La mode passé mais le style reste.
(Fashion passes, but style remains.)
–Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel
In 2012 The Daily Mail reported that women spend on average $125 000 on clothes in their lifetime. Wow that is the price of a small house. Retail therapy has gotten out of hand, it has become big business and many women are drowning in its consequences.
Often people associate a minimalism lifestyle with ‘deprivation’. However this is so not the case – minimalism is about having ‘the right balance of enough’. To be fashionable you do not need to have thousands of outfits on hand, instead you can play with colour, texture and timeless design pieces to create a sophisticated yet minimal wardrobe.
Six Basic Pieces
A minimalist wardrobe can consist of anywhere from five to twenty-five pieces of clothing – however there are six key pieces that every woman should own.
- White cotton shirt
- Black pants
- Black dress
- Little black jacket (see ideas on how to wear the little black jacket in my post here)
- A good fitting pair of jeans
- Black pumps/ or black ballet flats
My Basic Wardrobe
While I love quirky thrift shop finds like double breasted woollen grandpa vests and bohemian style kaftans – I also find it necessary to have a few quality and timeless items in my wardrobe for the times that I am not potting around in my garden. Here are my timeless pieces. Take the time to think about yours!
Building a wardrobe is like building a house – if you get the bones or structure right you can then accessorise it for seasonal looks. Think Chanel – Black tailored key pieces dressed up with a strand of pearls or gorgeous hat. Coco Chanel is the perfect style icon for minimalism dressing (mind you she probably didn’t have a minimalist wardrobe).
Chanel is one of the two early twentieth-century designers credited for freeing women of the elaborate, confining Victorian style. (Paul Poiret was the second.) As a fashion minimalist myself, I’m a huge fan of finding pieces that are durable, versatile, and flattering. The little black dress, arguably Chanel’s most famous contribution to fashion, is an excellent example of this.
To simplify your wardrobe à la Coco, opt for comfortable, yet flattering pieces that can be worn different ways for different occasions. Here are some ways to help you create a minimal wardrobe with maximum impact.
Tips on how to create a stylish minimalist wardrobe:
Invest In The Fashion of the 21st Century:
Sustainable fashion is a hot trend – and with good reason. More and more consumers are demanding ethical and sustainable items – and fashion is no exception. Every day more and more companies are stepping up to the challenge and launching some wonderful collections that are both fashionable and sustainable. The use of natural materials, fibres, minimal dyes, recycled materials and the guarantee of fair work conditions – makes sustainable fashion more costly. However, it is important to remember that these items are made with both quality and integrity, and they are garments to last a life time – so really when you break down the cost per wear – they actually become a cost effective option.
Have a ‘capsule’ wardrobe:
A capsule wardrobe is a collection of coordinating clothes combined with your six key pieces that can be used in any outfit for any occasion. One way to do this is to choose a colour scheme, and a style. Think about your personality and skin-tone, and what colours suit you. Don’t be afraid of experimenting when trying to find what fits you. Say you suit peachy pinks, baby blues and creams. All these colours go together. And say your style is casual, and girly. Now, invest in a few key items that adhere to these two rules. You will find that every top you own will go with every pair of trousers or skirt, and you will also be known for a distinct, consistent style. This rule goes for all accessories, jewellery and shoes, too!
Accessorise with Scarves:
Quality scarves (not the ones you buy at Kmart/target/H&M) are a woman’s best friend and they are the best investment. They are easy to store away -a drawer or trunk is suffice – and they really add a dash of colour to any outfit. By tying scarves a different way you can create so many different looks using that same black dress or white shirt. I love buying hand painted scarves on my travels as it gives an outfit an edge of difference. If you don’t already have some, invest in some accessories. For a bit of scarf inspiration see my photo board of six ways to wear a scarf.
Layer your necklaces:
When it comes to teaming accessories with basic key items – Coco Chanel’s more-is-more approach still makes a statement today. You can do multiples of the same material, or better yet, go for contrast: Try a femme piece with edgy chains, feathers with beads, or pearls with diamanté’s. The key for it to look great is you need to have a basic outfit so that the necklace accessory demands all the attention.
Stick with key pieces in solid colours:
Solid colours make mix and matching far easier. The more solid colours you have the more likely you are to be able to creatively put together new outfits (using your scarves and accessories) without having to take a trip to the shopping mall.
Choose quality clothing:
I suggest buying high quality and timeless pieces that will last for more than two seasons. When you spend less money on cheap fashion buys you can afford to invest in higher quality and more expensive clothing. Constantly cycling through those bargain bins of cheap clothes is bad for your wallet. I understand that sometimes you can get bored with your wardrobe and crave something new – this is where I suggest you check out the local thrift stores. I have a collection of floral garden skirts and grandpa woollen jackets that I purchased from various thrift stores – I just adore them.
Stop impulse spending:
Don’t go to the mall and don’t browse any of your favourite online stores. Impulse shopping is a serious issue for a lot of consumers, and if you’re one of them going to the mall all of the time will not help you with your new minimalist lifestyle no matter how much you have already cut it down.
Choose practical fabrics:
Choose comfort over constriction, for the elegance in a garment is the freedom of movement. Whether wearing a soft cotton jacket or a skirt, choose fabrics and designs that allow you to walk, rather than totter. Chanel was known for using fabrics that were so practical and low-end that they were unheard of in the high-end fashion world. Before she used it in her designs, jersey fabric was used mainly in men’s underwear, while Chanel staples like wool and tweed were formerly associated with the lower class. Thanks to her, tweed jackets, wool coats, and jersey-knit pieces became — and remained — luxe, mainstream, and fashionable. And today, things just keep getting better; now you can buy recycled fabric and hemp which looks as luxurious as tweed.
You don’t want to appear as though you have spent hours styling your hair and getting your look ‘just right.’ This is where quality tailored clothing makes an impact, for all you need to do is tie your hair back in a sleek ponytail or bun and finish off the look with a pop of colour by applying your favourite shade of lipstick. Overall -you want to look as though style comes naturally to you.
Keep it simple:
You’ll look more chic and polished if you have only one or two key accessories. So choose either a scarf, earrings or layered necklaces – and keep it at that. Otherwise you look too overdone – plus it then becomes uncomfortable.
Forget fashion trends:
Stick with styles and shapes that look good on you. Wear clothes that fit you well. This will add class in itself. Don’t squeeze yourself into a too-small dress, or drown your figure in a big, baggy top. Choose a well cut dress over a tight one.
A Resource I Recommend
I have a copy of The Stylish Minimalist Wardrobe in my ibooks and it makes for great light reading in-between meetings, on the train or whenever I am sitting around waiting for something.