How a Minimalist Wardrobe Made My Life So Much Easier
Hint: It makes getting dressed much simpler.
For some, getting dressed is a fun, creative decision that sets the tone for the day. For others, it's just another choice that makes getting out the door in the morning more difficult. To cut down on the time and energy getting ready takes, Melissa Coleman, the blogger behind The Faux Martha and author of the new cookbook The Minimalist Kitchen ($23; amazon.com), decided to adopt a minimalist wardrobe. What's that mean? Instead of piles of fast fashion finds that don't fit or will fall out of style, she sticks with basics she loves, buys multiples of favorite pieces, and dresses it all up with a few standby accessories. To find out what inspired her decision and learn which pieces have won a spot in her highly curated closet, we asked Melissa all about what it's really like to live with a minimalist wardrobe.
What inspired you to start a minimalist wardrobe?
My wardrobe was driving me batty. I had too many clothes that had accumulated over time, both from my purchases and from gifts. Getting dressed in the morning took far too long and made me grumpy. That's not a good way to start every morning. I started to pay attention to my habits and found that I was typically reaching for the same favorite pair of pants and shirts. The rest were just taking up space. So I started keeping the things I liked to wear and got rid of the rest.
Recently, I wrote a book called The Minimalist Kitchen, a cookbook for paring down your kitchen to the essentials—everything from the tools to the ingredients. I've had to speak and be in front of large-for-me crowds. I write for a living, so this type of scenario is a bit nerve-wracking for me. To help myself out (and have one less thing to worry about), I opted to wear a uniform, much like a professional athlete wears for each game. While it's necessary for them, it also serves a purpose. It turns into a ritual. Slipping on that uniform signals to their brain that it's time to play. It's time to work. The repetition of that ritual provides comfort. It did that for me, too. I wear my white denim jeans, my chambray shirt, pointy-toed flats, and a wooden bead necklace. This has created space for my mind to focus on more important things, like speaking. Ack!
How has a minimalist wardrobe changed the way you shop?
I buy my clothes like I buy my pantry-stable ingredients, in bulk. Typically, I test the garment out first to make sure I like it at home (dressing room mirrors always look different than my mirror at home). I also like to make sure that it washes well. Then I go back and get a couple more. If it's out at the store, I check eBay. Finding something that actually fits well is an impossible task. I'm 5 feet tall, which makes this wild goose chase more difficult. And I have to admit, I really dislike the chase. When thing after thing doesn't fit right, it begins to affect the way I feel about myself. That's not a road I want to travel down often.
How do you dress up your wardrobe for special occasions?
Jewelry and shoes can make all the difference in dressing an outfit up or down. I'm a casual dresser. So when I dress up, I'm still pretty casual. And I'm fine being a little underdressed at times. I'd rather feel more comfortable than awkward, as new social settings bring plenty of their own awkwardness!
My daughter and I made simple necklaces out of natural wood beads. She chose to paint hers, I opted to leave mine as is. It's casual and natural, the same way I decorate my home. I also keep two necklaces that have a pop of color, sparkle, and weight. I usually find what I'm looking for at J.Crew Factory.
Do you have a go-to pair of comfy shoes in your wardrobe?
I love pointed-toed flats whether they are in season or not. I'm a little obsessed with Rothy's at the moment. They are super durable flats you can wash. They cost a pretty penny, but the good things worth investing in always do. I have a pair of their black flats and am considering adding another color.
To buy: $145; rothys.com.
What other essentials make the cut?
I wear mostly neutrals and solids that can easily be mixed and matched to create a bit of variety. I also like to have pieces that I can layer on or off depending on the weather. Jewelry and shoes are my pops of color. And just to throw people off, I love to have a couple accent pieces in my wardrobe, like a pop of pattern. I'm a gingham girl.
Chambray Shirt in Perfect Fit
To buy: $35; factory.jcrew.com.
Essential Camisole, in White
To buy: $23; bananarepublic.com.
Cotton Boyfriend Tee
To buy: $30; bananarepublic.com.
Modern Skinny Jeans in White
To buy: $70; loft.com.
Slub-Knit Tee Dress
To buy: $30; oldnavy.com.
Rose Garden Gemstone Statement Necklace
To buy: $30; factory.jcrew.com.
To buy: $13; target.com.
Workout Capri Leggings
To buy: $35; target.com.
Do you have any tips for those who want to pare down their wardrobes?
Whether you're paring down your kitchen or your clothes closet, I have the same advice. Pay attention to your habits. What do you always reach for? What's never been worn? What's your favorite material to wear? What's your favorite cut of jeans or style of shirt? Paying attention will provide so many answers. Then begin thinking about your wardrobe like the staple ingredients in your pantry. Both offer the ability to be recomposed into many different compositions.
Skip buying single-use outfits. They're like single-use gadgets in your kitchen—they mostly just take up space. Then give yourself some practical parameters. Keep a certain number of hangers. Allow yourself to keep a certain number of shoes. If a new pair comes in, one goes out—hopefully a pair that has lived a good, long life. This will help to cut down on waste and overbuying. This will also help to free up the budget to invest in quality over quantity. And maybe some new experiences you otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford.
Want to make your kitchen as minimalist as Melissa's lovely wardrobe? Let her new cookbook be your guide.