Less Really Is More
Yes, minimalism is trendy. From tiny houses to sparse interiors to juice cleanses, strategic reduction is oh-so-chic. But unlike other trendy traps, sartorial minimalism is one craze that stands up to the hype. Limiting the number of items in your closet can be a time-, money- and energy-saving recipe for visual sharpness and general efficiency.
We often think that more pieces equate with more options, which results in a sleeker aesthetic, but in reality, it’s the inverse. Less really is more when it comes to style. (Chances are, you probably don’t even wear half of what’s in your closet!) Here are five ways to embrace minimalism and boost your image and your savings.
Define Your Look — and Stick With It
We’re perpetually bombarded with seasonal trends competing for our attention and discretionary dollars. But before you convince yourself that you need those rhinestone-studded sandals, take a step back and reflect on how you want to define your image. While novelty and aesthetic transformation can be fun — and even therapeutic, if done in a thoughtful way — consistency is most effective on a daily basis. By consciously choosing your signature style and streamlining your look, shopping and getting dressed becomes easier and more efficient. That also pays off in the workplace: a clear sense of style and a pulled-together persona conveys confidence and consistency.
How to Minimize: Identify your personal style icons and style preferences then translate that look into your professional and geographic contexts, keeping in mind your body type and budget. Curate a Pinterest board to collect and codify your look, or go old school and create a mood board — anything that sets the tone and serves as a visual reminder of your target image.
How Many Duplicates Are Sitting in Your Closet?
Chances are, you have not one but several pairs of black pants. And yet, it’s also likely you regularly wear just one pair. This is also likely true for several other items and categories in your closet. (Little black dresses? Jeans?) Sometimes multiples are necessary if you wear something several times per week, like a white t-shirt, or if you’re looking to stretch the life of a given item. But if three of your four black pairs of pants just sit on the shelf and are either never worn or never should be worn, it’s time to cast them aside and to press pause the next time you reach for yet another pair.
How to Minimize: Give your closet the “should it win?” test. Ask yourself: Should these other black pants ever win when you’re getting dressed? Are they ever the pants you look and feel your best in? If not, discard them — and do the same for all your other categories. And whatever you do, don’t feel sorry for the clothes! If they don’t serve you, make no apologies for minimizing and keeping only the items that optimize your personal appearance. You can always sell them at a resale shop or on consignment if they’re in great shape, or donate them.
Shop Only From Your Wishlist
Impulse purchases plague both brick-and-mortar shoppers and daily deal site devotees. Resisting a purchase is no small feat, even amongst the strongest of shoppers: our brains experience a chemical high when we spot a sale, which can be addictive and weaken willpower. Succumbing to clever pricing tactics also undermines your ability to create a streamlined look, so be strategic about when and where you make purchases. Creating a targeted wishlist curtails rash decision-making and keeps your image — and budget — on track.
How to Minimize: After you’ve defined your look, identify specific pieces that are absent from your current wardrobe and add them to a master wishlist. (I like to use Evernote, as it’s accessible on both your computer and your phone.) Adding a sale alert for specific items on sites like Shopstyle will help you to maximize your wishlist budget. Then, when you’re in a store or browsing online, cross-check any potential purchases against that list.
Yes, wearing color is fun and it can even positively affect your mood. But a closet full of strong hues and wild patterns can make for a frustrating bout of “nothing to wear” syndrome and require additional pieces for coordination. Instead, build a wardrobe foundation of neutrals. Everything becomes complementary, which makes mixing and matching seem effortless. Use the neutral base to create your go-to work uniform and cut down on time spent staring at your closet or changing outfits in a flurry in the morning.
How to Minimize: Consider darker colors like black and grey for fall and winter, then lighten it up in the warmer months and shift to navy, beige, and white — but don’t be afraid to pull grey into summer and beige and ivory into the winter months. That’s the beauty of neutrals: they’re seasonless. Work in some colorful swag via a softly patterned scarf or an animal print belt.
Invest in Quality Everyday Accessories
Over-the-top costume jewelry and novelty bags can be fun for a night on the town or a special event; but when it comes to your everyday appearance, it’s best to invest in high- quality accessories that will stand the test of time. Sure, you can work in a sparkly summer necklace or multi-colored straw tote that won’t become a family heirloom, but your core accessories should be made of durable materials that maintain polished sophistication and multi-year longevity. Once you find your staple pieces, don’t force yourself to recreate the accessory wheel everyday: make them your “second skin” adornment and wear on repeat.
How to Minimize: When it comes to jewelry, there are multiple outlets for finding quality accessories for less. Do some targeted searches amongst highly rated Ebay sellers or scour your local thrift stores to score some one-of-a-kind vintage pieces. Or search for both vintage and handmade new pieces on Etsy — which is also a great outlet for minimalist, handmade leather bags for a fraction of designer costs at much higher quality.
Anna Akbari, Ph.D. is a sociologist, entrepreneur, and the "thinking person's stylist." She is the founder of Sociology of Style, which takes an intelligent look at image and culture-related issues and offers holistic image consulting and life coaching services. Find out more and follow her on Twitter.