How To Minimize Your Wardrobe

Following fashion trends, is not only time and wallet consuming, but an unsustainable way to add to your wardrobe. Instead, imagine you had 30 items that you all loved, that could all be combined and where quality and timeless style would last you for years to come? Capsule wardrobe or minimalist wardrobe is a trend on the increase – but how do you start with a bursting closet and how do you know what to buy?

Anisa Johnny tells all.

When I informed my other half I was writing an article on how to minimize your wardrobe he fell about laughing. Suffice to say he knows me well – I love fashion and I have a wardrobe full of clothes is probably the understatement of the year. My love affair with fashion started as early as 4 years old once I realized I had an eye for combining colours and somehow the right clothes could make you look and feel different. Even my parents realised I had a flair for fashion and I was always given the task of laying out my Mother’s clothes for their very glamorous dinner parties.

Fast forward, goodness knows, how many years, and my friends and family still seek my sartorial opinion for special occasions, but something has changed. The most important thing I have come to realise is although clothes still have the power to transform, a ‘less is more’ approach is the most successful strategy’.

Here are some easy tips so you too can detox your wardrobe – if a self confessed fashion addict can reduce her wardrobe significantly, you can do it too!

There are a few approaches out there to live with less clothing.  The first is the ‘capsule wardrobe’ approach popularised by American Designer Donna Karan in the 80s. One of the rare high profile female designers, Karen was passionate about designing collections that could fit around a working woman’s life.

Where male designers are known for being more likely to create fantasy cocktail dresses and evening wear based on their ideal of a woman, Donna Karan created specific pieces to build a functional wardrobe without thinking so much about seasons or trends.

This was a radical departure to the usual showmanship and focus on styling by the majority of designers at the time. The capsule wardrobe relies on key pieces that never go out of style and are interchangeable – meaning they can be worn in different ways. The foundation of a capsule wardrobe for a woman is a suit (trouser or skirt suit), a pair of tailored trousers, a pencil skirt, a little black dress, and other support items such as a blouse, outer wear and knitwear. Furthermore, the capsule wardrobe focuses on the needs of the wearer based on their lifestyle and geographic location. Key staple items should be colour coordinated to ensure they are interchangeable and the base colours usually include black, brown, navy grey and white. For specific climates, different fabric content and can be selected, such as wool for colder climates and linen and cotton for warmer climates. Foundation items are usually in black but the colours you choose should be based on your personal taste. In my case black items have been replaced with navy blue as a base colour because of my preference.

The capsule wardrobe can be anything between 12 to 24 pieces and for some people the capsule wardrobe can be extended to 30 items considering seasonal options and accessories. Seasonal options examples are lightweight summer outwear which can be replaced by outerwear in warmer fabric such as wool for the winter. If developed using timeless classics a capsule wardrobe should last you the rest of your lifetime with only marginal updates required. A capsule collection by definition requires you to invest in better quality garments with better fabrics; this usually but not always means paying more than the usual high street prices to ensure the fabric quality and better fit. Many experts argue that this is the ultimate in fashion sustainability.

A capsule collection should include the following items:

  • 2 pairs of trousers

  • 2 blouses

  • 2 dresses (make sure 1 is a little black dress)

  • 2 skirts,

  • 1 Jacket

  • 1 Suit

  • 1 Outerwear

  • 2 Sweaters

  • 2 Cardigans

  • 1 Pair of jeans

  • 1 White Shirt

  • 2 T-shirt

  • 2 Camisole top or undersuit dressing

  • Day Bag

  • Evening bag or clutch

Living in tropical Singapore blouses and dresses might be sleeve less whereas in Europe you may want to have two options a short sleeve for summer and long sleeve blouse for winter. For most women black would be the main based colour for trouser and skirts with pops of colour chosen for knitwear and tops. However, in tropical Singapore lighter colours could become the base colour such as taupe or beige and more colourful dresses and lightweight outerwear is preferable. Sweaters or cardigans could be removed from the tropical capsule wardrobe. Edit the capsule to your style, e.g. if you don’t wear trousers or you would never be seen wearing a dress, then remove this from your list.  Also feel free to replace skirts and dresses with a jumpsuit or culottes if they are your preference.

The great thing about a capsule wardrobe is because of the limited number of items, you need to make sure you only buy things you love and will wear for a long time.  By limiting the items to 30, your wardrobe actually works harder for you because you can easily find items to mix and match. It sounds bizarre, but less clothes made from great quality fabric and fit gives you more choice than a wardrobe full to bursting with cheap items that do not fit or with fabric that wears away over time (bobbling knitwear, faded colours and stray threads).  More recently the capsule wardrobe has been overtaken by the ‘Minimalist wardrobe’ however, it is essentially the same thing. Minimalist lifestyle supporters on instagram catalogue their lives and give you tips and tricks about how they live with as few clothes as possible. As few as even 5 to 10 items of clothing explaining how they creatively interchange them. Just search #minimalistwardrobe for more information.

Marie Kondo’s book ‘The Life Changing Art of Tidying Up’ is another great approach. The book is not just about clothes but it outlines key tools to decluttering your life in general. First she suggests categorizing clutter by tidying each room starting with clothing. Her advice is to set outside specific time which you can complete the task in one go by pulling out all your clothes and placing them in a pile. I suggest you put similar items together such as sorting  all trousers and all skirts and putting them into piles. This is a great way to see how much duplication you have in your wardrobe. You will be surprised that you probably have more than 2 to 3 of the same items of clothing. Marie Kondo also suggests you think about your emotional connection with your clothes.

Ask yourself – do they make you happy? If they make you feel happy then keep them. On the contrary if the item of clothing makes you stressed or sad then put them in a pile and donate or give them away. Kondo strangely also asks you to think about the feelings of your clothes. By keeping them in unloved piles or hidden away and never used you are treating your clothes badly. Her method also suggests folding clothes not hanging them by using shoe boxes as drawer dividers so everything is easy to see. She even has a special folding method which her supporters have shared on videos and blogs online. However, today’s space constraints means this is not always possible and some apartments only have closet space rather than dressers and cupboards

Whether you go with the functional capsule wardrobe or Marie Kondo’s method nostalgia is not your friend. Start with the right mind set and give yourself permission to let go of clothes. The usual reason for keeping items you don’t wear is the famous ‘diet that will never happen’ or harking back to a glorious past. For me it was a prized pair of white jeans from my college heyday which needed to be discarded. It’s time to be honest with yourself and realise it’s never going to happen and it’s time to move on. Both approaches lead to the same thing – less is more. You will be able to see your clothes and find getting dressed easier and less stressful and all the time it takes to maintain so many items can be spent doing something more soul enriching.

Here is a quick summary once again

  1. Purge your wardrobe by sorting your clothes into piles

  2. Select key items from the list above based on a colour palette

  3. Only keep what you absolutely love and ensure they are good quality and fit

  4. Sell, donate or give away any duplicates

  5. Organize your capsule wardrobe by hanging or fold your remaining 30 items

  6. If you find any gaps select better sustainable well made items to replace the gap

  7. Fall in love with your minimized wardrobe all over again



Download our Healthy Kids Recipe Book For Free!

Subscribe up to our newsletter and get healthy kids lunch box and party food recipes from Karin G. Reiter
& Clara Luboff's for free! The extensive ebook 'The Rosy Cheeked Kids" can be yours - just sign up here: