Whenever I travel abroad, I am aware how extremely casual many Americans dress daily. Many women only dress nicely for work or special occasions. Clothing lacks a flattering fit and dressed up means overdone. Wearing athletic wear or tennis shoes for occasions outside of the gym, participating in sports, or hiking aren’t chic. Take pride in how you dress every day. Mastering a minimalist wardrobe while still remaining modern will bring you confidence, save you tons of money in the long run, and keep you classy.
Why go anywhere looking frumpy just because you are only going to the grocery store?
Realize that if you placed importance on how you look every day, you would naturally feel so much better. Dressing beautifully isn’t about vanity as much as it is about feeling good about yourself. If you’ve ever watched a makeover show, you will hear the woman who had the makeover say that she feels so confident. Clearing away the distractions of trendy disposable clothing will create space for a timeless stylish wardrobe in its place. What better way to begin the new year than with a lighter clutter free wardrobe with easy to mix and match elegant silhouettes.
About six or seven years ago, I came across the book The Parisian Woman’s Guide to Style by Virginie Morana and Veronique Morana at the library. I was frustrated with not having the right outfits, and sale shopping had led me to having a closet full of unmatchable clothing. After reading this book I began understanding what fashion pieces created a timeless wardrobe, and that modest quality pieces translated well for every occasion. Even with all the information that I learned in that book, copying the exact protocol for chic Parisian style wasn’t working out for me. At the time I had not really understood my own style, and was trying to force myself into this classic chic wardrobe.
There were moments where I thrived on being minimalist with my wardrobe and other times that I broke out with bright patterns and funky trends. I remember a summer in college where I only wore a few cute white tops and dark denim bottoms with flats. Although it is a bit too simple to wear every day now, at the time I was relieved by the effortlessness of dressing, and the ease of doing laundry with few clothing items. Finding the balance of the two has taken time. I have continued to downsize my wardrobe this past year and am finally investing in a few pieces that will last me for at least 10 years.
I’ve come to realize that my minimalist fashion sense has only a bit of bohemian flair. My wardrobe thrives on quality basics with a few bohemian accessories. I love an elegant turban, an ornate bag, or artistic jewelry, but that truly is the extent of my bohemian style. Neutral colored quality pieces uniquely designed with one or two printed and specialty pieces are all I need.
When learning that a coordinating three piece suit (blazer, slacks, and skirt) was crucial for the minimalist wardrobe, finding my own variation of this was necessary. The blazer translated to a leather jacket, slacks were wide leg or skinny, and the coordinating skirt was replaced with the classic all occasion dress for my wardrobe. Understanding your personal style, as well as what flatters your body shape are extremely important when remodeling your wardrobe.
In Chic Minimalism For Your Wardrobe I discuss the importance of creating a wardrobe around a color palette. Your color palette does not have to represent itself in all of your clothing pieces. The more I declutter my closet I realize that I am always wanting to wear my basic neutrals. If I desire to add color it is usually a scarf or piece of jewelry.
Now that it is winter again I am back to loving black as my main neutral color as well as brown based neutrals. I do intend to look for a few lighter neutrals for the spring so I do not end up feeling like I did last spring. Lighter neutral basics are timeless for spring and summer.
Staples vs. Trends
Buying the trend that is merely a stand alone piece is pointless. Most trendy clothing does not mix and match well with everything. Investing in five staple pieces can carry your entire wardrobe and perfect your minimalist wardrobe for style longevity. Disposable fashion drains the bank while keeping you insatiably shopping with nothing to wear.
I believe that it is better to purchase a trendy accessory to stay current with fashion. I personally would not want to wear the same trendy printed dress weekly, but would not mind wearing the same timeless neutral dress weekly. A quality neutral dress is a chameleon piece to mix and match with everything else in a minimalist wardrobe.
I recently invested in a Theory 3/4 sleeve black sheer virgin wool shift dress. Although the dress was on sale, it was still more than I would normally spend on any piece of clothing that wasn’t bold or for a special occasion. This exact thinking is why many women wonder why they don’t have a simple glamorous wardrobe. It is better to spend money on a few staple pieces that you wear daily. Those are the clothes that receive the most wear and tear, unlike the formal gown which you will only wear on special occasions.
When I brought this new little black dress home I noticed how beautiful it looked with black sling back heels and a long classic necklace, how funky it could be with a leather jacket, heeled ankle booties, and a bold colored necklace, how winter casual it looked with a long green cardigan, black tights, and brown knee high boots, as well as spring casual with simply ballet flats. Staple quality pieces are a must for any wardrobe to function with grace.
Five Staple Pieces
1. The Little Black Dress
After finally purchasing a quality LBD that does not have embellishments, I understand the versatility and necessity of having it in your wardrobe. There is not one occasion where this staple item would not be perfect for. I doubt I will ever travel without it. The LBD is the biggest chameleon in your wardrobe for all occasions.
2. Blazer or Leather Jacket
A great jacket finishes the look of every outfit. Last year I found an amazing vintage black leather jacket from the 80’s. I used a seam ripper to remove the shoulder pads and have not had more than one or two days max a week that I haven’t worn it. Your staples don’t have to cost a fortune, yet they should be quality.
3. Slacks or Cigarette Pants
Although jeans are comfortable and easy to style and wear, having a great pair of all season slacks or skinny cigarette pants provide versatility to when you don’t want to wear a dress or skirt. Jeans can sometimes be too casual, and a great pair of slacks with heels bring elegance even to that staple t-shirt.
4. The Perfect Bag
I can’t remember where I read that a luxury bag to a women is what a luxury car is to a man, but it is true. I believe that one great bag for day and one for evening wear are all one really needs, yet I have a few. A great bag is a woman’s most important accessory. When you find a great bag that suits your daily needs, you will no longer need to keep looking for the perfect bag because you already have it. I suggest getting a neutral bag for daily wear and possibly a colored evening bag to go with your LBD.
5. Gorgeous Daily Shoes
Invest in a good pair of shoes that you can walk long distances in and still look chic. They can be ankle boots, ballet flats, or oxfords. If you are good with heels invest in a quality comfortable pair. All heels are not created equal. If you’ve ever put your foot in a pair of designer heels you will agree that I am telling the truth. Regardless gorgeous shoes are the finishing touch to every outfit. They change how you walk and also how you feel.
Daily or Special Occasions
Instead of saving your nice clothing for special occasions begin wearing the beautiful clothing that you already have now. While it is true that modest colors and styles can move throughout the week seamlessly, sloppy clothing doesn’t do anything but make you feel bad about yourself. Wear whatever beautiful basics that you have and learn new ways to make them the focus of your wardrobe.
Nice clothing does not have to be uncomfortable. Dressing up doesn’t mean tight fitting either. Building a wardrobe around basics does not mean that those basic pieces must be structured, corporate, and boring. Our perceptions of fashion sometimes distort how we dress when we make false assumptions of what nice clothing represents. A long jersey dress with sandals or flats is actually more comfortable than a t-shirt and jeans in the summer. A cozy cardigan, silk blouse, straight leg or skinny slacks with booties certainly look better than sweats any day. Your suit for work does not have to be overly structured and masculine. Swap out the hard edge blazer for a softer wool or knit jacket with a flowing blouse and pencil skirt.
Declutter Your Closet
If you were to remove everything from your closet and drawers and get rid of everything you felt awful in, did not fit right, or was worn out and in poor condition, you could then see what was left. The items still in your closet would be the pieces to begin your beautiful minimalist wardrobe with. Get rid of all clothing that is frumpy, sloppy, and unflattering. This also pertains to frumpy lounge wear and undergarments. I break down the steps to decluttering your wardrobe here.
Separate the trendy clothing items from the basics to see how your wardrobe balances out. If you have only trendy pieces, decide what beautiful basics would help to tie your wardrobe together. If you only have basics, what colors are dominant and do you need a few more neutrals? Your neutral basics need not be boring. Find pieces that have a sleek silhouette and materials that drape the body comfortably and elegantly.
Simplicity is Key
Allow your clothing to embellish your beauty not compete with it. When I was walking to the movies with my husband the other day, I saw a beautiful women who was doing the most with her look. Her bright yellow blouse, super high heels, teased hair, and bold makeup were actually competing with her beauty. It was hard to see her behind all of the style. There is a subtle glamor behind classic sexy basics. There is also a confidence created taking the time to define your “effortless” chic understated wardrobe. Let everyone see you first, then your clothing and makeup.
Don’t wait until you have the perfect body, perfect job, or the perfect mate to feel beautiful. Do it now! Perfecting the minimalist wardrobe takes time and clear understanding of who you are and emphasizing your best assets in a classy sexy and feminine way. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to look beautiful either. I’ve only invested in one piece so far, the LBD mentionned. The rest was found either years ago or from consignment or vintage shops. You deserve to look amazing every day, so go for it!
(Image on Harper’s Bazaar by Tamu McPherson)