Minimal Wardrobe: Inspiration and Reality

After finally putting my ideal minimal wardrobe together, I was curious to find out how it aligned with my actual wardrobe.

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The first obvious difference is size. While I wanted my ideal minimal wardrobe to be realistic and allow me to create enough outfits for a regular 5-day work week, my actual work wardrobe is not as small as the inspiration. I mean, I do have more than two pairs of trousers!

However, I have been impressed to see how many outfits a well thought small wardrobe can create. Being able to visualize this has made me more willing to downsize even further.

Outerwear, for instance, is an area I’m now thinking about reducing. Even though the last time I bought a coat was three years ago, these items tend to last longer and so, at the moment, only one coat could do with replacing. I haven’t figured it out entirely yet but I’m thinking of consolidating this section into a couple of items.

When it comes to colour, I have found that there were a couple of differences. First, my actual wardrobe has one additional main colour (green, mostly military green but also emerald), and one more accent colour (red).

Colour Palette

Other than that, my real wardrobe is quite similar to my ideal minimal wardrobe. In fact, I find that the inspiration board is not complete without some green and some red. In terms of ideals, reality beats inspiration in this case.

One thing I’ve noticed though is that my wardrobe used to have no black at all. Instead, brown was the additional main colour. I have slowly replaced brown with black in the last year but wasn’t even aware this was happening until now!

Ahh, the little things that remind me that being mindful is a work in progress…

Finally, style and silhouette in my real wardrobe are pretty similar to the inspiration. Which makes sense as I wanted my ideal minimal wardrobe to capture my style preferences and favourite outfits.

work wardrobe


In the whole, it isn’t strange that my ideal minimal wardrobe is not that different from reality – after all, the inspiration board is not just an ideal but also a reflection of what I am already happy with.

The best thing about doing this exercise

To consider my wardrobe in a slow-paced, holistic manner. I had never before put time aside to think thoroughly about aspects such as colour, the concept of an uniform, and how these things can work together to create more mindful – functional – minimal wardrobe. Maybe not minimal in size, but definitely less full of items that I never wear.

Added benefit

Seeing my clothing preferences as a whole and creating some pretty cool visual tools that I can use to guide future choices. I no longer have to mentally match a potential blouse with all my trousers to try to imagine if it works with what I have – I can simply refer to my colour palette and pick a colour from there.


Up Next

A side effect of this exercise has been to press pause on everything – from buying to getting rid of things. I next want to tell you about my thoughts on culling and how my year of minimal shopping is going so far.


Have you ever thought of your wardrobe as a whole or did you too find that task a bit overwhelming?And if you ever edited your wardrobe, what kind of tools did you use to guide that process? 


 Previously on this…

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A Minimal Wardrobe

inspiration colour palette

A Minimal Wardrobe 101


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Minimal Wardrobe 101

It has taken me months to get to a point where I can see what my minimal wardrobe would look like. Through that time, I thought colourfunction, style, and silhouette. 

Function was the easiest. I thought about the activities in my life and the portion of time they take. Where I live, what I do during the week, and how I spend most of my weekends. It wasn’t hard to figure that, at the moment, most of my time is spent in the office and that I’m mostly a city dweller.

I wanted my minimal wardrobe to reflect this current life, so I focused on items that have a definite urban feel to them.

As a side note, the type of city life that I’m used to and truly enjoy is one where I can walk to places and hardly ever need to get in a car – hence the predominance of flats. I’m an European, after all.

Style was also not the biggest part of the challenge for me. I’ve been fairly consistent over the years in my tendency to go for classics with modern twists, comfort, and simplicity. I like how I can be wearing the most comfortable trousers/shoes/blouse/blazer, but still feel perfectly adequate in formal meetings.

If you’re just starting to define your style, this article may be particularly helpful as a starting point.

Silhouette was a bit of a challenge as I wanted to capture the essence of my go-to outfits. I considered their proportions, the fit, and whether I had any kind of uniform. It appears that I do. In fact, it appears I have two types of uniforms: one for cool weather – involving skirts/dresses – and one for warm weather – involving trousers.

Finally, I thought a lot about colour. In fact, I found colour to be the biggest challenge. I didn’t want my imagined minimal wardrobe to be just about fewer items. I also wanted it to be realistically remixable. In the end, I wanted to see how many different outfits I could make with the smallest number of pieces. inspiration colour palette

The main issue I had with the minimal wardrobes I’d seen on Pinterest and elsewhere was their blandness. All black, white or grey isn’t really my thing. I need navy blue, yellow, red, green…So for months I was stuck on the misconceived notion that I couldn’t have a minimal wardrobe with those.

Then I read this article and realised that a minimal colour palette doesn’t have to be limited to just black, white or grey. The key thing is to stick to two or three main colours, throw in a couple of neutrals for balance and add a couple of accent colours for variety.

Once I finished this exercise and could finally see what my minimal wardrobe would look like, the big question was – How does my real wardrobe measure up to this

A story for my next post…


Additional resources on creating a Minimal Wardrobe:

  • Into Mind: a personal style blog all around minimalism – scroll through the ‘Getting Started’ section for all sort of helpful articles. This one of how to get started was an eye-opener.
  • Cuyana – The Lean Closet Movement: the articles that first made me thought about the concept of minimalism in relation to clothes.
  • Style Bee: I have found Lee’s Closet Mission 2015 an inspiration (she has further resources on the topic too).

 

The List

It has taken me some time to take stock. I know, doing things slowly is the antithesis of this day and age where everything moves at incredibly high speeds. But I have been making a conscious effort to live a more mindful life and that does include stopping to smell the roses, or should I say, taking my own sweet time.

I had a really close and honest look at my wardrobe over the last 3 months (where has that time gone?!?), and came up with a surprisingly small list of items that need replacing. Some fall into the category of “urgent” replacement, while others can perhaps take on one last season – if I’m being really frugal about it. I also listed a couple of things that I don’t currently have but could do with.

boots

The list came up as follows:

  • Everyday tights – urgent 
  • Boots – urgent 
  • Knee-length coat – not urgent
  • Dress – not urgent
  • Wool sweater/Cardigan – wants, not needs 
  • Merino wool leggings – wants, not needs

Everyday tights – I wore all my tights to death last year so now I need to buy at least two new pairs. I found a New Zealand made option for merino tights, but for organic cotton, I will probably go with these.

Boots – well, the ones in the picture have really reached the end of the line but I’m convinced that I will be just fine this Winter without a new pair. The thing is, I won’t buy footwear in New Zealand, and I don’t want to order online – we’re too far away from everywhere for free returns, and without those, there’s nothing to mitigate the risk of wrong sizing. I want to buy these boots in Portugal, as I do all my footwear. Since I am not travelling there until after the Winter here is over, I will have to make do with what I have (ankle boots, city gumboots and my winter oxfords).

Knee-length coat – I’ve spoken about this one here. Below is the 7 year old warmest coat/parka in my wardrobe. Not trendy or fancy but it has served me well through many cold Austrian, Belgian, Czech, English, Portuguese, and New Zealand Winters. Now that I look at it for the first time in several months, it doesn’t look too bad. I think it will make it through another Winter.

coat

Dress – my trusty, all seasons, all occasions, 4+ yo knitted dress from Mango (here and here) is too worn out to resist another season so, sadly, I have to retire it. I had been at a loss for a few weeks: People Tree had some very good options, as did Kowtow, but none felt particularly right. The search ended last weekend when I came across a navy blue, polka dot dress, also from Mango, hidden amongst dozens of other dresses in a second hand shop. It was my size and my preferred fit by my favourite brand, which doesn’t have shops in NZ. It was exactly what I was looking for. I’m happy with my first purchase of the year!

Wool sweater or cardigan and merino wool leggings – these two items wouldn’t really be replacing anything at the moment so fall into the the category of things that I think I could do with. They are currently more wants than needs. 


I focused this exercise on my Autumn/Winter wardrobe as the cool seasons are around the corner – yesterday I had to wear an extra layer for the first time this year – Autumn is here!

However, I have also been keeping a record on the clothes I have been wearing in the last five or six months – like the cardigan in the picture below, which I love but is looking a bit rough. I plan to revisit those notes later in the year when Spring arrives and warm weather returns. Until then, I plan to stick to the list!

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Those of you having close looks at your wardrobe needs, how’s it going? And do you also feel like taking life in general at a slower pace?


A Functional {Intentional} Wardrobe

In previous posts, I make references to a functional wardrobe but I never really stated what I mean. I think it’s time to change that.

I consider my wardrobe to be functional when it works well for me – my life demands, my personal style and even my body shape. A real test of this kind of functionality is time-pressure. If I can put together an outfit I love, early in the morning, with minimal fuss, then my wardrobe is working for me.

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My functional wardrobe is one that has been put together over time, and {mostly} with purpose. This intentional, slow-paced approach gives me an opportunity to explore my style in a way that is adaptable and can evolve with me. It has also helped me curb impulse-buying, minimize clutter and waste in my life, and think more creatively about my outfit options.

From my experience, I wouldn’t say that a functional wardrobe has to be built from scratch or that the first step towards creating functionality is to get rid of everything you don’t love or need.

You need time to learn about your style and needs. As you take your time, you’ll find that slowly, the garments that you really need but are probably of lower quality, are replaced with better quality ones (which last longer and need replacement less often).

As for the stuff that really has no place in your life, you either find a new home for it, or simply don’t replace it at all when it reaches the end of its (generally short) life.

In time, you’ll find that your wardrobe no longer overflows with unwanted possessions and, instead, reaches an optimal size that is a more honest reflection of your clothing needs.

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In my definition, a functional wardrobe really is an intentional wardrobe, as I don’t think you can achieve a high level of functionality without intention. functional wardrobe is put together in a mindful way.

There is some effort in putting time aside to think honestly about lifestyle demands, personal style and whether a purchase fits a real purpose.

But, if you ask me, effortless outfit options, greater opportunities to create and express your own style, and a more positive impact of your style choices, are worth this on-going, long-term process. If for nothing else, for the feeling of confidence you get when you step outside wearing something you love.


What do you think, is an intentional wardrobe something worth pursuing? If you’ve tried something like this yourself, what do you think have been the biggest benefits and challenges?