a million years ago. I have the identical one in brown. The only issue is that they are from the “time before low cut jeans” and thus do not quite fit a lot of my pants any more. I picked up a bigger brown belt at Eddie Bauer. Excited to see CAbi is offering high rise jeans this spring so I don’t have to ditch my old belts that I love!!

5. Wool coat. Mine is grey. Navy or black is a good bet. A navy pea coat is a great basic wardrobe item.

6. Skinny jeans. I discovered Mavi jeans through Stitch Fix and I am in love. They have a high enough rise in the back so no butt cleavage and they are super stretchy and comfortable. I also love CAbi curvy fit jeans for the same reason although they are slightly less stretchy. I <3 stretchy.

7. Sleeveless tops/cami’s/tanks. CAbi is my current obsession. You can find them cheap on eBay. New from a consultant they run anywhere from $38-$98+. If you care for them properly they will last forever and be your comfy favorite base layer.

8. Leggings. Once again, CAbi wins. I have a pair in heather brown and black from the current year and a black pair with faux leather markings from last year. A good pair will hold its shape well and not “pooch” at the knees. They will also be thick enough to smooth those cottage cheese thighs. Come on, admit it, you know you have them too…

9. Black blazer. I have a structured one that I picked up from the consignment shop. It’s from Talbots and I paid less than $20 for it. I am on the look out for a smoking jacket however. It’s just one of those styles that never goes out of style. The short structured one is cute but some day a Yves St Laurent  Le Smoking will be mine! A cute velvet blazer would be nice too.  (edit-bought a black velvet blazer from CAbi’s end of season fall/winter line! It’s so amazing!! I need to go to more fancy places to wear it…)

10. Black skirt. I have a black wool pencil skirt from Talbots that fits like a dream. I also have a longer one with a mermaid-y flared hem line that I picked up for $4 from Salvation Army years ago that I love.

Just remember, it has to fit YOUR style. There is no absolute right or wrong but make sure you love it.  If you don’t you won’t wear it so don’t let it live rent free in your closet. Sell it on eBay or donate it somewhere but give it a good home and a chance at love. Don’t let your clothes pine away in your closet waiting to be worn! You’ll feel better when your closet is cleaned out. Believe me. It’s a beautiful thing.

Have fun finding your style and streamlining your clothing. Your image will thank you. 🙂

In simpleness and love,

Liz 😉



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