So after the biggest purge in the history of my closet, I got my entire original wardrobe – including clothes, bags, jewellery, shoes (literally everything) – down to 78 items.
As hard as that was, it turned out to be the easy part.
Deciding what I wanted my wardrobe to look like going forward was much, much harder. As I said in my last post, I wanted a wardrobe that reflected my age, I wanted a wardrobe that embraced the type of body I had, and I wanted my wardrobe to be as minimalist as possible – made up of a handful of well-chosen garments that I would wear over and over again over the next four to five years. From the outset, it seemed overwhelming, considering the billion items of clothing there are out there. I was also apprehensive about falling back into old habits of buying clothes compulsively and developing yet again an insatiable appetite for wanting more and more and more.
Despite my apprehension, I started acquiring items as mindfully as I could, and over the course of about six months, I’ve slowly but surely built a closet that I’m extremely happy (and content) with.
Here are some reflections on my experience:
With the exception of one item, I stuck to my core colours of black, grey, white and blue. There were a few items which I was quite tempted to buy but in the end, I’m glad I resisted because I just know that when it comes to putting clothes on in the morning, my natural inclination is to steer away from those ‘secondary’ colours. Why bother adding something to my closet which I’m not going to embrace wholeheartedly? I wanted every item in my closet to be my first choice.
After a couple of unfortunate blunders, I decided not to buy anything that was mass manufactured. Instead, I would stick to independent designers and handmade items. This has been such a good decision. Not only has this meant high quality clothes that are likely to last and last, but each item feels special to me. This is such a nice thing, because when you don’t own that many items overall, it’s good to make every piece count.
I opted not to create a moodboard a la Pinterest to work out my personal ‘style.’
I know this is the common thing to do, but something held me back. In the past, I used to happily pin my favourite outfits from my favourite bloggers. However, the problem was that I would become obsessed with tracking down items so that I could replicate the entire outfit. In other words, I ended up buying things which I would only ever wear the one time, simply for the purposes of that one outfit. I decided from the outset that this was not what I wanted for my new minimalist wardrobe, so no moodboard!
I let go of what had been my ‘uniform’ for the last five to six years. Let’s just say I got tired of muffin tops. Enough said. (Bye bye, jeans.)
I disregarded every ‘essentials’ list that I’d ever come across. I’ve written about this in the past, but it’s worth reiterating. No matter what anybody else claims is an ‘essential’ piece of clothing, it doesn’t have to be an ‘essential’ piece of clothing for you. My new wardrobe has none of the stuff that magazines are always telling me I ‘must’ have: blazers, trench coats, fitted coats, tailored pants, leather jackets, or bright accessories. I’ve even ditched jeans. Practically speaking, I erased every preconceived idea I had about wardrobe staples, and decided to write my own rules from scratch.
I knew what I didn’t want to wear anymore, and that helpfully cut down my options by about ninety percent. I didn’t want to wear jeans. I didn’t want to wear skinny pants. I didn’t want any pants with a button-up top in fact. I didn’t want t-shirts. I didn’t want tight sweaters. I didn’t want tunics. I didn’t want blazers. I didn’t want fitted coats. I didn’t want tight sweaters. I didn’t want earrings or bracelets. I didn’t want any new shoes. By knowing what I didn’t want, my work was reduced substantially.
I opened up my mind to embracing new silhouettes. I considered things which I had never thought of wearing before. As a result of this, I ended up with a few amazing pieces which I know I’ll wear over and over again for the next five years or so. They are items which I would never have worn in my twenties but which feel perfectly suitable now that I’m in my mid-thirties.
I was happy to repeat my favourite silhouettes once or twice. But no more than that. Obviously if something works well for you, then it’s common sense to get something similar. However, in building a minimalist wardrobe, I didn’t want too many versions of the one sort of item because I know from the past that when you have too much of something, it becomes a bit less special. Walking into my wardrobe, thinking to myself ‘I want to wear this sort of outfit today’, and then having only a couple of options has actually been really good for me.
With every item I considered buying, I tried to picture myself wearing it in real-life scenarios. When you browse through look books, clothes always look amazing on the model and against the backdrop of the chosen setting. But the thing is – are you really going to wear it in your everyday life, and wear it often? For example, my everyday life consists of going to school to do drop-offs and pick-ups, spending time at home with the boys, going to cafes, going on drives with the family, going to church, having people over at our place, and visiting the seaside. My clothes actually need to be appropriate for those contexts and scenarios. For example, as much as I love how high heeled boots and sandals look on Instagram, I’m never going to wear them in real life.
I realised that over time, my wardrobe would continue to evolve. This took a lot of the pressure off. What works for me in the next five years might not work in the ten years’ time, and that’s okay. I’m not trying to build a wardrobe to last me for the next two decades – simply for the next foreseeable stage of life.
I bought everything online and didn’t walk into a single store. This meant that I could take as long as I needed to make my purchasing decisions, rather than being forced to decide ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ because the children are getting restless. Whilst I didn’t have a pinboard for outfits per se, I did open up a private Dropmark board and I posted potential items that I liked to this board. This allowed me to see at a glance everything that I liked, and then I was easily able to keep editing it down until I was completely happy with what I wanted to acquire.
When I was in the midst of buying things, I wanted to buy so many things, but once I’d told myself to stop, contentment seeped back into my heart and mind. This was always my biggest fear – that I would fall back into old habits of constantly wanting to buy a few things more. I’m so relieved to learn that it is possible to return to being content.
The end result is that I have under 35 items hanging in my closet. And I have under 100 items overall. This includes all my jewellery, all my shoes, all my bags and even things like socks, stockings, gloves, swimsuit, singlets, pyjamas, and exercise clothes. (It excludes undergarments and my maternity clothes.) And yet, even with so few items, I honestly feel like my closet is complete. I am so very happy with it. And so very content with it.
Later in this series, I’ll talk about some of the things I consider now to be on my personal essentials list, which I’ll combine with my tips for dressing the post-baby body. I’ll also share why I think having under 100 items in my closest is the best thing ever and how I plan to regulate my purchasing from here on.
(Goodness, who knew I would have so much to write about in this series?)
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Other posts you might be interested in reading:
The Happy Closet, Part 7 (the biggest purge in the history of my closet)
The Happy Closet, Part 6 (on contentment and two years of no purchases)
The Happy Closet, Part 5 (some thoughts on my recent purge)
The Happy Closet, Part 4 (on not buying anything for a year)
The Happy Closet, Part 3 (my tips on buying less)
The Happy Closet, Part 2 (the basic principles)
You can read all of The Happy Closet posts here.