Rebuilding Your Minimalist Wardrobe

You’ve worked on developing your personal style and signature look, and you’ve thoroughly cleansed your wardrobe. The next stage is to get acquainted with your newly curated wardrobe and start rebuilding it slowly:

1. Live with your wardrobe for a little while, before you start restocking.
Don’t be afraid to start with less than you think you need in your wardrobe and build up gradually. It might be uncomfortable at first, but the smaller your wardrobe, the more quickly you’ll be able to get to know it, and the easier it will be to learn and build on it. Rather than rushing out to replace what you threw out and purchasing what you think you need, take the time to learn what you actually need: for example, you might realise that you need another pair of trousers because the ones you have need washing too regularly, or that a grey coat would nicely complement many of your outfits. Living with a smaller wardrobe is a great way to get comfortable with the concept of enough and it will help you recognize that you probably need less than you think. Your life will immediately become simpler with fewer choices in your wardrobe, and the more narrowly you define your style, the easier it will be to identify what’s missing and which pieces are just “filler” in your wardrobe.

2. Make a wish list
When you notice that you do need something or would like to add a new piece to your wardrobe, add it to a wish list. This will help you avoid impulse purchases that you don’t need and will keep you focused on finding the perfect addition to your wardrobe.

3. Choose quality over quantity
Don’t compromise when rebuilding your wardrobe – when you’re buying a new piece, ask yourself:
– Do I love it? Am I 100% sold on this item? Does it fit well and do I feel confident/comfortable wearing it? These are non-negotiable: you need to be completely sold on an item before you buy. If you answered no or maybe to any of the above questions, don’t purchase.
– Is this a good quality item? Is it well made? Is the fabric durable? Will it wash well? Is it suitable for my lifestyle? Is this the best quality I can afford? Try your best with this one – aim to purchase pieces that will last, so you’re not throwing away things that have worn out within a few months.
– Does this come from the most ethical source possible? The clothes you choose to buy play a small part in making the world a better place. So where possible, try to purchase from companies that follow ethical practices and are environmentally conscious.

4. Consider setting a limit
The 5-Piece French Wardrobe (one method for building a capsule wardrobe), for example, limits your purchases to five new pieces per six-month fashion season. Other methods set a limit on the total number of pieces you can have in your wardrobe (see Unfancy’s 37-piece capsule wardrobe). When you first start it can be really useful to set an absolute limit, because it forces you to make considered choices about the pieces that make up your wardrobe. Eventually you might find the numbers don’t matter but it’s a good discipline to try out at the beginning. With experience you’ll begin to intuitively know whether you have too much or too little, at which point you might not need such strict limits. In my experience though, it really pays to follow the rules before you break them.

7 ways to change your shopping habits

It can be difficult to avoid falling into a fast fashion mindset, especially when the marketing materials of many brands are designed to encourage impulse purchases. Here are some strategies to help you shop more slowly:

1. Approach sales with caution
Sales encourage impulse purchases through a combination of urgency, scarcity and low prices (see: 70% OFF FOR ONE DAY ONLY WHILE STOCKS LAST!). None of these factors should be the reason you make a purchase. Avoid browsing sales mindlessly so you’re not tempted to buy things you don’t really want. Instead, approach sales mindfully: if you’re looking for pieces to build your wardrobe and you know exactly what you want, or you’ve had your eye on something for a while, a sale is an added bonus to an already well-considered purchase.

2. Unsubscribe from sales emails
As above – if brand newsletters encourage you to make impulse purchases through deep discounts and a sense of urgency or scarcity, unsubscribe so the temptation is removed.

3. Don’t buy if you’re not sure
Remember the first question you have to ask yourself when making a purchase? Do you love it? Get into the habit of putting things back that you’re not sure about. Don’t default to buy now and worry about it later. Worry about it now! Think about all of the things in your wardrobe that you weren’t sure about and that ended up being discarded, unworn.

4. Delay purchases
If a sense of urgency is the main factor driving a purchase, force yourself to wait a few days. If you still want something after you’ve had time to think about it, then go back and get it. What if you do miss out this time? It might be frustrating, but it’s not the end of the world. You’ll likely forget about it within a few days and definitely by the time the next season rolls around.

5. Stick to your wish list
Be strict with your wish list. Only purchase things you have identified that you need, not things that you think might be nice to have. If you see something you really like that’s not on the list, go away and figure out how it would fit into your wardrobe, whether it would work well with other pieces you own to create outfits. Build in that delay – non-wish list items must not be impulse purchases!

6. Get to know your triggers
When do you shop? It is when you’re bored? As a social activity? As a pick-me-up when you’re unhappy? Recognise your triggers and replace shopping with a different activity. See this great post by Anushka Rees for a more detailed look at this topic.

7. Return things
If you purchase something and realise within the return period that you don’t want it after all, return it. Even if you have to pay for postage. Don’t be lazy! The sunk cost of postage is lower than the cost of the product. And don’t forget the emotional cost of feeling guilty every time you see it in your wardrobe.

These tips are all about helping you rebuild your wardrobe slowly and mindfully, while avoiding snap purchasing decisions. Get to know your wardrobe and what it needs, and then take the time to find items that are a perfect fit, at the best quality and from the best sources that you can afford. If you approach your wardrobe from a more mindful perspective you’ll be well on your way to building a beautifully curated minimal wardrobe.


images via Josie Oakley and Style Bee