Fashion Minimalism

Remember when we were children? A lot of us probably has a favorite dress or favorite shirt that our parents couldn’t pry us out of long enough to get us in the bath, let alone run it through the washer and dryer. We loved that stupid thing and we didn’t mind wearing it all the time, every day in fact. We didn’t care if our little classmates wrinkled their noses and asked, “Why do you wear that every day?” We would just say “Because it’s my favorite.” We were happy with our one favorite for months (if not years) on end.

So what’s changed?

My last post on over-buying clothes, while practical, I think missed the point. Despite knowing we don’t need more clothes, we still feel like we need more. Or at least, that’s how I feel. It’s been a while since I bought clothes (other than for my work uniform) since I’m saving money for something important but I still can’t help but feel like one day, I’ll want to have a lot of clothes. So even though I discussed why we over-buy, I think what we really need to talk about is why we feel the need to go shopping in the first place.

The quote I keep at the top of this blog says that when we say we have nothing to wear, we mean we have no clothes for who we’re supposed to be that day. What that really implies is that the more often we say we have nothing to wear, the less we know who we are. But we know who we’re “supposed to be” and our clothes, our look, our style right now isn’t good enough. So we go shopping.

Our clothing choices are a large part of who we are and there’s no getting around that. Even people who don’t care about fashion like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, or even Gandhi, their clothing choices still speak volumes. They say “I’m not the type of person who cares about fashion,” in the same way that a very trendy outfit says “I’m the type of person who cares a lot about fashion and trends.”

If you’re reading this, then chances are you care about fashion but you don’t want shopping to rule your life. However, there are a few key reasons that can hinder you from being content with fewer clothes in your wardrobe.

“If I wear the same things all the time people will think I’m [poor/ low class/ not fashionable/ lazy/ etc.]”  Perhaps this was true in middle school and it’s unfortunate that this mindset has stuck around with us for so long. But let’s say that we did wear just 3-5 different outfits for several months on end. Would people notice? Yes. Would they say something or ask us about it? Maybe. Would they care about our clothes beyond the 30 seconds they take to say something? No. A wise woman once said, “You wouldn’t care so much what people thought of you if you knew how seldom they did.”

“If I have fewer clothes, I won’t have anything for parties/events/special occasions.” This is sort of a catch-22. If you have fewer clothes, then you will have more money to go buy a new outfit when an occasion arises (or you can always rent fancy clothes) instead of having to pick from your overflowing closet because you already spent your clothing budget on mediocre items you don’t really like.

“If I have fewer clothes and go shopping less, I’m missing out. Having only a few clothes is boring.” Sometimes I think going clothes shopping is like the Pina Colada song. We think we want something (or someone) new but what we really love is the thrill of the chase and the anticipation. And we are relieved when we can get back to our old favorite. I think humans are wired to be fascinated by new things. But with a lot of our clothes, once the novelty wears off and we’re out of the honeymoon phase, we put it in the back of our closet. If you think that you are somehow missing out on the fashion world because you’re not constantly shopping, you can buy a copy of Vogue or Harper’s for less than $7 (or get it from the library), which is cheaper than buying several $20 H&M pieces each month. You can even make a fashion scrapbook with the old issues when you’re done with them. And if you really feel compelled, you can become a fashion designer so every item you create is “yours” without having to actually own them.

“If I have fewer clothes, I won’t be able to fully express who I am.” This is a tough thought to contend with. A lot of our clothing choices come down to self-expression, hence why not having the right clothes means there’s nothing for who we’re supposed to be. But I think a better way of putting that statement is “there’s nothing here for who we’re trying to be.”

And when it comes down to this, we have to ask ourselves, who am I trying to be and why? Are we trying to fit in with a certain group of people? Are we trying to appear wealthy? (This was definitely me.) Are we trying to look older or younger than we are? Why are we trying to be this way? Is this desire authentic or do we want to fit in so people won’t make fun of us? Are we trying to look floss/flex/stunt so we can fill in the holes in our own self worth? (Also me.) Are we trying to look older and sexy because our parents told us we weren’t allowed to wear a certain outfit? Are we trying to look younger so we don’t have to accept our growing age?

When I started this blog, I wanted to look rich and stunt. I wanted to be just so fabulous and have better outfits than all of the other “lazy” students who bummed around in sweats and a hoodie or the “basic bitches” who all looked the same. The problem with that is I was so obsessed with finding the perfect style- it had to be sexy, classy, retro, modern, sleek, feminine, chic, understated, and extra all at the same time. I filled countless Pinterest boards with so many different styles in an attempt to nail down how I wanted to dress and who I wanted to be. I had the belief that in order to be socially successful, I had to have the Perfect style. I had to be perfect. But I learned that is so far from reality.

I dropped out of college earlier this year, hence my long hiatus from this blog. It was the right choice for me and I’m glad I did. One of the side effects of me dropping out is that I no longer feel like I have to be perfect. Before going to college, my parents moved to a whole other state so now that I’ve moved back in with them, I have no friends or social group here (coworkers aside, and we wear uniforms). I literally have no one to impress. So I kind of stopped caring about fashion and I stopped writing.

I’ve been getting pretty into minimalism, especially digital minimalism, which at times seems like the antithesis of fashion. But it’s helped me because minimalism is the antithesis of over-consumption. Digital minimalism has helped me more so than traditional minimalism regarding material possessions because social media is a huge source of creating discontent with who we are and what we have. On social media, everyone else is prettier, richer, more glamorous, and has more clothes than we do. It feels like most girls on Insta never repeat an outfit in their feed. Pinterest feeds us endless options and we think we want them all. It’s impossible to keep up.

Anyone who’s into fashion, even those who aren’t, want to express themselves through their clothes. But I think the biggest myth about fashion is that we need a lot of clothes in order to do this successfully. I don’t think we need 10 different superhero T-shirts to express that we’re fans. Maybe we could buy one or two shirts with all of our favorites on it. Maybe we don’t need 20 different thot-fits for going out at night. We’d be just as fine with 3. I don’t think we need 30 different skirts or pants and blouses for work, we’ll be alright with less. That’s what I mean by fashion minimalism. 

You don’t need a capsule collection to be minimalist. And I think that it’s somewhat ironic how capsule wardrobes always seek to maximize the number of outfit combinations with the least amount of items as if repeating outfits must be avoided at all costs unless you’re going for the uniform look. Plus, most capsule wardrobes can look a little dull (#noshade). There’s nothing wrong with neutrals but not everyone wants to wear clothes that are black, white, gray, and the color of oatmeal.

So, if you want to be minimalist with your closet, a good way to start without following a strict capsule wardrobe is to blend the Percent by Frequency method with a Multiple Personality wardrobe. The essence of building your wardrobe this way is to find what different aspects of yourself you want to express through your clothes (the multiple personalities) and how often the opportunity arises for you to do so (percent by frequency).

For example, if your work requires you to dress like a Republican wife, but you love partying on the weekends and dressing like Cardi B, then it makes sense to have quite a bit (but still only a few by most standards) conservative workwear pieces and even fewer thot-fits. So if you work 5 days a week and go out 2 nights a week, it would make sense to own just 2 party outfits for every 5 work outfits. There’s no need to buy every thot-fit in stock at Forever 21. And if you really want to stay as minimalist as possible, I would recommend that the person in our example have no more than 3 thot-fits. That would make it financially possible for her to buy more expensive and better quality clothes that she will wear for a long time, for instance, a Herve Leger bandage dress, rather buying a new thot-fit every other weekend.

The catch with this, however, is that any time some hoe looks at you sideways and says “Why you always wear the same outfit?” you must be able to confidently say,

“Because it’s my favorite.”

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