Inside My Minimalist Wardrobe

My Minimalist Wardrobe - Autumn/Winter

I used to own a lot of clothes.

Most of them I never wore and many more I didn’t feel great in. There were a few impulse purchases that hung in my wardrobe, tags still attached, and many more I had completely forgotten about. Typically I wore about 20% of my clothes 80% of the time and found getting dressed stressful because nothing ever fit or, despite my overflowing cupboards, I had nothing to wear.

Then, as part of my first big decluttering effort, I got rid of at least half of my clothes. I’ve since readjusted and continued to cull items, but until last week I’ve never actually counted what I own and I’ve certainly never taken the time to lay out my clothes and photograph them.

As the idea of minimalist or capsule wardrobes gains popularity I’ve been asked a lot about the clothes I wear so last week I removed every item from my wardrobe, hung it on the wall and photographed it. Honestly, as someone who really doesn’t put a lot of importance on stuff, it felt weird and self-involved. But it was also really instructive.

It turns out I have fewer clothes than I thought, and there are items I’m sure I don’t need. The photo below shows almost all of my winter clothes. There are a few pieces not pictured (because laundry) but with the additions listed below, here is a look inside my minimalist wardrobe:

My Minimalist Wardrobe (Autumn/Winter)

 

My Minimalist Shoes/Accessories - Autumn/Winter

As you can see, I have a fondness for grey, plaid shirts, Chuck Taylors and denim. I’m a teen of the 90s, what can I say?

Not pictured:

  • grey hoodie
  • black rainjacket
  • black trenchcoat
  • 2 pairs black tights
  • socks (2 sports, 1 woollen, 2 black everyday socks)
  • underwear
  • pyjamas
  • sunglasses
  • year-round exercise clothes (full-length running tights, 3/4 length yoga pants, running shorts, 3 tshirts/tanks, 1 zippered rain-proof fleece)

Before I go in to the details any further, there’s some things to keep in mind about my personal situation and how it may differ to yours:

1. I live in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, Australia. It does get cool in winter (but never really cold) and very warm in summer, and I’m fortunate that my wardrobe doesn’t need to extend into the negative degrees very often. Much of what I wear is transitional, and all of the tshirts, tanks, and most shirts pictured above stay in my wardrobe year-round. Winter mostly means packing away the shorts, sandals and singlets, while pulling out the jackets, scarves and boots. It’s a pretty easy climate to have a small wardrobe.

That being said, we spent a month in the Canadian Rockies over Christmas, where it does get very cold (it got down to -32C while we were there) and my wardrobe extended to that weather too, with a few additions.

Aside from our snowboarding gear I took my normal clothes plus:

  • down jacket
  • 2 pairs thermal pants
  • 2 thermal undershirts
  • 2 long tanks
  • 2 woollen hats
  • mittens
  • heavy duty snow boots
  • 4 pairs woollen socks

It really was a matter of layering, rather than having an entirely different wardrobe. And I never once felt cold.

(Yes, I do realise that holidaying for one month is different to having to live and work in that climate. I tell you this mostly to show that even when you live in an area with four very distinct seasons, much of what you wear can work across a wide range of temperatures.)

2. I work from home and have two young kids. I don’t go to a lot of events (but when I do, this collection of clothes works 95% of the time, which I’ll explain below). I spend most of my days in jeans and tshirts because that’s what works, particularly when I’m cleaning, playing, gardening, working, cooking, running errands etc.

My style is casual and my lifestyle allows me to embrace that. If I worked in a corporate environment or retail, my wardrobe would look a little different.

3. I’m not a fashionista. Obviously. And while I love saying “on fleek”, I’m not really interested in being it.

But if you can forgive me for being a little shallow for a moment, I like looking put together, I like having my own style and I’m always drawn to looks that aren’t about trends. Classic, interesting, quirky? Yes. But fashion magazine trends? Nothankyouverymuch.

I like what I like and I love that trends play very little role in that any more. Most of the clothes pictured are at least 3 years old and I very rarely have a problem wearing the same things over and over. In fact, I like it. I like the non-decisions involved in getting dressed most mornings, I love knowing what suits me and I don’t really care much what others think about it anymore. (Basically, I love being in my 30s.)

For example, my black Chucks are 12+ years old, my denim jacket is a 90s original that I’ve owned since I was 15, the black wool pencil skirt is 6+ years old and the mustard miniskirt is an ebay special from the 1970s. Trendy I am not.

So, how did I get here?

It’s hard to break down a process that took years to gradually work through, and I’d caution against the whole “toss everything and rebuild a wardrobe from scratch” approach, unless you have a significant budget and, frankly, a whole lot of time.

This might mean living with items you don’t really like, getting clothes repaired a few times to stretch their shelf-life, or living with fewer items than is strictly comfortable until you’re able to replace or replenish. Over the years I’ve done all of those things in order to have a small wardrobe I really dig.

Over the past few years I have gradually been able to:

  1. Remove items from my wardrobe that no longer fit, are stretched, torn, stained or just make me feel a bit crap. (These are often the items you put on in the morning but change out of before leaving the house because you feel bleurgh while wearing them.)
  2. Establish my personal style. I’ve always loved good quality jeans paired with tshirts and Chucks, collared shirts with a jumper/sweater, chunky boots and tights, a denim jacket over a dress… These are outfits I wear almost every day because I like them. Taking time to work out what your personal style is can take a while, but a big indicator is to look at what you are consistently drawn to. Pare these looks back to the essentials and start there. A pair of jeans, black pants, a black skirt, button-ups, tshirts – these are the foundation to most styles.
  3. Find good quality brands for the items I wear most often. Over the years I have discovered which brand of jeans, plain tshirts, hoodies, knit jumpers, sneakers and sandals fit me well and last the test of constant wear, and I go back to these time and time again. Sometimes that means I pay more, but when I wear my jeans 5 days a week I don’t mind paying extra. PLUS, knowing the brand, the size, the fit of these basics means I can shop online (when I need something) and find what I’m after either on sale or, my personal favourite, second-hand.
  4. Learn how to mix and match for maximum effect. Every item I own can be worn in multiple outfits, and that’s by design. I’ve gradually removed everything that doesn’t fit easily with my other items and now, for example, I can make a grey tshirt work for 95% of occasions by pairing it with:
    1. my black pencil skirt, a tan belt, tan heels, clutch and aqua necklace
    2. black skinny jeans, black flats, khaki jacket and aqua necklace
    3. blue patterned skirt, black belt, black tights, denim jacket and black boots
    4. dark denim skinny jeans, purple and grey heels and clutch
    5. jeans, black belt, white chucks, aqua necklace and navy blazer
    6. jeans, grey plaid shirt, chunky scarf, black chucks and parka… (Plus I can replace the grey tshirt with a blouse or a white tshirt and triple the options immediately.)
  5. Stop caring what other people think about my wardrobe choices. Because, to be perfectly honest with you, they’re probably not thinking about it at all. No-one cares if you wear the same clothes all the time. No-one will notice. And, if you create a small wardrobe that works well, you won’t be wearing the same things all the time anyway.
  6. Stop buying things on impulse. These were almost always the items that didn’t fit in with the rest of my clothes, were poorly made, didn’t last more than two washes or that made me feel a bit crap when wearing them. Stop buying them and start buying things that work for you and save both money and time.
  7. Look after the clothes I own. I get my jeans repaired, I don’t wash my clothes unless they’re dirty, I have my shoes resoled, I use laundry bags for all my delicates, I line dry… These changes mean I don’t have to replace clothes as often as I used to, which in turn means that when I do, I can afford to spend slightly more.

How does my wardrobe work?

Most days you will find me wearing a combination of:

  • tshirt or button-up shirt
  • knitted jumper or hoodie
  • jeans
  • black belt
  • Chucks or riding boots
  • khaki jacket or black parka

If you look at my tshirts, shirts and jumpers, those items alone give me at least 12 different top options. Add in three pairs of jeans, three everyday skirts with tights and boots and three jacket options and that’s pretty much what I wear all the time. Honestly. It’s really simple.

I can live on the edge and wear a dress sometimes (crazy!) and I also have some casual tops (the feather patterned top, black blouse, green cardigan, grey and black sloppy joe) that I wear with jeans or a skirt.

I’ve never sat down and actually worked out how many outfits I can make from this collection of clothes, but at a glance I would say that I could make well over 100 combinations with the clothes I own. That’s not to say I do, because I really don’t care that much, but if I wanted to, I could.

So that’s a look inside my wardrobe.

It feels a little weird spending so much time writing about stuff (particularly in light of last week’s post on This Season’s Must-Haves) but I know the wardrobe is an area that many people struggle to work through.

With that in mind I’ve written a bonus post this week (be sure to check back in tomorrow) where I answer some of the most common questions about creating a minimalist wardrobe, including budget, finding a style, fancy events, laundry and how to get started.

And on Thursday I’m super excited to bring you a podcast episode with Courtney Carver, creator of minimalist wardrobe challenge Project333.

I guess that means it’s the unofficial wardrobe week here on the blog…

Further Reading:

 

34 Responses to Inside My Minimalist Wardrobe

  1. Thank you for writing this article! It has come at just the right time. I have been working on reducing my possessions for a few years now, because looking after it all was wearing me out. Anyway, this week I moved to a much smaller house. I no longer have a large wardrobe in which to house my clothes, I have one of those canvas ones with rails inside. If I overload it I am sure it will collapse so I am currently editing what I own and figuring out what’s worth keeping. I live in the UK (four seasons) and have a job where jeans and trainers are not allowed, so I have to have a few more choices than when I worked at home and basically lived in jeans. I am going to look at the links you provide and am looking forward to reading the rest of your posts this week.

  2. #5 is SO important. Why do we care so much about what others think?

    I also have found the versatility of things that can be worn year-round. For me, that’s 3/4-length sleeved as I can wear them on all but the coldest and warmest of days here in Colorado.

    I still have more than I need, but I’m determined not to acquire more until I’ve worn out what I have.

  3. Great post! I am a blogger focussing on sustainable fashion. You have mentioned much of what is key to have a sustainable wardrobe- knowing what suits you and works for you; sticking with your personal style and avoiding trends; and learning to live with less. Many people struggle with this, so I created the 20 Day Sustainable Fashion Challenge. If your readers are struggling with thier wardrobe they might like to give it a try (it’s free!)
    http://www.tortoiseandladygrey.com/20-day-sustainable-fashion-challenge/

  4. Okay, I just pissed myself laughing. Someone just pulled my wardrobe out and photographed it… Although, I confess I have a few extra vintage lace tops and some boots I could probably do without. It really must be the wardrobe of the grunge-era surviors. Love it x

    • I’m slowly working mine out as well by getting rid of things as they become stained or worn out but my basic go to outfit is a dress over leggings with my boots with a cardigan or jacket in winter and a dress with sandals in summer.

      I have way too many tshirts still (mainly concert ones from my 20’s) and that’s the main area I need to reduce.

      I also have a lot of dresses but I rotate between them and wear them all regularly except the most formal 2.

  5. I found out recently how I don’t really need as much as I think I do. I had a class reunion for husband with dinner and cocktail party the night before, mid April; one nephew getting married out of town at an event place near the mountains, plus it turned out breakfast with happy couple the next morning( didn’t know about that to worry about ); another nephew getting married in a small town next door plus rehearsal dinner two weeks after the first, and a class reunion with a luncheon at a “nice” place – notice I said luncheon and “nice” – my class gets together twice a year usually at a very casual place- but this time it’s a numbered occasion, hint, hint.

    I was in a dither because it can be very hot here from mid-April – I can always put something together in colder weather, have various pieces I can work around , but the warmer weather things were fairly non-existant since I lost some weight. I found a heavier white skirt with fairly big circles of black and bright blue which would do for the reunion. A plain but sort of dressy top with heavier material. I had a really nice green scarf which work with it- but the real find ( in my chest) was a sort of mint green short cropped cardi which worked very well ( the A.C. is always there – we always take sweaters or wraps inside public places). I also found (in my closet) a short ruffled black skirt ( was too tight for a while) which works very with 2 silk blouses I’ve had for ages -emerald and saphire. So it turned out – I wore the black top and white skirt for husband’s reunion, both weddings, and I am sure I will wear it to my reunion. Green sweater for reunions, green scarf for weddings. Cocktail party – green silk blouse and ruffled skirt; rehearsal dinner of second wedding, saphire blouse and ruffled skirt..

    LindaC

  6. Great post. Im working my way down slowly to a capsule wardrobe. I actually wear a LOT of different things, but would really like to OWN very little. So its a work in progress and I’m okay with that :)
    Light by Coco is amazing, she and the girl of INTO MIND are my go tos for wardrobe simplicity. But this post will be pinned!
    Thanks for sharing. I love your blog, and follow your podcasts too.

  7. I’m excited to start minimizing my closet but have discovered a flaw in my timing. I’ve hurt my both rotator cuffs and it isn’t as easy for me to get dressed as it use to be.

    Several shirts I’m ready to donate but they are easy to get on. Several small sized shirts might fit but they aren’t easy to get on so they hang there and wait.

    Still, I can go through my jewelry. My socks are done.

  8. Nothing has made me feel more confident or sure of my own style than embracing a minimal wardrobe – I’m under 50 pieces now, and never feel uncomfortable about my choices anymore. Love yours Brooke – if I wasn’t a minimalist I’d go and buy it all! Ha! You have great style that suits you well. x

  9. Thanks for sharing! I’ve been working for the last year on cutting down my wardrobe. I was never a fashionista, but working in an office does require more/different clothes than working from home. Now I am a pet sitter, so I wear jeans, sneakers, t-shirts and hoodies nearly every day. Add shorts in the summer, remove in winter. Done. I also keep a few dresses/skirts for the rare occassions when I go out or have a meeting that doesn’t entail walking dogs.

  10. Love your wardrobe size!! Great post. And I’m from the Canadian Rockies and live there – you’d just need a couple more sweaters if you lived their too.
    We’re just finishing a RTW trip and coming home after 8 months on the road with carry-on luggage. I can’t wait to see my regular clothes and pare them down when I get home. I love to see other’s minimalist wardrobes.

    Thanks!

    • Wow, RTW with carry-on – that’s so impressive! It will be a big change coming home to a ‘regular’ amount of stuff. Safe travels! (And you live in my absolute favourite part of the world.)

  11. “I like the non-decisions involved in getting dressed most mornings” <- Yes, exactly this.

    I'm also self-employed so I don't have to bother with an office wardrobe anymore, and I love the fact that I can constantly wear leggings and fitted t-shirts, and that it's super easy to buy things in basic, solid colors so everything looks fine with everything else. It's so freeing.

  12. Great post Brooke!
    Good point about the seasonal wear. I am in Canada and require four season clothing. I make do with layering as much as possible (before I use the all out parka!) but it is tempting to buy ‘just the right thing’ for all occasions.
    Add to the mix doing my life work and play in both rural and urban settings. My professional life has changed as I approach 50 so the suits and heels are gone and upscale casual is acceptable in my office. Yet I can’t wear these items while hiking so I have a bag in storage of waterproof, well used, sport clothing to pull out when I head out of town. My wardrobe has been minimal for years but it still requires ‘curating’ :-)
    Jo

  13. wait: singlets…explain please??

    love this article…and totally inspired…just VERY curious about singlets because as far as I know that is what wrestlers wear, but the idea of them under a summer dress…hmmmm.

    • Haha! Amy, that’s so funny! In Australia we sometimes call tank tops singlets. Although sometimes they’re also an undergarment, like a vest or something. No wrestling costumes here!! ;)

  14. Thanks for all these useful information. I love the idea of simplicity and I’ve come to embrace living simple and it feels so good.

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