Having a curated minimalist wardrobe can take you from overwhelmed to organized. It can see you make the most of your clothes and ensure you have a cohesive look made up of items you love. What’s more, you can have one in just three days.
The first time I saw posts about Project 333 – where you have 33 items that you wear for a season (3 months), I loved the concept but felt almost embarrassed as I’d have to buy MORE clothes to meet this minimalist criteria.
One of the side effects of having kids young with limited finances was that my clothing purchases have always been considered and intentional. My clothing dollar has always had to count. As a result, I developed some practices that have helped me develop a wardrobe of items that I love.
Often with clothing, more equals less – we tend to wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. So if you feel like you have too many clothes but nothing to wear, that your wardrobe lacks focus and your clothing doesn’t make you feel good, then read on because in three days you too could have a curated wardrobe you’re proud of.
Day 1 of a curated minimalist wardrobe: Declutter
This is the fun part!
Get a large rubbish bag.
Get one section of your closet out and put it on the bed.
The section you choose will depend on how sorted your clothes are already. If you have stuff in drawers, get out one drawer at a time. If you have things hanging up by category (eg dresses, or winter clothes) get out just that category. If it’s a complete mess, get out approximately 10 items.
The secret is to never get out more than you can deal with at one time.
Once you have the clothes out, I like to do a careful visual inspection. Check for any stains, rips, or pulled threads. I also check for when things have lost their shape.
If the item has any of these issues but you believe it can be fixed then put them to the side for the moment.
If they are not fixable then put them in the rubbish bag for later donation in a clothing bin. Don’t worry about their state as most clothing bin charities make rags from clothing that isn’t fit to sell.
If they have no issues then put them in a separate pile.
Now start with the “no issues” pile. Try on every item and look at yourself in the mirror. Does the item fit well? Does it suit you? Is it in good condition? Is it as comfortable as it needs to be for the occasion? Do you like it?
If it meets all the criteria, then yay – it gets to stay. Hang these items back up – anywhere for now.
Now sometimes the item might be in great condition, you love it BUT – it doesn’t fit you anymore. In past years I would have said get rid of it. But clothing waste is becoming a huge issue in our society. If you think you might one day fit the item again then by all means, keep it. I know I finally lost weight over the last year and it was like getting a whole new wardrobe when I could fit those clothes again.
However I recommend you do what I did – take those too-small clothes and put them in a spare wardrobe. My rationale for having them out of sight was that it made me feel bad about myself to have clothes in my face that I couldn’t fit. In addition, they created a false impression of how much I actually had to wear.
Some of the clothes might still fit but they just aren’t “good” enough anymore. This often happens for me with more casual items, such as t-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts and comfy pants. These clothes form the staple of my slobby at-home look and are what I wear for cleaning and gardening, so again, if you think you’d slouch around them when no-one else can see, then put them in a separate pile.
Now try on the “to fix” items. Now you see them on, are they worth the effort to make wearable? If not, can they go into that “home only” pile?
So now you have five different groups – the good stuff, which is hanging back up, the doesn’t fit stuff, which you’ve put in another room, the to-fix stuff which is in a pile on the bed and the at home stuff which is also on the bed, and then the stuff you’re going to donate.
Repeat this process until you have worked through all your clothes.
Chances are, the at-home pile now may be quite large. If it is, I suggest you keep no more than three pairs of shorts, three comfy pants, five t-shirts and three sweatshirts. Remember this isn’t your nice stuff – this is what my husband calls “painting shirts” (he had a LOT of these despite the fact I’ve only seen him paint twice in six years). I go for three as that covers the weekend with one to spare.
I keep all these clothes in one drawer in my wardrobe.
Now that’s done, finish the day by dealing to those stains and fixing those clothes. If your efforts fail, put them in the donate bag and put the donate bag in your car ready for the next time you go into town.
Congratulations! You’re a third of the way there.
Day 2 of a curated minimalist wardrobe: Assess what you have
One of the reasons we did the decluttering first was for you to get a sense of what you’re loving right now, and what looks good on you, including colors and shapes.
At work once we joked we looked like we were all going to a funeral because we were all clad in black, and chances are black is one of the main colors in your wardrobe. But I realized something a few years ago – I suit navy more than black.
When I clicked to that, I stopped buying so many black dresses and focused on navy as my base color instead.
So the first thing to work out is if you’re a black or a navy base color.
But how? you ask.
In the 80s having your colors done was a big thing – One of my mum’s friends dragged us to a color evening once though sadly all I can remember is the consultant holding a plethora of scarfs against my face and telling me I should never wear yellow. Now we have thousands of articles on the internet on skin tone, warms and cools, what you should and shouldn’t wear, and to be honest, they can be very confusing. Even after pouring though several in the name of research for this post, I still couldn’t work out, for example, if I was summer, autumn or spring. If you do want the assistance of the internet, however, this was probably the most helpful site on color analysis.
Personally, I think the easiest thing to do is try on a black dress and then a navy dress in good lighting with a decent mirror and see what looks best.
When you’ve done that, try on a white top and an ivory top. Which color looks better on your skin tone?
Greys and beiges are your other neutral colors.
Now you want to think about accent colors. There’s two ways to do this that I recommend. The easiest way to do this is to work out what colors you’re wearing when people give you compliments. This is how I worked out my fave accent colors were kelly green and coral (though not together. Seriously, you’ll look like a watermelon). I also love mint and apricot.
The other way is to go back to color palettes – search “warm spring color palette” for example and you can see what colors work well together.
The overall aim is to have anything from one to three accent colors for summer and for winter.
Now you have your colors sorted, it’s time to think about patterns.
If simplicity is king, then you also want to keep your patterns simple. If it’s not plain and I’m wearing it, chances are it has stripes or polka dots on it.
I’ll show you how I work out patterns shortly.
It’s also crucial to know what shape clothing suits your body shape.
For example, as a pear, I have a small waist and larger thighs, so I suit tighter fitting tops or dresses with a defined waist, and an a-line or flared skirt shape.
You can find out how to dress for your body type here. Knowing this will change the clothes you buy forever.
Okay, so now you have stepped through this process, it’s time to create your master wardrobe list.
There are so many methods you could use, but over the years I’ve experimented, this works the best for me. I have the following for spring / summer and also autumn / winter.
Basics are plain items in my key colors – usually navy and white. The tops and dresses may be in the accent color as well. I tend to pick fit and flare, a-line or shirt dress styles for my basic dresses, and include plain white shirts in my tops.
I have basic tops, skirts, and dresses – three of each.
These are pieces with patterns on them. I tend to stick to stripes, polka dots and often florals as wel. I have three each of tops, skirts and dresses. The tops and dresses are often in accent colors.
These complete the outfit and are blazers and cardigans. You need about three or four of these in your key colors (navy, white, green for example).
I have minimal pairs of shoes. Two pairs of sandals (at the moment, brown, white), flats, black ankle boots, nude pumps, and black pumps.
Hang on a minute – Pants?
Now some of you are probably asking, what about the pants?
I wear jeans in the weekend and comfy pants when I’m chilling at home. I don’t own any work pants and in fact I don’t remember when I last wore pants to work. I’m thinking it was about ten years ago.
I just don’t look good in pants.
If you’re a diehard pants wearer, then I’d add about three pairs of pants to the list.
Categorizing your existing wardrobe
Okay, now is the fun part. Take your table and go back into the bedroom and have a look at all the clothes that made the cut.
Separate them by seasons if need be and focus only on the upcoming season.
Sort them into basics and interest, completer pieces and so on. On a piece of paper, note down a brief description of the items under the headings above. You can see how I have it here (the picture are explained in Day 3).
Once you’ve finished doing that, take a good hard look at your list. What do you have too much of? Not enough of?
I am in a management role for work and I have a two-week wardrobe, and that has always been more than enough. With six dresses and three skirts, plus six tops, you can see how you can easily get two weeks and then some.
If you have too many clothes then consider separating them in some way so your two week wardrobe is together. Maybe you have five basic dresses, for example. Take two of them and take them out of your wardrobe rotation by hanging them at the back of the closest or in another room again with those two small or too big clothes. You will be able to add these back to the rotation at a later date.
I literally have my clothes hung in the order I wear them, as part of my ongoing quest in life to minimize decision fatigue.
So finish off today by sorting out your clothes, ordering them in a way that works for you. Tomorrow we will have a look at what to do with any gaps you have.
Day 3 of a curated minimalist wardrobe: Fill the gaps
Over the years, I have done more and more of my shopping on the internet.
The reason for this is by looking for a specific item, I’m not going into a store and getting seduced or overwhelmed by everything they have in stock. I’m also not getting frustrated by wanting to find something and being unable to do so. Finally, I loathe trying on clothes and sales assistants that won’t leave you alone.
Ultimately, shopping on the internet means I’m being proactive in my search, rather than reactive in responding to what I see.
So get on the internet and start searching.
There are a couple of ways you can do this.
Polyvore is an awesome site to use if you want, for example, a specific item.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve identified on your list that you need a green crew neck cardigan. Go to Polyvore, type in “green crew neck cardigan” and voila- a huge range pops up. I sort by price, low to high, and often put on other parameters too, such as “under 70 NZD”, and then get looking.
The other option is to stick to your stores. I tend to have a few clothing stores that I buy from. UK clothing company Boden is my absolute fave as their clothes have a retro element I really like, the items are quality AND I always save a lot of money as living in New Zealand, their clothes are on sale at the time I go to buy them for the season I’m about to enter.
With that in mind, you do have to be careful when buying from another country to check the limits of what you can purchase before you are charged sales tax. If you’re in New Zealand, use What’s my duty.
Once I find an item and go to the store, I read the reviews on all items before I buy them. You often learn information here such as the item runs small or large, is poorly made, or is excellent quality.
I then take a screenshot of the item and add it to my list, with the price and the link of the item. I often put in a couple of additional extras, as I’ll explain below.
When I have finished, I make a decision as to what I’m going to buy by checking my list, looking against my existing wardrobe, and also seeing what fits in with my clothing budget – as I’m only shopping twice a year, I have my cold hard cash ready and waiting. This is why I have a couple of extras, in case I go over budget, then I can sub out for a less expensive item.
I then wait at least 24 hours before I checkout the items. This is to make sure I’m really happy about what I want to buy.
Once your new items have arrived, sort them in your wardrobe according to the system you have made. Expect that some stuff might not look good on, but once you purchase for your body type, get used to a store and their styling, and read the reviews, you’ll find you have less of this. I might send back one item a season if that.
You now have a curated minimalist wardrobe, with two weeks of outfits.
To sum up
Having a curated minimalist wardrobe can take you from overwhelmed to organized. It can see you make the most of your clothes and ensure you have a cohesive look made up of items you love.
So, if you find you have too many clothes but nothing to wear, then try this three day challenge. On the first day, declutter. On the second day, assess your current wardrobe. On the third day, fill the gaps.
Any questions or feedback? Get in touch through the comments section. I love hearing from you!