The Minimalist's War On Wardrobe / by Jennifer Chan

There is a crusade, led by conventional minimalists, that needs to be stopped. The mission isn't against a sole person, but rather an idea: clothes are bad. I’m not sure how it exactly started or why it grew steam, but one of the core tenets of minimalism is to pair down all of your clothes into a capsule wardrobe.

Undoubtedly, this was popularized by Courtney Carver, an inspiring woman who, after being diagnosed with MS, reduced her stress through living with less. Project 333, an initiative she started, has been featured on The Today Show, O Magazine, the BBC, and other mainstream media outlets. The premise is that we often only wear 20% of our wardrobe, and we can easily get by with owning 33 items in our wardrobe.

Since then, other noted minimalists have taken up the cause to promulgate this message: the Minimalists, Leo Babauta, and Matt D’Avella.

Even two people that I’ve followed from afar (Brianna Wiest and Pieter Levels) adhere to some sort of minimalist wardrobe, and I’d like to think that I follow suite as well. I haven’t counted whatever’s in my closet, but I suspect that I too own less than 33 items.

That being said, I’m always wary of formulaic solutions. After all, fashion is a form of art and expression, and clothes are not inherently terrible things to accumulate. For me, it just happens to be books instead of shirts.

Whether we like to admit it or not, clothing is an essential factor in how confident we feel. It doesn’t matter how much a pair of pants cost, but if it accentuates our curves just right, we often walk out the door feeling like a fucking superhero. My favourite shirt is a basic short-sleeve, button-up. It costs $30 at Uniqlo and I bought three in different colours (white, olive green, and light blue). Whenever I wear one of these shirts, how I perceive myself to look and how I feel others perceive me are aligned. The value is disproportionate to the price-tag.

You don’t need to be a fashionista to understand that every morning you make a decision on how you want to present yourself to the world. Do you put on any makeup? Do you style your hair or leave it as is? Of course, that decision is restricted by economic realities, but the choice still exists to a certain degree.

There’s a line that I love by Alexander McQueen: “I want people to be afraid of the women I dress.” For McQueen, it’s obvious that what a clothing is lays secondary to what the clothing does for those who wear it. The women who wear his items are confident, self-assured, and capable of tackling the world.

The freedom to express yourself is important. Whether that’s through the essays you write, the pictures that you draw, the designs that you tattoo on your body, or the clothes that you wear. It is perfectly acceptable to embrace minimalist living while maintaining a full closet. At his 2008 runway show, Ralph Lauren explained, “Fashion is not necessarily about labels. It’s not about brands. It’s about something else that comes from within you.” Don’t get me wrong, reducing the amount of stuff that you own is the most effective step towards peace and clarity. But those things do not need to come at the expense of individual expression.