With there being such a trend towards a minimalist wardrobe, more and more clients have told me they want to create small, tight, cohesive closets. Movements like the ten piece wardrobe, Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which encourages readers to cast off all their joyless items, and books on the environmental, psychological and monetary impacts of fast fashion, like Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, women seem to be done with bloated closets filled with cheap, fleeting buys.
Why Wearing the Best Means You Can Own Less
Recently, I began working with a client who embodies the spirit of this movement. Aptly, I have decided to name her Ms. Minimalist in this post because, as you know, I never reveal the names of my clients. Ms. Minimalist and I have a history that spans much longer than the one year she has been my client. She and I go way back. We met in our late twenties as two young women breaking out on our own to create careers and businesses ourselves. Quickly we became part of the well-connected world of ambitious young self-employed New York City women who, to this day, all support each another. I am proud to call Ms. Minimalist a good friend.
Due to our long history and similar lifestyles, Ms. Minimalist’s needs probably resonate with me better than any of my other clients. Both being self employed, we both don’t have to go to an office everyday and our work puts us in front of different people regularly. For me, this usually involves client work, networking and speaking. For Ms. Minimalist, it means speaking events and doing corporate training, television appearances, and networking and interfacing with different people all the time. The need for a large, extensive wardrobe isn’t really that necessary for either one of us because our audience is always different.
However, there is another reason that Ms. Minimalist’s wardrobe is so small– she buys the best she can afford. As a result, she doesn’t really feel the need to own that much. Ms. Minimalist and I share this similar philosophy on the accumulation things. I have often attributed it to me being a Capricorn and she a Virgo, two very practical astrological signs (if you believe that sort of thing), or the fact that we’re both New Yorkers who don’t have the luxury of large homes in which to store lots of stuff. It could also be that we both seem to have the mindset that wealth isn’t based on volume as much as it is based on quality.
Ms. Minimalist, for example, owns a pair of nude Louboutin pumps. When most people think about these expensive shoes they assume that the person wearing them either has a lot of money or a warped sense of what is important in life. After all, few people can fathom dropping around $700 on one pair of shoes. Yet, before you judge, you need to understand Ms. Minimalist’s very wise perspective on this. These Louboutin’s are pretty much the only pair of pumps she owns. She wears them constantly because why would she downgrade when she already has the best?
It’s also important to look at the cost-per-wear equation. While the money up front was more than average for one pair of shoes, Ms. Minimalist would only need to have worn them 14 times for them to cost around $50 per wear. How many shoes do you own that you spent a heck of a lot more for that you have only worn once or not at all? As Ms. Minimalist has told me when people have remarked on her Louboutins, “Look at every photo of what I am wearing and notice that I am wearing the exact same pair of shoes.”
Given Ms. Minimalist’s lifestyle of not spending a great deal of time around the same people, she has the luxury of being able to repeat her looks often, which puts her in position more advantageous to repeat things than most. Often, when I am helping a client style their wardrobe, they want five or six ways to style one piece in their closet, where Ms. Minimalist only needs one, the best one. This helps to keep her wardrobe smaller than average. However, just because you don’t live a life exactly like Ms. Minimalist does it does not mean you can’t adopt her mindset. Take a look at the following tips for more.
Wear the best
Despite the logic behind Ms. Minimalist’s Louboutin purchase, this sort of expenditure may still be out of reach for you. This is okay. Understand, it’s not so much about affording status-y shoes or spending a lot of money as it is about buying pieces that are the pinnacle of investing for you. If you have one pair of pumps that you love, one good coat, a phenomenal dress, an outstanding blazer, why would you go slumming and choose something less than fantastic? It would be the equivalent of finding the perfect man that you would want to spend the rest of your life with and then ditching him for someone less worthy. Why would you do that?
Think of clothing purchases as lifetime investments
Last time I shopped with Ms. Minimalist, she bought an amazing shearling coat with fur trim. While signing the receipt, Ms. Minimalist, who is in her early 40’s, gleefully said, “I finally got my shearling” and also said how this would be her shearling for the rest of her life. The. rest. of. her. life. Do you get it? First of all, Ms. Minimalist had this investment coat on a goal list that she patiently waited for and, second, she planned to purchase it once, just once. Older women may understand this philosophy, but for young people who grew up in the fast fashion era, lifetime purchases like this one are incredibly foreign.
Investing in clothing is just that, an investment, and that investment will pay off over time. By the time Ms. Minimalist wills this coat away after she dies, the cost-per-wear of it will likely be cheaper than the price she would have spent to purchase several cheaper coats over the course of that same lifetime.
If you are going to put down large sums of money on clothing you have to understand yourself. The amount of time that Ms. Minimalist and I spend culling through her wardrobe and editing our shopping selections is probably double to the time we actually spend shopping. You can’t be haphazard when investing in clothing, for obvious reasons. Nobody invests in the stock market by blindfolding themselves and throwing a dart against the wall to select a stock.
What I appreciate about Ms. Minimalist is the amount of time she spends thinking about this, getting to know herself and, most importantly, how she is willing to let go when she feels she has taken a wrong turn. While this may seem arduous and incredibly boring to consider, think about how much time you have wasted sifting through your mistakes or having to decide between two pieces you’re just okay with while wishing for something better.
Investing means restraint
There are just some people out there who crave variety, who can’t fathom having just a few pairs of shoes or a small closet of clothes. For them, this would get boring and repetitive too easily. What they would also miss would likely be the actual act of shopping.
I am certainly not saying that everyone has to be a Ms. Minimalist, nor is it even the right approach for every woman. I have plenty of clients where it doesn’t work because their lifestyles are dramatically different. However, what I do think we can all use is a little restraint, less instant gratification, less of a need for the acquisition of things to be used as a high and more of a mindfulness and an attitude of quality. There is a way to have both and to be a bit more mindful when shopping, no matter how much something costs.
It’s easy to get caught up in the trappings of a discount table or super cheap clothing and to blindly stock up on it because so many of us have been conditioned to never leave a sale item behind. But investing can actually make you stop, think and consider its usefulness in your life.
Notice what it does to your attitude
One of the greatest perks of my job is that I get to spend time with my clients. Working with some of the most amazing women, I really do learn so much from each of them. My time with Ms. Minimalist has been no different. It has shined a light on areas in my own life where I can be a bit stingy with myself or haven’t allowed myself to have the best. And it’s not Ms. Minimalist’s pretty wardrobe that has done that, it’s her attitude that has.
When you invest in yourself your attitude towards yourself changes and often times a lack of investing doesn’t come from a lack of funds as much is it comes from a lack of self-worth or simply not granting yourself permission to think of yourself as a priority. It’s not a gratuitous or gluttonous mindset, like an “I did 60 minutes of cardio so I deserve three pieces of chocolate cake” as much as it is a mindset of “I am hungry. What food will best nourish me?” Investing in oneself is a form a self-care, not a reward for supposed good behavior.
Being cheap and frugal are two different things
The last thing I want to say on the topic of investing and wearing the best is that one can invest and be frugal at the same time. Rarely do we connect the two. As I am writing this, I am thinking of those who are reading this, who are on a strict budget, who do need to rely on discount stores, less expensive clothing and who don’t have the means to apply large sums of money towards their clothing. I want to be clear, you can invest in yourself on a budget and you don’t have to be loaded to buy the best you can afford. I wrote a whole blog post on the distinctions between being cheap and frugal, which you can read here, but, essentially, when you shop cheap you don’t value or invest in what you buy, but when you are frugal you do.
Ms. Minimalist’s purchases
Finally, I thought I would share a few purchases that Ms. Minimalist recently made to showcase a few of the thoughts behind the acquisitions.
These are three of the dresses that Ms. Minimalist bought, a ruched dress with 3/4 sleeves from Giorgio Armani, an Elie Tahari suede dress and a knit dress with gorgeous ribbing by Armani Collezioni. Each dress was meticulously thought out based on need, versatility, her clients, and more.
When I met with Ms. Minimalist to go through her closet, she was having a t-shirt crisis. She was tired of buying and tossing out styles that didn’t flatter her and basically told me to find the best tanks and tees. She didn’t care if they were $20 or $500, what was important to her was fit. I found her perfect style by Majestic and we bought a few, a fun metallic short sleeve style, a basic white crew, white tank and black short sleeve v-neck.
Lastly, I found this fun Theory fringed sweater to add to Ms. Minimalist’s wardrobe and it was a really nice addition to her existing wardrobe.
Ms. Minimalist wanted some scarves and we chose these two styles, one from Franco Ferrari and the other from Etro. Both scarves are not only stunning but they perfectly complemented Ms. Minimalist’s wardrobe. Spending this much on scarves can’t be a willy nilly purchase.
Yet, it’s not all Louboutins and expensive shearling coats for Ms. Minimalist. Again, it’s not about the money as much as it is the value and finding the best for her. We purchased these grey Cole Haan pumps when we were looking for the right style in the right color, these black flats from J. Crew that were actually better than the similar looking Louboutins she tried on, and this gold bangle, also from J. Crew.
I hope post on wearing the best has inspired you to shop for the best for yourself.
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These are my favorite posts…Thank you for sharing Ms. Minimalist wardrobe with us….I have a similar outlook on life as Ms. Minimalist even though I was born and raised in the South:D
Thanks, Stacie, I am glad to hear you enjoy these posts! Client work really enables me get some fantastic insights. I definitely think a minimalist approach has no geographical limitation. Enjoy your, I’m sure, fabulous birthday!
Love this post! Wish I could see more of her wardrobe!
Thanks, Keri! The next time I am in her closet maybe I will take a few snaps. Her closet is one of the few where I can pretty much recite everything that is in there from memory.
Something to aim for. I’m on a shopping diet, having just reduced the size of my wardrobe a lot as a part of a move to a much smaller home. Now that I can see all the clothes I have, I realize I still have way too many tops and pants. Sigh. I may never shop for years…
Whilst I generally agree with this, I personally think that $1395 for a dress made of polyamide/elastane/viscose is insane, designer or no designer. Love the shape of the dress, but would never buy a dress in such fabric at any price.
WRT shoes, now that I am older I do find I sometimes have to spend a bit more to get nice buttery-soft leather, beauty, comfort and a good fit, but not necessarily! And again, $700 for a pair of shoes is too much. Shoes wear out, including expensive ones, and I like my shoes to look new. I’ve had good luck with Vince Camuto shoes at the top of my price range, and Topshop at the bottom. Topshop sales have amazing bargains. I have just bought a pair of buttery soft leather Topshop boots in the sale for £30 ($45 including tax). (In contrast, I did once try on a range of high end designer shoes and was struck by how uncomfortable most of them were, contrary to what one would expect. Perhaps it is my wide feet?!)
People go on about buying designer jeans, but I buy age 14 dark indigo girls’ jeans for ~$11 and they always look brand new and smart, which I prefer. I have made the mistake of buying expensive jeans in the past only to have them break or something go wrong with them within a few wears. I can buy an awful lot of $11 for the cost of one pair of expensive ones…
HI Wendy, I appreciate your comment and where you are coming from. Unfortunately, the public’s perception of some fabrics is often misunderstood and the belief is that only natural fabrics are good. This isn’t necessarily true. Having worked with some of the finest mills in Italy, polyamide (which is nylon), elastane (which is elastic or spandex or more commonly known as Dupont’s lycra) is simply what gives fabric stretch and viscose are not bad fabrics at all and you can’t compare these fabrics from a high end mill from one that is cheap. Viscose is a beautiful yarn that has amazing drape and is often paired with wool and silk. Plus, did you know that viscose is actually a natural fabric? It comes from wood pulp but often is considered manmade because of the process to make it. The hand of the fabric in this dress is beefy, luxurious and has a beautiful drape. No doubt, Armani uses the best fabrics. Fabric is often what factors prices. Trust me, this fabric is far from cheap.
Sorry — my last comment sounded terribly negative, and I failed to make the point I intended to make. I actually agree more than it sounded in my last comment! It is definitely true that since I started being SUPER PICKY, for example, about requiring footwear to be comfortable and buttery-soft leather, I have indeed found that I waste less money buying shoes I then have to donate within a couple of wears because they are uncomfortable.
OTOH, WRT jeans, when one of my $11 pairs of jeans starts looking less than perfectly new, I simply donate it and buy another pair, and because they are so cheap, I am in this case saving a lot of money compared to when I bought expensive jeans whose zippers then broke or whatever.
I wish my weight didn’t fluctuate so much, that’s the main reason I’ve never spent more than mid-range prices on clothes.
Shoes are another beast altogether. I don’t have the budget for Laboutins (and would not purchase high end designer anything anyway, for various reasons) but when you’re in your 40s with foot problems buying really good quality leather shoes is worth it. The price is a direct investment in foot health. I don’t want to end up with worse foot problems later on. Occasionally I score low end prices for great comfy shoes but more and more I’m having to go the higher end of mid-range or low end of high-range.
Real question: I like the idea of investing in high-quality clothing but find the quality of a lot of even pretty expensive brands abysmal. (Remember when JCrew had well-made clothing?) I can’t afford to drop $700 on shoes or a grand on a dress, like the woman in question, so her brands are out of my league. Do you have any brand recommendations slightly lower down the price chain that are still high quality? It feels like I couldn’t even find clothing worth investing in if I wanted to.
All of the really nice quality pieces I have are older and second-hand. I have done vintage camel hair skirts I got for a song on Etsy and then had tailored. The workmanship from 20 years ago was great. Contemporary stuff … not so much.
I have really been liking Theory’s pants. I also like Hugo Boss for work, a brand called Peserico which you can find at Saks. Believe it or not, Talbot’s has incredibly high quality standards. I used to be a designer for them and we had to deal with the quality control department regularly. Basically, the fabric and trim we wanted to use would only pass if a Mac truck could driven over 100 times. It was crazy. Not sure if Talbot’s is your style, but they do have incredible standards.
My life honestly changed over the summer when I did a “wear one wool dress for 100 days” challenge. This wool dress is amazing, and I still grab it over and over and over again. I have stopped buying “lesser” pieces because I know my one wool dress will handle it!