Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Curating a Minimalist, Ethical & Eclectic Wardrobe..

Four years ago, I decided to completely change the way I shopped for clothes.  After years of trying to aimlessly keep up with trends, purchasing fast fashion, collecting vintage and blogging my outfits, my life changed dramatically in 2012 and in the process of grief and healing, I realised how overwhelmed and ashamed I was by all my clothes.  In January 2013, I made a decision to only buy ethical, secondhand and handmade clothing. I made my pledge for a year and when 2014 rolled around I realised there was no going back the way I once shopped.  Once I become more conscious of shopping ethically and mindfully, I began to take my journey into ethical fashion even further.  I started asking questions to brands and shop owners.  I began assessing my wardrobe, looking at what I loved and wore and what was hanging in the wardrobe collecting dust.  Last year I decided to take the next step and gave my wardrobe a minimalist overhaul. Today I have about 40 items of clothings, a few scarves, two belts, two bags, two hats, ten pairs of shoes and I have never felt happier, calmer or more organised in my life.

Before we go any further, I must tell you I adore clothes. I studied textiles and fashion theory at University and truly appreciate many of the beautiful, creative aspects of fashion. There is however a very dark side to the fashion industry. If you would like more information on this area, start by heading over to Fashion Revolution and check out the film, The True Cost.

The environmental and ethical impacts of fast fashion were the reason I chose to minimze my wardrobe and my impact. And when I was looking for 'minimalist wardrobe' inspiration on Pinterest, I noticed a recurring theme... every item was either black, white or grey.  Now don't get me wrong, if you love that vibe that's great, but that's just not my style.  I've always dressed quite eclectically and had no intention of changing my personal style to fit into any particular minimalist category.  So I set about making my own rules, that allowed me to keep my style, whilst finding simplicity and shopping ethically.   

I've had many people ask me questions about my wardrobe since I posted a picture of it a few months ago on Instagram, so I thought I'd share some tips that have really helped me to curate a minimalist wardrobe of unique, ethical clothing I love, on a very small budget.

Define your style - Try defining your style in three words.  Mine would be, eclectic, free-spirited and conscious. Make a list of what you need depending on your location and lifestyle and items just really love. Decide how many pieces you realistically need (I try to stay under 50 items of clothing) and what you wear most.  From here you can begin to see the gaps you need to fill and maybe breath new life into pieces you had that you'd forgotten about.
Analyse your wardrobe - Pull everything out and really analyse what you own. What do you have multiples of? Why do you choose specific colours? What have you never worn? Try things on, make some notes and be honest with yourself.  Now is the time to look at labels and see where your clothing is made.  

Take Charge - Be ruthless, let go, sell, share, donate, swap, do whatever it takes.  Slowly get back down to the bones of your wardrobe, the things that you really love and wear all the time.  This process will be very different for everyone and often it can't be done in one day.  For me that it took about twelve months, of looking, wearing, thinking and letting go a bit at a time.  It's especially hard with pieces that hold sentimental value, but often the trick there is to remember that the memory of that special occasion, person or overseas trip, is always in your heart, not in the item itself.  Wear it one last time, give it a nice farewell and say goodbye.

Do your research - Now you've paired down, you might start to think about what else you really need.  Before you jump in and start buying, do your research. Don't be afraid to ask shops, send emails and use the wonders of online shopping to find out what products are ethically made, where and under what conditions. This is also a good opportunity to measure yourself, read reviews and ask like minded people wear they shop.  If second hand and vintage is your thing, I can’t stress enough the importance of trying things on. Make the time, I promise it will be worth it in the long run.  

Plan for the seasons - Creating a transitional wardrobe is really important if you are wanting to downsize. Make your clothes go the distance by layering and working cohesively together. I live in a town that gets very hot in summer and can be quite cold in winter, so when I make a purchase, I always consider if I can wear the piece all year around.  

Build consciously - Build up pieces you love slowly. Really consider your purchases, think about whether you need it right away. Make a wish list. Wait for sales. Don't get sucked into trends and marketing. Buy at your own pace. Most importantly, find small, ethical brands that you love, trust and truly want to support. Make sure you reach out and tell them you love them too.  It will make their day!

Get Creative - Make, swap, buy second hand and alter, shop closets on Instagram, mend, upcycle. This will ensure you and creating your own style and finding pieces that no one else has. And it’s fun!

Ask Yourself Questions - Most importantly before any purchase, really ask yourself, do you need it? Is it the same as something else?  Could you.. use what you have, alter something, borrow, wait until it's on sale. Curate with love and remember your wardrobe will always evolve with you over time.  Allow this pace to be slow and beautiful rather than fast and frantic.

I hope this might help you on your way to rethinking your wardrobe.  Remember it is a process, it's forever changing and it's all about enjoying the journey of mindful, positive and beautiful self expression. 

Much Love & Light


  1. In 2010 I challenged myself not buy an item of clothing for a year. If I wanted/needed something I would sew or knit it. I lasted twenty months. It felt strange buying when I knew I could make. Plus, by making I really had to think if it was worth the effort, did I really like the style, would I wear it across the seasons. Now, I buy only a few items for myself and only when a loved piece is completely worn out.
    A question though: I have two amazing little boys and I find I have to buy for the eldest far more often than I'd like. The baby wears what the eldest wore with new items gifted by family and friends (they were born in the same season, a happy coincidence!). Do you try to keep your little love's wardrobe to the same rules you've set yourself? I think our boy owns more than 50 pieces with most being pants and shorts (learning to use the toilet!). When I buy for our toddler I try to predict what he'll need before he needs it so I can keep an eye out for ethically made options but sometimes that's hard when he needs something asap.

    1. Hi Nic, Fel from The Craft Sessions has a post on making kids clothes that you might find helpful. She is all about ethical and minimal and EASY...

  2. Ditto ALL the way girl! Even down to the grief and healing bit... my kids and I just celebrated the one year anniversary since their Dad (my husband) died and you know the best quote I've come across since then... "Never be afraid to fall apart because it is an opportunity to rebuild yourself the way you wish you had been all along" - Rae Smith.... and in amongst all the other rebuilding/rebirthing, my wardrobe has also been getting an overhaul.

    The True Cost is such an important film. Difficult and confronting, but brilliant and necessary to spread the awareness. I just turned 40 and have been observing and playing with a big shift in my style. It is a process and it is forever changing, just as you say, and I'm thoroughly enjoying where my fashion choices are taking me - it's so much fun! And btw, I'm The Conscious Caterpillar on Insta - just so you can place me 'cos the Google comments box thing won't let me do it :-) xo

  3. Really awesome post babe. I've never been a current trend follower when it comes to current fashion, so it's always been easy for me to have a wardrobe that is particularly ethical in as much as it is 90% second hand and vintage. Some basics and underwear are bought retail but overall I think I do pretty well. Several times a year I do a wardrobe edit and move things on, I either turn pieces into something else, donate or sell them and gift vintage items to my other vintage loving gal pals and so on. I really admire you doing what you're doing.

  4. I agree! There is so much waste in this world! My kids, ages 8 and 12 will only wear thrift shop clothing. My son had a shirt from Target and 4 other kids had the same shirt and he was embarrassed and never wore that shirt again. And its crazy because 90% of what we get from the thrift shops are new with tags! We live in such a wasteful culture. Its sad.

  5. I read a blog post awhile back how Mark Zuckerburg (the Facebook creator) wore only jeans and a grey shirt everyday - a way to simplify his life and have more time for Facebook inventing, I guess? Now, that would work fine for non fashion people, but, for those who have any interest fashion...
    Love that your post gives more ideas than sticking with black/grey/white, for those of us who want colour and variety in our life.

  6. Very interesting Sophie...I am always curious about how other people manage their wardrobes. I wish I could be as disciplined as you! x

  7. Thanks so much for sharing Sophie. I am not a huge buyer of clothes for me, though with so many lovely eco-conscious brands emerging I do have to ask myself "do I really need this?". IG isn't always so helpful either :) On the whole though, I think I do ok with keeping things minimalistic for me. Out of curiosity how do you shop for Tallow? I shop mostly online (small town) and op-shop regularly but I have had a few comments on wasting money on fairtrade/organic when they are just going to grow out of it/get it dirty. Just curious to know how you balance everything? xx


Thank you for stopping by! ~ I just love receiving your comments! I'll be sure to pop by your place too. Much love ~ Sophie x