Building a minimalist wardrobe

I’ve worn the essentially same outfit every single day for at least a year and while many people might consider that boring, I think it’s one of the best choices I ever made.

After we moved to New Zealand, I narrowed down my wardrobe to only the basics that I needed to build a reliable wardrobe. Over time, as those pieces reached the end of their lifetime, I replaced them with timeless, blue pieces. Now, I own almost exclusively dark blue clothes. When I replace items, I choose pieces from sustainable, ethical brands as much as possible, as I’ve noticed those tend to last a lot longer.

I heard about the idea of wearing the same clothes every day through Youtube and the idea resonated with me from the beginning. However, as I didn’t want to throw out everything I owned and start over, I took my time to get where I wanted to get. I replaced only what was beyond repair and slowly built my wardrobe. The side effect of that is that I don’t actually have the same shirt multiple times, but rather a lot of similar shirts from different brands.

The main reasons for me where simplicity, reliability, and sustainability:

I like the simplicity in the morning–not having to actually choose an outfit. All I need to do now is to check the weather and choose the right amount of layers and length. It saves so much time and also prevents decision fatigue.

I also save time by not having to go clothes shopping as often. As my wardrobe doesn’t change with seasons or trends, I don’t need to replace perfectly good clothing. This keeps my clothes budget minimal and also means that I don’t have to go clothes shopping as often. Did I mention that I really don’t like clothes shopping?

And finally, by choosing clothes from sustainable, ethical brands, I choose quality and durability. The clothes we buy at the chain clothes stores just aren’t designed to withstand more than a handful of wears. As I wear my clothes day after day after day and each piece gets into the rotation regularly, my clothes need to be designed for durability. And, over the past year, I’ve learned that almost any piece that I buy from a regular chain store ends up with holes or unraveling seams after only a few wears. I get much more joy from good-quality brands.

So, how do I suggest you approach a one-color wardrobe?

First, choose your color. I’m not saying you have to choose dark blue. A lot of people who wear a uniform choose black. That was too monotone for me, as there is no variety in black. There is no such thing as light black or dark black. Light black is gray. So I chose dark blue for a bit of flexibility and the option to have some darker dark blue pieces and some lighter dark blue pieces. But you can choose whatever color you feel comfortable wearing every single day. I suggest a more muted color but if you are the kind of person to wear yellow every day, go for it.

Then, sort through your existing wardrobe. What pieces do you actually wear? Donate the rest or give them to friends. And if they are beyond donating, discard of them properly. There is no need to keep an item just because you have to throw it away. You won’t get use out of the item either way.

Now, start wearing your leftover wardrobe. Don’t buy any clothes yet. Just wear what you have.

Then, when those pieces start failing one after the other, replace them. Keep in mind what you are replacing and don’t replace a tank top with a sweater–unless you really need fewer tank tops and more sweaters.

Over time, you’ll end up with a reliable, durable, flexible wardrobe that can keep you looking good for many, many wears.

One of the main arguments against a simplistic wardrobe like mine is that people will think you are dirty or that you only own one shirt. In my experience, this is far from the truth. I checked with my project group after working with them for months (in the same boring clothes, of course) and not one of them noticed that I wear the same thing every day.

No one cares what you wear except for yourself (well, and superficial people, but that’s a whole different story). Choose elegant, simple, and timeless pieces and no one will question if you showered that morning or if you ever wash your clothes–at least not because of your wardrobe.

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand is the writer behind the essays here, author of fiction novels, the creator of the Kate Hildenbrand podcast, and a student of marine ecology. At least, that's her on the surface.