[Note: This isn't my new year's resolution, just a fun experiment I decided to do! The new year's post is coming... eventually!]
From March 24 to April 20th (four weeks), I wore 14 preselected items of clothing. I also didn’t buy any new clothes during the experiment.
3 cardigans (grey, royal blue, grey+pink)
3 hoodies (lavender, aqua, pink)
2 shirts (black, pink)
2 dresses (black, striped)
1 pair of pants
2 pairs of tights (black, grey)
Total: 14 pieces. (Fun fact: 9 of these were thrifted!)
All of these things are comfortable, they fit my body, I like the styles and colours, and I can wear them to all of the situations I encounter in my everyday life, and I can still throw together a slightly more dressed up/professional looking outfit if the need arises. All in all, these are (most of!) my favourite clothes. My base colour is black, and each piece can be matched with most of the other pieces. I can create over 50 outfit combos with these items.
I did not restrict the use of: undershirts/underwear/socks, shoes, coats, jewelry, hair accessories, bags, other accessories, sleepwear or things for lounging around the house (sweat pants/tshirts). It just so happened that I ended up wearing the same coat, boots and backpack pretty much every day.
Through reading about the minimalist lifestyle, I discovered several minimalist fashion challenges such as Six Items or Less (cool intro video here!) and I was intrigued. I wanted to see what it was like to spend less mental energy on the whole “getting dressed” part of my day. I still love expressing myself through fashion, but I wanted to see what happened when I spent less brain activity trying to decide what to wear and dealing with clothes that aren’t awesome. It’s all about eliminating distractions and focusing on only the best! Yes, environmental/anticonsumerist attitudes play into it, but in this case I have mainly selfish motives: a better, more concentrated wardrobe, more time, less money spent, increased happiness, self discovery, et cetera!
I love the idea of knowing each item you own and having everything serve you well. So, I decided to create my own “minimalist-lite” version of the trial, with 14 items instead of just 6. This was a safe and comfortable way for me to try out a minimal wardrobe; I just sectioned off my closet instead of actually giving everything away, so in a fashion emergency (!!) I could still access all of my clothes. I was still focusing hard on school, so I didn’t want to make it too stressful, and compared to how many clothes I own, 14 things was still a huge reduction.
[My entire wardrobe for the month!]
Before starting the challenge, I outlined my ideal outcome:
- I can get dressed quickly without having to think about it for more than 1 minute.
- I don’t have to worry about coordinating things or hunting through a large amount of stuff to find something passable.
- I can easily find something appropriate for what I’m doing that day/the weather/my mood/etc.
- Outfits are super comfortable and still show my cute, playful, whimsical style. I look and feel great in my clothes.
- Hopefully not too much handwashing needed.
- Greater appreciation for what I already have.
A few particulars on the challenge:
I decided to do one load of laundry once a week (tossing everything in) instead of my current practice of doing two loads twice a week (separating colours and blacks). I figured that my clothes have been washed enough that I didn’t have to worry about things bleeding. Most of these things I can wear a couple of times before having to wash them, but if there is a shirt or something I want to wear twice in a week, I was prepared to handwash it. Handwashing a single item only takes about 15 minutes (minus drying time), so no biggie.
As the experiment went on, if I found that my life would be easier or more enjoyable if I added a couple more items, or if I decided that I didn’t like wearing a particular item as much as I thought I would, I was willing to add or remove as needed. (It turned out that I didn’t need to do this, but I wonder if just having this possibility made the trial easier.)
Results and Other Findings
I achieved everything that I outlined in my ideal outcomes! The only thing was that my personal style was not quite as extravagant as usual, but overall, I think my outfits did reflect my tastes, and I still got to wear things like pink heart shaped pendants that light up from the inside, so yay. And I’m so glad that I chose to include my plaid skirt!! It’s definitely one of my favourite piece of clothing right now – it reminds me of a school uniform so it is cute and whimsical that way, but it’s still grounded in reality (it doesn’t look too out of place on the street!) and it goes with pretty much everything.
Laundry was about the same. Instead of doing two loads twice a week (separating colours and blacks), I did one load once a week (not separating anything). Everything turned out fine. In fact, I probably could have used the same set of items for nearly two weeks at a time if I wanted to stretch it, since most of them didn’t get that dirty. I didn’t have to handwash anything. Awesome!
Limiting my wardrobe to these items was NOT difficult at all, there were zero feelings of deprivation. There were a few times where I thought in passing, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to wear my X today?” but I quickly forgot about it. A couple times I felt the urge to go shopping to destress, but it wasn’t that hard to avoid doing so. The clothes that I picked MORE than satisfied the different situations and moods I found myself in during the trial period. This was barely even a challenge, more like an easy experiment. If I wanted to really challenge myself, I would try cutting my inventory in half and doing the real “6 items or less” challenge. (What items would I pick? Probably: lavender hoodie, black tights, plaid skirt, black polkadot shirt, black pants, and blue cardigan.)
Nobody noticed that I was wearing the same things over and over (or at least, no one mentioned it). And really, I don’t blame them. With 6 outers, I practically WAS wearing something different everyday. When I think about it, I don’t even usually notice what other people are wearing, unless it’s something particularly memorable. Well, I notice it, but then I promptly forget about it. In most cases I can’t remember what people were wearing the day before, and I’m pretty sure it would take me a long time to notice if someone wore the same thing every day. I actually know a couple people who do this, and they’ve told me that it generally takes people months to notice. Go figure!
The thing you would have to balance is how interesting/remarkable/memorable you want your clothes to be versus how much you care about people knowing that you wear the same thing. If you wear jeans and a black hoodie every day, most people will be totally oblivious to it, but if you wear a hot pink zebra striped dress every day, it’s likely people are going to pick up on it. But hey, if you don’t care if people notice, then what’s the big deal? Even if you had just two outfits that you rotated, that would go a long way to people not noticing or caring. I know that I have fun wearing remarkable things, but I don’t ALWAYS want to draw attention either, which is why the wardrobe I picked for the challenge was kind of … blendy, to be on the safe side. Another thing I like is trying out different styles and looks, but the downside of this is that a lot of the things I have don’t match eachother (maybe there will be a couple things that I wear a particular item with, but that’s it).
I actually still had more than I needed: I didn’t wear the grey cardigan a single time, and I think I only wore the striped dress and pink-sleeved hoodie only once each, and I only wore the grey tights a couple times since I prefer the black ones, so I could have easily done with 10 items. The grey cardigan was mostly included in case I for some reason had to make a more formal outfit (surprise job interview?!), but now that I think about it, the blue cardigan could have worked for that too. It feels so weird that I could be perfectly satisfied with just 10 items. 10! It didn’t feel like I was missing anything at all. This makes sense, though: why would you want to NOT wear your favourite clothes?
After the challenge ended, I did put together a few outfits using some of my other clothes, just for the heck of it. And while I looked cute (if I do say so myself), it didn’t give me the jolt of happiness that I expected it would. So, while I DO feel happy when wearing a cute outfit that I really like, I don’t necessarily feel ‘better’ by wearing a cute outfit that I really like that happens to be different from the previous one. Interesting.
Second Life parallel: When I first joined SL, I changed my outfit a lot. But quite a while ago, I found a skin, hairstyle and outfit that I really love and that I think suits me, and I haven’t changed it for over a year. (No need to do laundry in virtual reality!)
Unexpected benefits: The challenge forced me to wear skirts and dresses more often than I would have otherwise. I feel great when I wear them, so now that I’m in the habit, I’m going to keep wearing them. Also, fewer random clothes laying around my room. Since I was only wearing a few items, I had the motivation to hang them up right away.
Side note: Repairs and Customization
About a week ago I noticed some small tears forming around the cuffs of my favourite hoodie, and I just this morning got around to repairing it. I love my snuggly purple sweater so much that I wouldn’t dream of getting rid of it because of a few holes! Not gonna give up THAT easily! Even though my sewing is, er, unprofessional, it’s barely noticeable and I like doing things myself, who knows why. If for some reason my stitches didn’t work out, I would bring this hoodie in and get it repaired by an actual tailor. Having things repaired is much less wasteful, and the idea of having a few items that you really like, use, and repair for a long time really appeals to me. It’s like you’re building a relationship with your belongings.
Another thing I’m curious to explore is having clothes tailored to fit (whether it’s learning how to do it myself, or having it done for me). I’m not sure why this solution never occurred to me before; I often find clothes that I like but they don’t fit 100%, and I know from experience that if something is even slightly uncomfortable I probably won’t end up wearing it, so I pass on the opportunity. The upside is that it limits the amount of things that you buy, but if you have the buying part under control, tailoring opens up much more choice. Customization will be a helpful superpower to have in my quest for the Ultimate Wardrobe. It’s an added cost, but if your wardrobe has only 10 or so high quality things and you’re not in the habit of impulse buying, it could still end up costing less than a wardrobe of 50+ mediocre things.
What next? Moving forward?
Based on my findings, it makes sense for me to move in the direction of building a super-awesome core wardrobe of maybe 8-12 high quality pieces that I love to death. Even now, I’m still wearing an outfit comprised of my challenge inventory. After all, it’s my favourite outfit! I’m going to keep this core wardrobe sectioned together so that I can easily find my favourite things, and I’m going to work on thinning out the remainder of my clothes and getting rid of things that are not awesome. However, in the mean time, if I want to wear an outfit using one or more of the things not in my core wardrobe, I will. Why not, right? This way, I have the best of both worlds: I have the efficiency and stability of my core wardrobe, but I still have the option of mixing it up a bit while I transition.
Even though I like my current core wardrobe, there is room for improvement. My black dress is not ideal, so I’ll be on the lookout for the perfect replacement! When adding or replacing things, I’m going to set really high standards for looks, quality and matchability. I’m not in a hurry to upgrade everything, but in the long run I think the results will be wonderful.
I would encourage anyone who is curious about this to try it. It’s so easy and you will learn a lot about yourself! You have nothing to lose (except lame outfits and your shopping addiction). If you try it, link your results in the comments!