The Case for a Minimalist Wardrobe

My best friend recently dealt with a bedbug crisis, unfortunately not an uncommon occurrence in New York City, and thus sent the majority of her clothes off to be de-bedbug-ified (which is apparently a thing). I mentioned to her that if she needed any extra clothes, I had a huge bag I was planning on donating soon if she wanted to sort through it.

“I already went through those clothes a few months ago,” she replied.

“Oh, no,” I said. “I actually just cleaned out this weekend. This is all different stuff.”

“I feel like you’re constantly cleaning out your closet. And you never really shop. How do you have anything left to wear?”

I mean, she wasn’t entirely wrong.

While I haven’t gone full capsule wardrobe (although I’ve watched a ridiculous amount of YouTube videos about it), I’m definitely a proponent of keeping your wardrobe as minimal as possible. Every time I buy a shirt or new pair of pants, I make sure at least one old item of clothing, if not more, goes to Goodwill. I’m basically the opposite of my queen Mariah Carey.

I’ve been living this lifestyle for about two years now, ever since a move to New York forced me to confront how much useless stuff I had. So, I’d say I’m comfortable enough with it to the point where I feel I can make a full argument for the minimalist (fashion) lifestyle. Here are a few reasons I prefer a skimmed-down wardrobe.

It saves me money

After spending a significant amount of time giving away what I don’t want or need anymore, I’ve become hyper-aware of my bad impulse buys. Before my window shopping turns into actual shopping, I’ll remind myself of the pair of flare jeans that I thought I could totally work into my wardrobe despite being 5’2” with short legs and hating jeans. They went into the “donate” pile a year later, virtually unworn.

So most of the time, unless I’m eyeing a well-priced timeless coat or have stumbled upon the perfect statement boots I’ve been searching for for months, I pass. My wallet thanks me. And then lectures me for spending so much money on takeout.

I shop more ethically

When I was more consistently updating my closet, I usually only had the means to do so because I was buying low-quality fast fashion that was very affordable. A minimalist wardrobe done right is comprised mostly of classic pieces that you can wear for a long time. Fast-fashion clothes that fall apart after a few washes don’t fit in to this. I’m also more likely to splurge on clothes from ethically sourced companies when I have a little savings built up after restraining myself from buying anything for months on end.

Cutting back on consumption has also given me more patience to buy secondhand. Shopping at thrift stores can be a gold mine but takes a bit more time to find the items you’re looking for. When I’m already picky about what I’m adding to my wardrobe, I don’t mind spending the extra time in a thrift store to find the perfect piece.

I save space

It’s important to me as someone who A) lives in teeny tiny apartments in NYC and B) has moved four times in two years in attempts to find my dream apartment (and roommates), that everything I own takes up a small-to-moderate amount of space.

Cutting down on clothes is one of the easiest ways to keep your assets to a minimum. While packing before my move last fall, I did a harsh “Have I worn this in the past three months?” check-in. Winter coats and seasonal essentials aside, I donated everything that didn’t fit the bill. This made the move easier, unpacking less taxing, and freed up some much-needed space in my small closet.

No one notices

I have a few friends who have expressed concern about paring down their wardrobes. Their main worry is that in their office environment, where they see the same people every day, repeating clothes more often will make them look like a slob or unprofessional. But the reality of the situation is, you could probably wear the same outfit all week and, as long as it’s not a banana costume (which someone at my high school would frequently wear), no one’s going to bat an eyelash.

Seriously, people are too focused on themselves. Last October, my best friend and I briefly considered dressing as each other for Halloween (we then realized that no one had invited us to a party and jumped ship on that idea). I told her she would obviously have to wear a turtleneck to be me, to which she replied, “I don’t think you wear that many turtlenecks.” Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that I own maybe two to three shirts that are not turtlenecks and was also wearing a turtleneck dress at the time of this conversation. Trust me, people are paying less attention to you than you think you are.

Originally published on April 6, 2018.

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