August marks three months since I committed to a “no clothes purchases for 6 months” pact with myself, and I felt it was timely to provide a bit of an update on how it has all been going. Since beginning my minimalism journey, I have been both inspired and bewildered to try to live (and look good!) with fewer articles of clothing.
Fashion has historically been one of my ‘hey big spender’ areas – not insofar as spending a lot of moolah on one item, but more that I would just keep buying items – on a whim. I used to be a bit of a clothes horse – the glittering fresh garments would beckon at me in shop windows as I passed by, the allure of a store selling brightly coloured necklaces or shoes or bags or pretty little garments would often see me parting with dollar after dollar until sadly there was very little fun money left.
Since 2015, I have been reading about wardrobes that feature a ‘less is more’ approach and have become very interested in trying this approach for myself. I have previously mentioned Courtney Carver as a modern day icon of the capsule wardrobe – she developed Project 333 for herself and then wrote about it, which of course made it spread like wildfire among the minimalist and simple living communities – and certainly the concept of wearing 33 items for 3 months (333) has always seemed a good place to try to start in the way of taming the wardrobe beasts.
Minimalism has been a great tool for rationalising my way through the clothing I possess. In 2015 I completed a radical cull of my wardrobe over a few short ‘sessions’ – and started by pulling everything (EVERYTHING – even the mismatched socks and funny little belts and cardigans and everyday t-shirts) out of my wardrobe which I shared with my husband. From there, I was able to significantly reduce the sheer number of clothes I possessed. While I like the idea of project 333, I haven’t yet formally whittled my wardrobe to 33 items – I probably have around 60-70 items of clothing (including clothing, shoes, accessories, and jewellery but excluding undergarments and active wear) and that works very well for me at this stage. The numbers aren’t as much of a consideration for me at present, though if my calculations are correct, I am currently at around one quarter the size of my wardrobe before I started this journey.
Of my 60-70 total items, I probably wear 20-25 items every single week. This has been both a deliberate decision and an automatic response – when you don’t have as wide a variety of items to choose from you quickly identify a) your favourites and b) your most practical items which then end up becoming a bit of a regular feature on my personal catwalk.
Why did I decide not to purchase any clothing for 6 months? The reasons are varied but include financial and environmental benefits/impacts, and because I want to prove to myself that I can and there will be no Armageddon! Has it been difficult to make the decision to not buy any clothing for 6 whole months? Largely, no. Once I made the decision, and I knew why I had made the decision, it has been a relatively straightforward exercise to visit a shopping precinct and not purchase any clothing. Knowing your ‘why’ enables you to stay focused on your goals and because I am steadfast in my decision, I do not waste any energy entertaining my thoughts on buying. I have learned to ‘admire and walk away’, but there are so many other valuable lessons I have learned thus far:
Capsule Wardrobe – Lessons from 3 Months of Wearing What I Own
- Reduced investment in vanity. Something incredible happens when you wear what you own – you stop mentally jumping to what you lack, and start looking affectionately at what you have. I have found this to be a profound (and a little unexpected) benefit in wearing only what I currently own – my background preoccupation with ‘fashion’ is out the window and I don’t miss it. The process of finding contentment in your clothing – even if a little worn, or the colour is not on pointe, or you don’t have every item for every occasion, means that you just – make – do. You can absolutely be well-groomed and well-presented in the lovely wardrobe you already have. You can absolutely wear the same thing or a variety of the same thing (e.g. accessorised differently) and it is very likely that nobody will either notice nor care.
- Reduced distraction. I no longer need to pay attention to advertisements for fashion – at all. I don’t look, I don’t listen, I don’t window-shop, I don’t get sidetracked on my way to the supermarket by the 2 for 1 sale at Country Road. And I am happy as a lark with my new found focus on what is important.
- Enhanced creativity. When you have a finite number of items to work with, you need to get creative. I have learned how to use accessories for greater variation in my look. Just the other day I paired some shoes with some pants that I would never have considered doing previously, and they worked! It has been nice to breathe some life back into pieces that have been a little neglected at the back of the wardrobe previously.
- More money. Speaks for itself! Hello dollars in my pocket, goodbye pricey garments and shmancy but unnecessary pretty purchases.
- Greater time efficiency. Getting ready is generally a quick process. I have a ‘most days work uniform’ (more on this in future blogs!) that means I know what I’m wearing – real quick – every day. I am not wasting time trying to find a piece of clothing under mountains of clothes in my dresser or wardrobe. I am not choosing from 10 black tops that all look the same but create decision-fatigue in my mind. I get dressed and then get on with the important things.
So – have I really not purchased ANYTHING in 3 months? ** Holds breath**. No.
I have purchased 3 items – one Mexican-pattern type tunic, one pair of earrings and one necklace – all to wear as my Mexican ‘costume’ to my 30th birthday party. This was a known and forecasted mental exception I considered at the start of this exercise, as will be purchasing proper walking shoes for our upcoming central Queensland camping adventure. However, these are the only items purchased.
I am 100% committed to not buying for the sake of buying. But I am also living in a reality where a) if I invite party guests to dress in themed costumes then I need to also! and b) I functionally require safe and proper footwear to hike.
This is not an exercise in deprivation – it is an exercise in intentionality. I am putting the brakes on clothing purchases because the decision to do so is the natural next step in living a beautiful life with less.
I am excited to continue this exercise for the next 3 months and likely beyond because I am experiencing the benefits of the simple exercise. I would invite you to try to live with a smaller wardrobe or to bring mindfulness and intention to your next voyage into a shopping precinct.
Are you on the path of a capsule wardrobe? How are you finding it and what have you learned?
Until next time – simplify, focus, pursue and count your blessings.
Photo Credit: Priscilla Du Perez