I worked in a man’s fashion store for three years. There I mainly sold suits, shirts, and ties. During these years, I’ve started to adore fashion, to try different outfits, to experiments with my looks. You can easily fall in love with owning a lot of cool clothes simply because you gain attention from the people around you and more importantly, from the opposite sex. You feel like everybody likes you as soon as they turn their eyes towards your direction. It’s kind of refreshing and it feels excelling. The downsides of all of the above are plenty. Not only your bank account looks like an abandoned island, but you also need to think about where to store all those clothes. At one point in my life, this constant urge for owning more clothes become overwhelming and unbearable. I had to look for help…
The recent post I published about why you should create a minimalist wardrobe and the key benefits of a capsule wardrobe is not enough to convince you that there is actually a positive side of owning less clothes. Even more, the previous post doesn’t provide actionable steps. This will change, however in this detailed guide.
So, if you want to learn how to create a concise wardrobe composed of only a few pieces of clothes, which are also approved by the fashion industry, you’re in the right place.
Minimalist Fashion – Meaning
A common misconception by people is that minimalism, especially in the fashion industry refers to someone who is devoid of any kind of style or a fashion sense. A man dressing like a savage. Or worse, a person who often walks around naked.
These definitions are so common because there is so much content online stating that minimalism is almost a synonym to nudism that it’s becoming hard to separate the false information from the true.
Similar to what the word minimalism means, minimalist fashion, like everything else in related to this subject, is based on functionality. The idea is to create a wardrobe of a few, carefully selected items, accents, all of which are in a similar style – a minimalist style. We can observe a precise coordination, harmony of colors, fabrics, and shapes, resulting in a complete simplicity in a person who is well aware of what he is wearing. The overall look will whisper elegance and sophistication. Like this dude:
Minimalist fashion is about learning how you can achieve better results in terms of looks, thanks to fewer items. Even though it sounds easy, in reality, it’s much harder. Some people think like that: “Ok, I will go to the store and purchase 10 black t-shirts and 1 pair of black jeans and I’m ready to become a minimalist.” Yes, you can do the above but that won’t make necessarily help you look good.
Two Main Reasons We Buy
Mainly, there are two reasons we buy stuff, because we like something or because we need something. The first group is much larger. You don’t necessarily need 10 hats to survive in the world, yet you browse online for new caps more often than you need. Girls can easily relate to what I mean by only mentioning a single word: shoes. I don’t understand exactly what’s their deal with shoes, but I know that they all love them: sneakers, heels, boots, sandals, gladiator sandals, court shoes, ankle boots, wedges, ballerinas, flip flops.1 I found this picture online that probably summarize all types of women shoes:
Before we continue, let’s observe for a moment the main reasons we stuff:
1. “Because I like it”
The world is advancing so fast that the list of the things you like, but you don’t really need increases with every passing day.
I’m subscribed to Kickstarter newsletter and I occasionally receive updates on new projects from people all around the world. Every now and then there is something really interesting and probably worth backing up, but in most of the cases, things are quite similar. Stuff that are cool but you don’t actually need: a new journal, a new magazine, a new way to store your coins, a slimmer wallet, a half bike.2
The main point is this: you don’t need 90% of the things you see online or offline. You can purchase the new iPhone X for $1000 bucks, or even spend twice as much to get the golden version but it will still be simply a phone.3 You can achieve the same results on an Android device that will cost you $300. Or even better, get a non-smartphone and get some peace in this busy world.
The reason we buy expensive shit is because we like them. They make us feel good for a little while. They make us think that the other people around us will envy us. Expensive things boost our confidence and touch our feelings and emotions. That’s why, the commercials we see are focused on that direction: with a promise that you will feel better after you gain this item.
2. “Because I need it”
The other category of things we buy is the practical one. It’s so simple that’s even boring and unattractive. Something like when you’re thirsty. If you’re dehydrated, you go to the store and you buy a bottle of water. There is nothing cool about that. Unless you choose to buy an expensive bottle of mineral water. One of the following brands for example: Filico – $200; Svalbardi – $59- $86, or Bling H20’s The Ten Thousand – $2,700.4 But this purchase won’t make any sense. Why spend more than 1 dollar for a bottle of water? You will only do it if you’re trying to impress someone and this behavior falls into the first category. That’s the power of the brand.5
You buy bread, pajamas, cheese, regular shoes, socks, and other things because you need them. You found that you have a hole on your sock and it becoming impossible to hide it. You go to the store and you buy a couple of pairs.
The key to become intentional about your purchases and create a minimalist fashion wardrobe is lower the “because I want it” purchases and focus only on the ones from the second type.
Intentional Approach in fashion
How often you open your drawer and you say something like this: “God! I have nothing to wear!” Even though I don’t know you personally, I’m sure that this is not 100% true. You’re not born with clothes but during your lifespan, you obtain plenty of these items and there is no way that you “don’t have nothing to wear.” You probably fell in the trap of owning more than you need. Actually is a bit different. You probably own a lot of clothes that don’t match with each other.
During your whole life, you presumably bought clothes that are pretty by themselves but don’t fit the overall picture – the other clothes you have. Why did you do that? Well, because we people love the impulsive purchases.6 But what if you can change that. What if you can open your closet, simply pull a t-shirt knowing that will go with everything else you’ve put on without having to call your best friend and discussing this over the phone for 30 minutes? You will probably be like this: “Is that even possible?!” Yes, it is. But like everything else in life, it requires a bit of work.
A Guide to Minimalist Fashion
Ok, let’s see what are the steps to enter the visually the world of minimalism:
STEP 1: Declutter Your Closet
The first step towards creating a minimalist wardrobe is to see what you have currently. There are probably some gems hidden inside the pile of junk located inside your dresser and your first task will be to find them and remove everything else you don’t need.
Imagine this exercise like putting all of your clothes through a giant sieve. The goal will be to separate your clothes into the following categories:
The “Yes” stack
Clothes you love and you regularly wear. These pieces are probably on the top of the drawer or inside your laundry basket because you wear them so often. Put them aside, fold them nicely.
The “Nope” stack
Old, rusty, clothes you used to wear or such that are bought impulsively. Some of these pieces you probably never woar but you keep them anyway. Throw away the ones that are too old and torn from the ones that are still good. Give them or donate them.
THE “Seasonal” STACK
If you’re living in L.A., you probably don’t have a winter jacket or long pants. However, if you’re like me and you’re living somewhere around the world where we have all the four seasons, you probably have a little space occupied from your winter wear. This stack is obvious, you need warm clothes in the winter. Still, don’t go overboard with buying sweaters. You most probably don’t need more than 5 sweaters to make it through the winter.
Carefully go through all of your seasonal clothes and donate the ones you’re not using.
THE “MAYBE” STACK
Usually, this pile will be full of clothes which you like but the majority of them won’t fit you anymore. At least that’s the case with me. I’ve purchased over 20 shirts while I was working in the clothes store. Over the years, most of them magically shrank. Ok, I lied. I simply gain weight.
The main reason I kept them for so many years was the hope that I will lose the extra pounds. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. At least I wasn’t able bring back my 20ties body structure, which is kind of normal. I’m now 30 years old and is unreasonable to think that I can fit into clothes that fit me 10 years ago.
Donate the maybe stack. I know, it’s going to be hard but eventually, you will forget about your favorite sweater.
STEP 2: WHAT’S YOUR STYLE?
What type of clothes do you like?
When was the last time you sat down to think about how do you want to look? Never? What a shame. Not defining your style will cost you money and storage space.
Before I dressed quite formally – blazer, shirts, oxford shoes. In parallel, however, I also adored the casual look – sneakers, jeans, plain t-shirts, bomber jackets. As you can imagine, this cost me a lot of money to sustain. Not until recently I abandoned the stylish look and I started to dress casually in 99% of the time.
It sounds simple but it’s not. Also, there is a difference between what type of clothes you like and what type of clothes you wear. If you’re working in an office and most of your colleagues are wearing suits, it will be a social suicide if you go to the office with sneakers and jeans, at least if you’re not the CEO of the company.
Besides thinking about your desired style, you should also think about “how you spend your days”:
- Where do you work?
- What’s the dress code there?
- Where do you go after work?
- What do you do on weekends?
- Do you travel a lot?
- Do you like wearing suits and ties or do you prefer sneakers and t-shirts?
When you know what you do, and what you like, you will know what type of clothes you need. Once you know what type of clothes you need, you can decide on your style.
Step 3: create a minimalist lifestyle clothing LIST
Take a notebook. No, really. Take a notebook and write down everything you have left inside your dresser after the decluttering section and start taking notes on the things you’ll need. Once you’re done with that, you need to take a moment and think about how you want to dress. And of course, What type of clothes you need.
Here are some tips and things to consider when deciding on your minimalist outfits:
- Bet on similar colors: Different seasons suggest different color clothes. White for summer; Brown for autumn, and so on. But that’s not a global rule or something. That’s what society and the fashion industry sell us. Your minimalist lifestyle clothing list should be compiled by 3 to 5 colors tops. These colors should be similar to each other. Basically, they should complete each other. A common practice is to bet on the basic colors: black, white, grey. If that’s too simple for you, try different shades of these colors: dim gray, charcoal, raisin black, whitesmoke, ghost white. Write down your preferred colors and purchase clothes in these color ranges.
- Decide on your style: Do you prefer wearing oxford shoes or you’re sneakers type of guy? Shoes are an essential element of our style. They not only complete our look, they determine it. You can wear sneakers with shirts but not any type of t-shirts goes along with monk strap shoes. Once you think about what are your daily duties, the places you visit, you will have a better idea of what type of clothes you will need. For example, if you’re a lawyer, you will definitely need a suit or two. But if you’re working in the IT industry, you can safely bet on jeans and t-shirts.
- Buy from similar brands: I personally shop only from three stores.7 If I can’t find something cool inside these stores I go empty handed and I don’t regret this decision. The benefits of the above are a lot: You may get an extra discount when you shop regularly; The clothes inside a single store are designed to go along with each other; You save time.
- Practical clothes: I used to hate long pants with side pockets. And for a good reason, they looked awful:
However, things change. They finally made them fit and skinny. Now I have two pairs of those:
I love those pants because they’re really comfortable and on top of that are practical. I put them on when I travel because I can stuff things inside my pockets. Additionally, you don’t need a belt when you wear them, which is super cool when you’re visiting airports. Clothes that are both practical and well designed are such that you should definitely welcome inside your wardrobe. It’s like getting two things for the price of one.
STEP 4: SET SOME RULES
By now you probably have a clear idea of what your wardrobe should look like and what pieces should include. It’s time to go shopping. Well, at least if you think it’s neceserray. There is a good chance you don’t need to do anything besides removing the pieces you won’t ever wear again.
However, if after the cleansing you’re out of anything to wear, and this time I will probably believe you, then you should visit the local mall. Here are some quick tips to shop like a minimalist:
- Don’t buy things that don’t go along your style: Everything you buy should go along with the rest of your clothes.
- Avoid buying things you only like: A lot of times you will see things you like but you don’t quite need. I’m not saying that you should completely restrict yourself from such things but you should definitely limit these purchases.
- Seasonal sales can be a double-edged sword: You can surely save some cash but you can also quickly lose yourself from all the discounts and spent more than you wanted to.
- Set a budget: A good idea will be to set a budget before you visit your favorite store. If you decided to spend $100 for a new pair of jeans and a t-shirt, don’t go above that number.
- If you’re thinking about it, don’t buy it: A lot of times I go to the store and I can’t quite find a t-shirt that I really like. Then, I see one that I kind of adore and I buy it. Unfortunately, I often regret this decision later. If you’re not 100% sure that you like the item you’re about to purchase, don’t settle with something that is kind of ok.
- Quality instead of quantity: When you start reducing your wardrobe you will see how important it is to own only high-quality stuff. If you own two pairs of shoes you will want them to last you at least one year and that won’t happen if you buy a 30 dollar Adidas knockoff.
- Price tags: Expensive items are not necessarily the best. Generally speaking, an item that costs more is more durable. Still, these days there are a lot of companies that offer clothes with very good quality at an affordable price.
STEP 5: DON’T follow the herd
“Ok, I’ve everything I need in terms of clothes, but I saw that Adidas announced their new models and I really want a pair. How can I resist this feeling?”
We’re daily bombarded by new products, fashion trends, offers and all kind of other messages that are aiming towards getting money out of our wallets. It’s hard to block and stay careless about the things happening around us. Especially if you’re young and everybody around you is dressed by the latest fashion trends.
To be honest, I can’t really tell you how you can completely rip out all of these feelings and desires from your system, but I can tell you this: People who spend most of their time perfecting their looks, usually don’t have anything better to do.
I didn’t adopt the minimalist lifestyle hoping to win a fashion award or something, I did it because I wanted to remove the clutter out of my life, gain more time, focus my efforts towards the things I really love doing.
In a nutshell: Creating a minimalist wardrobe is a mean towards meaningful living.
That’s was it, that was my definitive guide to minimalist fashion. I hope you liked it and I really hope the tips and tricks here helped you shape the perfect combination of clothes.
Keep in mind that there isn’t like an ultimate wardrobe set specially designed for minimalists. We’re all different people with different interest. We can’t all wear black clothes all the time. The idea is to find the perfect balance, style, outfits depending on your desires and interests. To find clothes that not only look good on you but also feel good.
- I don’t know, there are probably even other types of shoes that I’m not aware of. You can probably help me by leaving a comment if I’m missing something.
- The last is actually something you might like. Half bike is a new way to cycle. You should definitely check it out: Halfbike page.
- I don’t know who the hell will give nearly $2000 for a little gold on the curve of the phone.
- I’ve found these brands and the prices from this website: LINK.
- Seth Goldin explains it relly good why we spend extra money for things that don’t bring any real additional value: LINK.
- Such purchases are unplanned and in most of the cases result from emotions – positive or negative. For instance, the time you bought an average t-shirt only because a woman you barely know told you that you’re fat. Your desire to feel better brought you inside the nearest mall and whispered in your ear, “the reason this woman told you that is because your t-shirt is too tight around your belly. You need a new blouse.”
- Most of my clothes are from one of these stores: Zara, Bershka, H&M. The first two are actually different brands of one company so basically, I shop from only two different shops.