The Minimalist Wardrobe: Paring Style Down to the Basics


There’s something in the air: on the heels of normcore—the arguably smart sartorial trend with the inarguably off-putting moniker—comes the resurgence of an old idea with new appeal: the minimalist wardrobe.

Gone are the days of peacocking. Well, that’s not entirely true. Leave it to true fashion eccentrics to keep strutting their avant-garde plumage on the street for the photogs who wait in bated breath outside of fashion shows. Elsewhere, however, most, if not all, have taken to dressing sans frills. Slouchy boyfriend jeans, monochrome crop tops, Birkenstocks and understated jewelry: normcore is the ubiquitous sartorial spell that everyone has fallen under. Granted, the look is affected on some too eager to get in on the trend, while others who have always prescribed to “normal” wear naturally execute the style with aplomb. And then there are the rest of us who, beckoned by the simplicity of it all but keeping with our personal style, fall somewhere in between.

Sure, the name isn’t too appealing, but the idea—swapping ostentatious garb for simpler clothing—is. And it makes sense, given the cyclical nature of fashion that we would gravitate towards pre-millennial minimalist clothing after indulging in the flamboyant aesthetic that has defined the past several years.
1_INTERNALt’s not surprising that the pull towards simplicity of dress has inspired a less-is-more attitude towards clothes collecting as well. Whether it’s Project 333, the über-popular minimalist challenge created by Courtney Carver inviting people to dress with 33 items or less for three months, the 10-piece closet or the five-piece French wardrobe, the trend towards paring down is gaining real momentum.

Why? More clothes don’t necessarily equal more options. Case in point: bulging wardrobes brimming with unworn clothes, those impulse buys buried deep inside our closets, tags still attached. Shedding our wardrobes of the clothes we’ve never worn but feel guilty parting with because we’ve spent money on them forces us to take a hard look at our spending habits, and on a larger scale, consumerism and materialism.

Paring down leaves our wardrobes uncluttered and is liberating, in more ways than one. “We’ve found over the past year that having less stuff can actually allow you more freedom. Instead of spending free time sorting stuff, or organizing stuff, or searching through stuff for other stuff, you can hopefully spend more time doing things that you want to be doing,” Matt Souveny, a Canadian Air Force pilot who last month, vowed to stick to 10 items of clothing for the next year, recently told CNN.

When we reduce the size of our closets, we realize that we actually wear much fewer items than we own; we wear the same articles of clothing—the ones we love most—all the time. Professional organizer Kristen Ziegler of Minima has several tips for identifying those pieces that don’t belong to the aforementioned category, in addition to tips for paring down one’s wardrobe gradually, because, after all, Rome was not built in a day.

Now, once you’ve gotten rid of superfluous clothing, won’t wearing the same clothes all the time wear them out faster? Not necessarily. In fact, the other advantage to a minimalist wardrobe is the limited number of clothing (save for underwear, socks, workout gear and outerwear) forces one to reevaluate one’s shopping habits and opt for quality garments with a timeless feel as opposed to trendier items. And multi-functional clothing, like a blazer that can be worn alone or as a layering piece or a versatile dress, goes a long way.

“My closet is full of cheap clothes that will never wear out because I never wear them. The items that I saved for and sought after, however, get plenty of loving wear,” Souveny also told CNN.

The minimalist wardrobe is nothing new, but in light of more allegations of unfair labour practices in the fast fashion industry, the growing movement towards sustainability and a pared down style aesthetic brought about by normcore, its resurgence is proving a modern solution to the tired culture of excess.

Fashion, art, architecture, design, TV, and film: Katia Jean Paul is a Montreal-based writer who casts a critical eye on her many idées fixes, unearthing the aesthetic and cultural dimensions within each and every subject. / Follow Katia on Twitter: 

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