Even before I get into this post let me put out a disclaimer that I am not a fashion blogger so this post won’t be diving deep into fashion looks and none of the tips I am mentioning here are brand new unheard-of things. These are tips from our middle-class family upbringing that got lost somewhere along the way with the entry of fast fashion and an increase in family income.
Take this post as a reminder. A nudge to consider going back to how we grew up with fewer resources but happy hearts. A return to a healthy lifestyle and non-consumerism. We have been sold the luxe lifestyle for a while now, and maybe like me, you are ready to reject it for simpler pleasures in life. Yes, we buy, but we buy more wisely. We buy what is needed and with regard for the planet.
Okay, are you with me?
Lets get started,
Here is how you can build and maintain a minimal wardrobe that lasts a long time and remains stylish throughout the years.
Tips To Build A Minimal Wardrobe That Lasts You A Long Time
1. Invest in classic pieces
When you buy look for outfits that are fashionable regardless of what’s trending currently. Classic pieces like navy blue straight fit jeans, a white button shirt, a black tee, a well fitted black/white dress, black pumps look stylish on most body types, and bring an instant chic touch with little dressing up or down.
2. Know your body type and what suits you
It is very important to dress for your body type to look well put together at all times. Use this post to know what body type you are and what type of outfits suit your body the most. That said, each of us has an individual style. For me its collared outfits and long tunic tops paired with jeans.
Similarly, you too may have a few personal favorite styles of clothing that you know suits you. Invest in finding the best fits and brands when choosing these personal favorites, because you will be wearing them the most.
3. Buy staple pieces in black, white, nude and metallic colors
For things like bags, shoes, belts, and wallets/clutches I like to stick to black, white, nude, and gold or silver. At any given point depending on the type of outfits in my wardrobe, I will buy a pair of shoes in black, nude, and gold for example, to best suit every outfit in my wardrobe.
I used to buy fun quirky shoes and bags when I was younger. But those got used rarely and stayed in my wardrobe unused for a long time and then wore off. After wasting my hard-earned money on such purchases that I used only 2-3 times I made a conscious effort to go with basic colors like black, white, nude, and metallics that I can easily pair with most outfits.
For example, I now own fewer shoes (only 6 pairs, there was a time I had more than 50 pairs of shoes in different styles and colors!! )
Alongside this, I also make sure to buy the most practical and comfortable style in bags and shoes. No more ridiculously sky-high heels that I use only once a year at a 1-hour long party. There are more sneakers, flat sandals, and chic 4-inch heels in my current minimal shoe collection.
4. Declutter your wardrobe and resell what doesn’t fit
From time to time even as you maintain a minimal closet, you will need to assess your collection. You may now have a few pieces that don’t fit anymore or ones that wear out to a point of no return.
Read this post to understand how you can declutter your wardrobe in one day.
Assess your wardrobe every 6 months to evaluate what pieces you are no longer reaching for, or that need to be binned. The ones you do not fancy anymore or don’t fit you can be passed on to someone else. If you don’t personally know of anyone find local organizations that deal in reselling or clothes swaps. Check Facebook to find out what is nearest to you.
5. Swap clothes with friends and accept hand me downs
Organize clothes swaps with your friends or accept hand me downs from family and friends. I know many look down upon wearing used clothing, but if the outfit is still as good as new and something that suits your style, why not? Think of how helpful it is to the environment by you using that outfit some more instead of someone discarding a perfectly wearable piece of clothing.
6. Reuse old outfits and sarees
Our middle-class moms and grandmas did this. Throughout my childhood, my mom made my skirts and dresses from leftover stitching material or old sarees.
Remember how our moms made pillow covers/ chair covers with left over dress materials? It was one of the most ingenious ways an Indian woman made use of whatever resources she had to make something completely new. You cannot get more eco-friendly than an Indian mom. Taking a leaf out of my mom’s book, recently I have gone back to sourcing my grandmother’s old sarees, to make me new salwar kameez and dresses.
Similarly, in order to use my wedding lehenga again, I stitched a new blouse in a different style to pair with the lehenga and the entire outfit looked brand new. Go through your old sarees or Indian party wear that haven’t been used in a while and try and build new outfits using these as your base material.
7. Invest in good quality clothing
Buy good quality. Sometimes this means spending more, but these outfits are going to last you a very long time, so you might as well invest in good quality pieces.
Categories I like to spend more on and ensure I am getting my money’s worth are :
Winter wear (Buy classic styled cardigans, sweaters, long comfy woven tunics.) My winter wear collection is still holding up strong 6 years down the line. I haven’t bought a single new piece of winter clothing all this while.
Shoes (especially sneakers and comfy sandals)
Jeans (choose dark colors and classic fits)
Where to buy?
In all honesty, I buy mainly from high street fashion brands like Zara, Marks and Spencers, H&M, Esprit, Gap, and Old Navy. And even though many consider fast fashion as poor quality clothing I find that if you choose wisely when you shop there are many pieces that last for years. You need to look for thick materials and good weave on the material when you choose.
I cannot yet afford to buy every piece in my wardrobe from sustainable fashion labels. But I feel by reducing the number of times I shop in a year to about 2-3 times a year and then using the clothes for a long time I am reducing demand from my side for fast fashion.
Growing up we bought new clothes 2 times a year, one on our birthday and one for our New Year festival. And we used those clothes until they wore off or didn’t fit anymore. My mom used to check every piece of clothing very closely when she had to make a purchase. She wanted to make sure that the material would last for a long time and not wear off in 2-3 washes. I definitely inherited my mom’s keen eye for material because I don’t pick clothes because they are cute, they have to be cute but long-lasting.
That said I do buy from sustainable brands when I can. Some of my favorite sustainable fashion brands in India are No Nasties, Fab India, and Nicobar by GoodEarth.
Last year I aimed for a low buy year and was quite successful in keeping the number of items on my shopping list to under 10. Coming from a background of mindless shopping the low buy year felt like a big change. I plan to continue on my efforts to buying wisely and only when in need.
Another point I want to add here is that buying mindfully does not mean you have to forgo your love for fashion. You can still buy pieces that are unique and fashionable. Just that you won’t be buying 10 of them but only 1-2 at a time.
If anything a low buy year will make you aware of mindless spending and push you to invest your time and energies into other pursuits that fill your life with more happiness and content.
I hope this post inspires you to buy less and build a minimal wardrobe. I don’t believe in living in extremes, so I won’t say don’t buy at all or only buy from thrift stores, etc. If this is possible for you, do go on. But for everyone else, a little mindfulness does go a long way in helping our planet and with each one of us participating we can change demand.
As they say, every drop makes an ocean. And every little effort contributes towards saving our planet.