Minimalist Wardrobe: How many clothes do you really need?

This is not where I say fashion is unimportant. I love to dress with stylish flair. But, I’m no slave to fads. And, for the sake of the planet and a clutter-free home, it’s high time we shake off that faulty “more is better” mindset that we’ve been acculturated with by decades of Madison Avenue marketing savvy. Just how many outfits can you wear at one time? One, of course. And, how often does doing laundry fit into your routine? For most working apartment dwellers without a compact washer & dryer in their unit, it’s a weekly trip to the basement laundry room on a day off from work. So, for the sake of convenience, you will probably find a week’s worth of outfits will meet your needs. Anything beyond that will just tempt you to let laundry pile up until the chore feels overwhelming.

Love to dress stylishly? Crave variety? Do what Parisiennes do and achieve that novelty by choosing quality mix-and-matchable garments in a simple color palette of your two or three favorite neutrals and two favorite colors (for my Snow White dark hair and fair skin my favorites are black, pewter, and white, with red or teal), in shapes that perfectly flatter your current body (no hoarding clothes that don’t fit) and then accenting them with accessories you love. For my weekly laundry routine, my job as a teacher, my at-home yoga and going out on weekends, I only need:

• 7 tops
• 7 bottoms (5 pants/skirts for work and 2 drawstring pants for lounging/exercising at home)
• 7 panties–all black
• 4 bras (2 black, 1 nude)
• 1 robe
• 6 shoes (1 clog and 1 dress boot for winter, 1 flip-flop and 1 wedge sandal for summer, Vibrams for exercise, and cushy house slippers for my hardwood floors–all in black.*
• 1 purse
• 1 lightweight jacket

But, what about the seasons?, you may be wondering. Fair enough, but instead of having two completely different wardrobes, taking up twice as much room in your closet, think layers. Wear your short-sleeve and sleeveless tops and skirts bare-legged and bare-armed with sandals in summer, then add long-sleeved tops, tights, over-the-knee socks (as leg warmers), gloves, scarfs, hats, vests/sweaters/jackets, and knee-high boots when pumpkin spice latte weather hits. Does this mean you need seven vests/jackets/sweaters? No. Three or four in your neutrals will give you plenty of mix-and-match variety. The more extreme the temperature swings in your locale, the more layers you may need. For example, here in Seattle, I might wear a shrug or vest over my long-sleeved top (2 layers) with a light scarf and fingerless gloves in autumn, but in winter I might wear a summer tank as my base layer, a long-sleeved top over that, plus a vest (3 layers), a heavier scarf, a beret, and fingerless gloves layered over texting gloves. So, I also keep the following in my wardrobe:

• 1 winter coat
• 1 beret
• 1 winter scarf that works with everything
• 6 tights–all black
• 7 knee-high or over-the-knee socks–all black
• 3 shrugs (1 black, 1 dark gray, 1 white)
• 2 vests (1 faux black leather, 1 faux mink fur)

*Ok, currently, I also have Sketchers combat boots, Børn “steampunk” ankle boots, and Dansko Mary Janes, also (still, all in black), but that’s because when you work standing up your feet get sore if you wear the same two shoe styles all season. Your job or unique lifestyle may increase your need for certain items and decrease your need for others.