Minimalism and wardrobe

I have a love of Minimalist blogs, especially Minimalist Wardrobe blogs. The aesthetic of Less Is More and William Morris’s admonition to “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” appeals to me on a deep level despite the fact that minimalism can be seen by some to be classist.

After all, it’s easy to say it’s pride to have fewer things when it’s a choice.

When I was first starting out, I was living far enough under the poverty level to qualify for the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit as a single person with no children. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not having cable TV, or for that matter a television. I took my lunch to work every day. I went for walks, read, and wrote to entertain myself. Other than wanting to be able to have money in the bank for things like car repairs, health care expenses, and emergency expenses, I didn’t think my life was lacking.

I’d like to take some of that simplicity back into my life.

I have several things on my list for doing that. Cut back Facebook time to no more than half an hour daily. Eliminate mindless surfing. Find time sinks and reclaiming time. Root out bad habits and replace them with better ones.

This weekend I took on the task of going through my wardrobe and figuring out why I consistently believe I have nothing to wear. I did it first because getting dressed in the morning is one of my most hated chores because I’ve tended to feel like I dress in the manner of a potato wearing a feed sack to the opera. Also because when I’m feeling depressed, I tend to use the floor of my bedroom as a closet, which is counterproductive to my room being a space of zen-like calm where I can decompress and hide from the world when I need to recharge.

The task took the better part of the weekend, partly because I needed to do laundry too, partly because I have too many clothes, and partly because I’m still operating on under-powered lungs. (Note to self: the fact that a Mucinex made breathing easier this evening suggests that maybe the tail end of that cold is still hanging on.)

I started by reading The Curated Closet to put everything I knew into my mind. I decided on my color palette for my wardrobe using the author’s advice.

Yes, I know I maxed out my choices. I like colors.

I ended up settling on Olive, Navy, Plum, and Charcoal Gray as my focus colors, mostly because I had the most items in those colors. I find myself drawn to things in Plum and Olive, so discovering that I’ve got enough things in those colors to build a solid wardrobe around isn’t surprising. Charcoal Gray has always been my “See? I’m not wearing black.” color, so the number items I own in this color is also unsurprising. Navy is a bit aspirational in this list if I’m not counting my denim items in this category, so I’m counting them.

White, Khaki, and Black became my neutrals due to the number of basics I own in those colors. In theory, Navy and Charcoal Gray are neutrals, too, but since they’re counted under Main Colors, they don’t count here. They do give me more options for mixing the other colors. White is mostly blouses (worn with scarves in colors that make me not dead looking like white does). Khaki is chinos and cardigans. Black is everything because Everything Comes In Black For Fat Girls.

Tomato red, Robin’s egg blue, Teal, Orange, and Dark Periwinkle serve as accents because I adore the items I have in those colors. I love how I look in those colors. Those colors mix well with my main colors and my neutrals. Also, for those into the seasonal color theory thing, they’re very firmly Autumn colors (except for black and white, which are pretty much inescapable in clothing, especially plus sized clothing.)

Anything not one of those colors was evaluated for re-usability and either thrown out or donated. That put me down to a more manageable closet. I understood what I like, what I don’t like, and what works for me, but it still didn’t feel like I had style.

I had clothes – the same clothes (kind of boring) clothes that I had before I started this exercise, only fewer of them. Still, I set to the task of giving my personal style a name with the hope that naming the collection of clothes in my closet. I told the roommate my dilemma (no actual style) and that I was jealous of her style.

She said she believed the same thing about herself that I thought about myself: that she had no style. The roommate? She’s got style, and it surprised me that she thought she didn’t. She rocks sporty menswear inspired classics, and I told her so.

“You’re kind of artsy. You can’t do anything straight. You have to put your spin on it,” she said and dubbed my style “Classics with a Twist,” which is good enough for me. That covers my little denim Japanese style inspired jacket or the A-line skirt with the paper airplane print, or the artist made scarves I love as much as it includes the small skull necklaces I wear or my fun narwhal socks that match one of my work polos.

I had a neat closet. I had a name for how I dress. I was reading “classic” as “kind of boring” and “comfortable” as “slouchy,” which is not at all what I do. I was also reading “I like interesting and artistic things” as “I dress kind of weird,” which is also not the case. I just wear what I like and needed to edit what I had for maximum effect.

I looked through my closet to see if I had any holes in my wardrobe.

I do, actually, despite having two full kitchen garbage sacks of clothing to donate. I tend to over buy for work and underbuy for non-working hours. Work’s dress code is “dress for your day” which for me ranges from business casual to smart casual with the occasional full business day thrown in for good measure. I don’t need as many purely work clothes as I think I do.

Because I over buy for work and under buy for non-working hours, I end up thinking I don’t have enough clothing because I’m missing a couple of key pieces of weekend wear. I like to wear button front shirts layered over t-shirts or tanks as my weekend uniform. Specifically, I need an additional collared long sleeve button front shirt to wear over t-shirts like a jacket or by itself (I currently have a chambray shirt), a linen button front casual shirt, and a short sleeve button front shirt. A band collar shirt might be an excellent add-in if I can find the right one.

I also need to assign a few items as double duty items between my work and weekend wardrobes. My store-bought cardigans and sweaters are fair game, as are my leggings. I hesitate to put any of my dress shirts in that category, though my striped dress shirt might make a good weekend shirt/jacket. This needs some careful consideration, so I don’t end up making myself feel like I have no clothes to wear to the day job after all this work curating my closet.

As for the goal of making some sweaters for myself, I have some ideas. A lighter weight, more fitted, pullover sweater is a needed addition to the work wardrobe. Something like the sleeved version of Atlantique appeals to me. Making myself a cardigan or two would also be a good and useful addition. Pedal Pusher or Gearhead are on my short list because I need early spring biking gear. Replacing my two pullover sweaters with hand knit sweaters is also a goal. They’re already starting to show signs of wear. Turning something like Winter Doldrums into a sweater coat is also appealing. I’ll be putting some further thought into this before I finalize the list.

Overall, I’m pleased with the results of this project. It’s not a minimalist wardrobe in the pure capsule wardrobe sense or the Project 333 sense, nor are either what I was going for. It is, however, appropriate to my life and well curated. I have nothing in my wardrobe that I do not know to be functional or believe to be beautiful. I can pull pretty much anything out of my closet and feel assured of having something appropriate to wear that I feel happy about putting on.

That’s exactly what I wanted.

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2 thoughts on “Minimalism and wardrobe

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