melbourne vegan

Jaclyn McCosker

Blogger, social entrepreneur & freelance copywriter

Australia

How To Curate A Minimalist Wardrobe

How To Curate A Minimalist Wardrobe

The decision to transition my clothes towards a minimalist wardrobe has genuinely been life-changing for me. It's changed my outlook on society, our shared values and my own view of myself. Since I decided to stop wasting time, money and energy on excess clothing, I've found:

  1. I've saved a lot of money by shopping less
  2. I've saved a lot of non-renewable resources and produced less waste by shopping less
  3. I'm living my feminist values and looking out for women exploited down the fashion supply chain
  4. I have a better-defined sense of style and I now know what I like
  5. I care less about appearance and have become more confident in outfit repeating
  6. I spend very little time deciding what to wear because everything matches
  7. Packing is a breeze and I carry less luggage

Previously on my old blog platform, I had an extremely detailed post on planning my capsule wardrobe, but I decided not to reuse this post as it was a bit long and convoluted. Today instead, I'll just be talking about how to intentionally pare down your wardrobe options! This isn't exactly the same as designing a capsule wardrobe but it contains the basic principles.

Why don't I have a capsule wardrobe to show you right now? 1) I've gone down 2-3 dress sizes after my health crash last year so my old wardrobe doesn’t fit, 2) I moved houses three times between January and May which involved a lot of packing and downsizing, 3) I've been on something like four holidays this year so have been in and out of different climates, and 4) I pulled out a bunch of old clothes from my mum's house I hadn't seen in years and brought them back into rotation. I'm writing this in a pair of pants I bought in Nepal and hadn't seen in over two years.

For me, buying less translates into the ability to invest in better quality items and to selectively choose ethical companies that deserve our patronage. When you're trying to wear a new outfit every week, it can be hard to prioritise your values because clothing is expensive.

But having a minimalist approach to fashion does not mean you can't love and celebrate fashion! This process isn't about rejecting style, it's about finding and embracing your own personal sense of style. We can intentionally select our wardrobe to reflect our values, and handpick items that will serve us well, make us feel good and bring value to our lives.

So what should you look for when putting together your wardrobe?

Nothing you haven't worn in the past year

A top rule for paring down to a minimalist wardrobe is simply removing what you already do not wear. Whether you want to hold onto hope of one day wearing it or not. Some may want to set this rule for six months, but the maximum is definitely a year to account for the entire range of seasons. If from Spring – Winter you haven’t found a single occasion to wear an item of clothing, it should be removed from your closet immediately.

Next, consider the number of times you’ve worn each item and consider whether you got value out of it. Did you only wear it once, or did you wear it weekly? If an item isn’t considered to be well-loved, it also needs to be donated, sold or trashed because of the next rule.

Nothing you don't LOVE

You need to feel good in everything you own. If you don’t love something, why do you hold onto it? If you don’t love something, why would you use the resources and spend the money to even buy it? Your wardrobe should only contain pieces you look forward to wearing and will get a lot of value out of. This means nothing ill-fitting, unintentionally see-through, outdated, odd coloured, unflattering, scratchy or that rides up when you walk. Invest both your time and money in only the best so you can feel your best all of the time.

A handy hack can be to ask yourself this question: If I was shopping right now, would I want to buy this piece of clothing? If it’s a no, you don’t love it and it’s gotta go. Donate, sell or trash!

Only wear clothes that fit

If your clothes don't fit you well they do not serve you and they do not belong in your wardrobe. If they're still good quality, pop them on Facebook and sell them!

Over the past year, gaining a lot of weight and then re-losing that weight has been quite the journey. It can be a lot to deal with! Yet one thing that really helped was when I chose to accept my size and finally invest in new clothes that fit. For a while, I clung to my ill-fitting outfits in the hope that I would suddenly fit back into those shorts. Unfortunately, that's not how weight loss works. So instead, I invested in good quality ethical basics that were able to be used across a variety of outfits and found my confidence was immediately boosted because I no longer dreaded getting dressed. By spending a bit of money on clothes that fit in all the right places, I expanded my wardrobe tenfold and it made dressing a breeze again - even if I only owned a few key pieces of clothing! Now I'm reducing in size I'm on the flip side, and am pulling out old clothes and sourcing new clothes to ensure I only have well-fitting items on hand.

Know your colour scheme

Wear fewer colours! Understanding what colours you really wear and that work together is crucial. We're all tempted to buy the odd lime green or hot pink top because it's "different', but when the time comes we really only wear that item maybe once. It's difficult to match with our shoes or bags, it's not flattering, and you don't always want to stand out that much. A mix of black, white, brown or grey however? That's an easily wearable colour scheme every day of your life.

My personal colour scheme is white, black and denim with orange or red patterned highlights. Sure I break my own rules sometimes, but generally anything coming into my wardrobe has to blend into this colour scheme to be able to mix and match with the rest of my clothing, or it's not useful enough and shouldn't be allowed!

Think about dressing up and down

A cool life hack has been choosing clothes that can be dressed up and down and worn in three different outfits. Like my Country Road striped t-shirt dress that I wore with sneakers, Birkenstocks or heels taking it from grocery shopping to drinks at a bar. The goal of a multi-functional minimalist wardrobe is to keep your items simple enough that they can be taken from day to night with a few easy swaps. T-shirts and jeans can be swapped from a shoulder bag and Birkenstocks to heels and a clutch to take you out to dinner. It's not so hard to find items you can see wearing in a variety of scenarios, and you learn to put more consideration into choosing your clothes to ensure you'll get your money's worth out of them!

Consider the story

Each piece of clothing has a story, whether you know it or not. Just like each of us has a story we’re living, whether we realise it or not. Where did the fabric come from? Where was it made? Who made it? Who benefits from the profits? What happens to the item after it’s lived it’s life?

Consider the story of your clothing, and consider how it intertwines into the story of your own life. Our appearance says a lot about us, but our consumer habits say even more. Nobody becomes beautiful benefiting from the sacrifice of animals or humans used to produce your wardrobe. And be careful not to forget the end of the story of your clothing after it leaves your home, does it biodegrade and return to nature or will it live on forever in our waterways as plastic pollution?

Make a list

Making an itemised list of your wardrobe is a great idea. It not only shows you how much you really do have when you want to exclaim ‘I have nothing to wear!’, but it also helps you keep track of what you need. Writing out a list can show that perhaps you have five white t-shirts, yet somehow don’t have a single pair of pants you find comfortable. To keep your wardrobe practical, keep track of what you have and what you need with a list, and you can set your budget and shop around from there. This allows you to build a cohesive look and avoids you overspending on things that don’t fit in, leaving you feeling just as stuck as if you really don’t have anything to wear after all.

Before you go, set some ground rules

To avoid falling back into the trap of rampant consumption and rash purchases, you need to get real with yourself about your habits and set some rules in two categories: How often you will shop and how much you’re allowed to spend. Keeping in mind that when you’re planning your fashion budget, it would usually still be more than you’d want to spend on a haul at a cheap fast fashion outlet. Because investing in quality pieces that last costs a bit more money. (E.g. One $180 dress versus three $60 dresses.)

To get in the habit of slowed consumption you might need to set a shopping ban for a period of 30-90 days. I had a lot of trouble stopping my own shopping habit thanks to the low prices and free shipping of ASOS, but I got there with practice! Set yourself a shopping ban to give yourself time to change your approach to spending, and from there set yourself some rules of how often you can buy clothing. I don’t have a time limit, but I try to work off a one-in one-out rule. My last two purchases were a new jumper and beanie, and I put my old jumper (discoloured and stretched) and beanie (ill-fitting) into a donation bin a few days later. I also budget carefully and build my clothing budget around my other expenses and instead of making excuses and trying to sap money from other areas of my life, I remind myself that we need very little clothing and as long as I have the basics, I have no cause to overspend.


There are so many benefits to owning less stuff. You grant yourself the gift of more time, more money, more mental energy, less housework and a lighter environmental footprint. And as the second-worst polluting industry next to fossil fuels, and one of the largest global industries that largely relies on the underpaid labour of women, our clothing choices have massive far-reaching impacts on the world around us and say a lot about our values as individuals.

What steps have you taken to move towards a more sustainable and ethical wardrobe? Do you practice a capsule wardrobe? Drop me a comment with any tips you have for me!

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