The minimalist woman’s wardrobe — it doesn’t have to be all black!

This is dangerous territory, I realize.  But I’m feeling the bravery born of necessity.  Every time I read an article on streamlining ones closet, investing in “forever fashion,” or acquiring the Top 10 wardrobe “must haves” — the list reads black, black, black. As in: black suit, black pumps, black skirt, black cardigan, black pants, black turtleneck and black sleeveless shell.

I love black.  I look terrible in black.  And the older I get, the worse I look in it.  I can’t possibly be alone.  After all, if you’re not a Winter, chances are you don’t look good in black either. You might look fashionable, you might look thin, you might look New York-y, and you certainly won’t look “incorrect,” but you won’t look your best, either. And just because we’re minimalists, doesn’t mean we don’t care.  [In fact, it may well mean we care more, but that's a posting for another day!]

Today, then, a step-by-step guide to a minimalist wardrobe for the rest of us.  Here goes:

First, pick three colors, at least one of which should be fairly neutral. These colors can vary by season. For example, for fall and winter, you might choose gray, ivory, and red, while your spring and summer colors might be stone, ivory, and dusty blue.

Depending on where and how you work (law office vs. personal trainer vs. stay-at-home mom), the people you live with (nursing baby vs. hubby of 50 years), the climate (I once tried to import an all-black wardrobe to Austin, Texas; it didn’t last two weeks), and your hobbies (yoga, grape-stomping, ceramics?), you will probably need/want some or all of the following:

1.. A trench coat and a winter coat in one of the neutrals, and maybe a more casual jacket appropriate for your local weather (e.g., slicker, parka, running hoody) in one of the colors you’ve chosen.

2. A winter suit and a summer suit, most likely in one of the more neutral colors you’ve chosen.

3. A pair of jeans: dark blue so they can be dressed up or down.

4. One or more of the following items in any [or all -- if you happen to be a talking head or otherwise highly visible, as well as minimalist] of the colors you chose: skirts, pants, turtlenecks, cardigans, shells, T-shirts, tanks, dresses, and blouses. [Personally, I hate to recommend that m/any women over 35 buy shorts, but ... I do understand they are the summer uniform of choice in, say, the Rocky Mountains.  Moreover, I wear cutoffs myself, against all manner of good judgment and regard for others.]

5.  Black, gray, navy or brown leggings, shoes, and boots.

6. A scarf or two — both summer and winter weights (oblong is particularly versatile) — in solids and prints that contain a mix of “your” colors and complimentary colors.

7. The shiny bits: e.g., a metallic sequined pencil skirt, a tulle pouf, vintage taffeta top, or burned velvet wrap … a little glam for the holidays and other special occasions.  Complimentary jewelry — keep it streamlined and wearable — pearls, gemstones, and “your” metal (platinum/white gold/silver vs. gold/bronze/copper).

A monochromatic, minimalist look should be elegant, never boring, so don’t forget texture.  Picture yourself, for example, in a navy blue wool three piece suit with navy blue leather pumps and a navy blue leather handbag.  Eeks and double eeks.  Now picture yourself in all creamy ivory, but wearing a silk camisole, ribbed cashmere cardigan, and sueded ribless corduroy jeans.  Much better, hmm?  It’s all in the texture.

Other keys to a minimalist wardrobe:

  • Get the most classic lines and the very best quality that you can afford/find so that you needn’t reinvent the wheel (or wardrobe) every year.
  • Make sure your clothes fit you properly.  Sometimes you can get away with spending less money at the store if you spend more at the tailor, and — surprisingly often — this is a trade-off worth making.
  • Take good care of what you’ve got.  Fortunately for us minimalists, this generally means washing, drying and drycleaning your clothes LESS often and simply airing them out more often.
  • It probably goes without saying (we’re minimalists, aren’t we?), but I’ll say it anyway: no visible logos. Anywhere. Ever.  Well, maybe, just maybe, if you own the company.
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