Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.
It’s the minimalist manifesto – the phrase that guides our pursuit of a more intentional life that is driven less by our stuff and more by our relationships.
When applied to our wardrobes, it encourages responsible, infrequent consumption of timeless and well-made garments. In an ideal world, we’d buy it once and wear it forever.
But this isn’t an ideal world. It’s the real world, and fashion trends rip through social media like wildfire, catching every corner of the Internet and leading even the most fastidious minimalists into temptation.
As a self-described minimalist, I find myself struggling over new trends every day.
I have enough clothing. It’s important to me to keep my wardrobe small.
But when I see that all my favorite bloggers are rocking great new mules or wide legged pants or straw circle totes, I suddenly can’t imagine my wardrobe without these things (they call ‘em influencers for a reason, people).
So, what’s a minimalist to do? How can we maintain wardrobes that we love without getting caught up in a cycle of trends?
Wardrobe FOMO is real, and it’s tough to resist buying new things when everyone from your favorite ethical designer to your best friend are creating and wearing the latest and greatest in fashion trends.
You want to keep up and fit in – that’s only natural – but can you do it responsibly, and while maintaining your commitment to responsible consumption?
I think you can. With a little extra work, you can have your minimalist cake and eat it too. Here’s how:
1. Buy Less
Full stop. Take a break from shopping for a while. Give yourself permission to love what you already own and to play with it in creative new ways.
If feelings of envy are driving you down an “Add to Cart” rabbit hole, try taking a break from social media and un-following brands and influencers. Remind yourself why you decided to pursue a minimalist wardrobe in the first place.
The next time you see that trendy item, you may realize that you don’t even really want it anymore, that it isn’t true to your style, and that maybe the only reason you wanted it in the first place was because of some emotional reason unrelated to your actual wardrobe needs.
2. Choose Well
Okay, so you’ve decided after your shopping/social media break that you still want The Thing.
It doesn’t make you a bad person.
Designers around the world are making beautiful, ethically produced garments every day and sharing them widely on digital platforms. Every once in a while, you’re going to fall in love with something. This is where the real work is.
You need to examine that piece from every angle.
It looks great on the Instagram model, but will it look good on you? Is it practical for your lifestyle? Does it go with the things you already own? How expensive is it? Can you afford it? Is it made responsibly? How long have you been thinking about buying it? Are you still going to love it once everyone else has stopped wearing it?
You owe it to yourself, the planet, and your community to be picky when choosing which trends to admire from afar and which ones to actually spend your hard-earned dollars on.
3. Make It Last
You’ve taken a shopping break and un-followed the influencers. You’ve asked yourself all the questions above and come up with satisfactory answers. You added to cart, you confirmed purchase, and now The Thing that you have spent time, energy, and money on belongs to you. You are happy with your purchase and you feel good about the mindfulness that went into your choice.
Congratulations! –but it’s not over.
You have a responsibility to that garment now. You are responsible for wearing it, washing it properly, repairing it when it breaks, and keeping it out of a landfill at all costs.
Whether that means you wear it forever and will it to your granddaughter or recycle it into cloth napkins in two years is up to you, but you are a steward of this planet and its creatures as much as any other person, and the production and eventual disposal of that garment has consequences.
If we have the privilege to purchase trendy new clothing at will, we should exercise our power to determine where that clothing will end up.
If you’ve reached the end of this article and you’re thinking, “gosh, that’s a lot of work just to decide whether or not to buy a cool new thing,” well, yeah. That’s kind of the point.
Minimalism is more than just an aesthetic; it’s a commitment to a style of life that involves sacrifice. The number one way that we can use our wardrobes to positively impact the planet is to reduce our overall rate of consumption, and even the most ethically produced garments create waste.
It’s unrealistic to think that we’ll never participate in trends or buy something new, but we have to be thoughtful and responsible when we do.