growing a minimalist wardrobe: affordability.

April 15, 2015
growing a minimalist wardrobe: affordability | reading my tea leaves A minimalist wardrobe is not by definition an expensive wardrobe. 
There are minimalist wardrobes out there that consist of five ragged t-shirts and three pairs of threadbare jeans. This wardrobe is not mine, and might not be yours, but it is minimalist.
Another minimalist wardrobe might consist of five organic Pima cotton t-shirts that retail for $90 a pop and three pairs of $300 designer jeans. A minimalist wardrobe of a different stripe.
A third might consist of five perfectly average t-shirts purchased at a large discount store and three pairs of jeans from the same place.

Some minimalist wardrobes are born from a great love of clothes. Others are born from a complete lack of interest in clothes. There are minimalists who are avid shoppers—sample sale pilgrims and website combers—while other minimalists’ slim wardrobes exist mostly because it’s the act of shopping itself that’s repellent.

A minimalist wardrobe doesn’t take only one shape or come with one price tag.

growing a minimalist wardrobe: affordability | reading my tea leaves Last week’s survey (thank you!) prompted a number of readers to write to me regarding the affordability of the particular clothes that I talk about in this space, so I thought I’d do my best to tackle the subject head-on.


I’m an admirer of clothes, often from a distance. 
When I do make the leap to make a purchase, I try to make the few clothing purchases that I make count in as many ways as possible. (I’ve mentioned this before.) I set my expectations sky high. I want my clothes to be long-lasting. I want them to be beautifully designed. I want them to make me feel beautiful. I went them to be easy and comfortable. I want them to have limited impact along the supply chain. I want to support small and independent companies as often as I can. Sometimes I can afford the clothes that make my cut. More often I can only admire them.

Far more important than how many (or few) clothes I have in my closet is making sure that what I do have I actually put to good use. And with a few happy accidents that stand as exceptions to the rule, the clothes that I put to best use are the clothes that I’ve first admired from a distance.
growing a minimalist wardrobe: affordability | reading my tea leaves Are you still with me?

The fact is, that the more that I actively like my clothes, the less of them I need. When I feel perfectly satisfied wearing the same favorite pair of jeans and beautiful sweater day in and day out—swapping only clean underwear and a fresh t-shirt each morning—I don’t feel as much of a need for a second, third, or fourth sweater of a similar style. It’s when I only feel lukewarm about a particular sweater that I cast a wandering eye and add another one to the mix. When I’ve found myself in this rut, I’m more likely to reach for less expensive clothes. Annoyed that I’ve already spent precious resources on clothes that haven’t worked out, I can become wary and unwilling to invest still more. But over and over again, I’ve found that more begets more. And buying many inexpensive sweaters that I only feel lukewarm about finishes by being more expensive than buying one expensive sweater that I really love.

Lots of factors go into the cost of clothes. The price of a particular shirt can vary widely depending on country of manufacture, brand name, mark-up, time of year, and point of sale. And it’s often hard to determine why a particular article of clothing is priced the way it is. Is its high cost pure marketing? Is it higher-quality fabric? Or is its low cost because it was produced in a sweatshop, or just because it was bought after its prime season? Oh, the perils of Capitalism, my friends. But I think there’s hope. There are designers who do tell the story of their goods. When I learn about the care that went into making something, the materials used, the elements of the design process, the human beings behind a blouse, or a scarf, or a button-up, the cost begins to make sense.

For me, despite the fact that the individual cost of some of the clothes that I admire (and the few that I decide to buy) tends to be quite a bit higher than the goods found at your average fast fashion store, I’m fairly certain that I’m still spending less than I would on a wardrobe filled with more, less-expensive clothes. By investing in high-quality goods, I have to re-buy less frequently. By investing in clothes that I’ve saved up for, or lusted after, or otherwise jumped through hoops to procure, I’m more likely to take better care of them, make them last longer, and most importantly, love them longer.

To be sure, the expense of clothes does not always guarantee their longevity. (I’ve had five dollar t-shirts last for years, I’ve had others unravel after one wash.) Neither does high price guarantee that clothes have been made in a way that’s particularly admirable.

But one thing that’s certain is that fast fashion chains have found ways to produce huge numbers of clothes cheaply through a reliance on underpaid workers, cheap fabrics, and shoddy construction—to name only the most common infractions. It’s not hyperbole to write that US consumers enjoy a false economy when it comes to the clothes for sale in many of our largest stores.

While often the price of the clothes that I most admire are much more on the high end of things than the low, I don’t think that mine is an extravagant wardobe. No doubt, affordability is a matter of perspective, not fact. I was once encouraged to purchase a dress that when on sale still cost more than my entire monthly student loan payment (which was also more than half of my bi-monthly paycheck). The dress was beautiful. The encouragment came from a place of high standards and good intentions and a much larger paycheck; the possibility of purchase, still zero.

Still, there are other things that I have been able to add to my closet. Here, a few tips for affording my version of a minimalist wardrobe:

1. Stock up on super simple basics. Wear the heck out of those, and invest in just a few special things every year. Note: Finding out a way to dress yourself and keep dinner on the table will likely mean some degree of compromise. The t-shirts that I’ve been loving most lately, for instance, are relatively affordable, comfortable, beautiful, made here in the US, but they’re not organic. Compromises.

2. Follow your favorite designers on social media. More than once, I’ve been able to take advantage of an end-of-season sale to buy items that I would have felt were unaffordable at full price. The good news is that when you’re trying to fill your wardrobe largely with timeless staples, last season’s navy doesn’t feel particularly outdated. While I try my best to also support desigers by buying full-price items, there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of the promotions that they’re able to offer when they do.

3. Shop second-hand. When I was little my mom used to take us to a consignment store in a fancy town close to where we lived to find designer children’s clothes at huge discounts. Between consignment shopping and my own friends’ cast-offs, I don’t think I owned more than a handful of brand-new clothes until I was in high school. Second-hand shopping requires some amount of sticktoitiveness. But if you do some sleuthing and identify a solid shop, you can likely grow your wardrobe for a fraction of what you’d otherwise pay without compromising on quality.

4. Identify a brand that you love and sleuth for it. In college I bought a pair of beautiful designer jeans that were typically super expensive. Mine were not. I was able to buy them on deep discount at a department store sale. Even though the particular wash or cut was probably a cast-off from another season, they looked sturdy and classic to me and ten years later, they’re still in my drawer.

5. Do your best. You have to get dressed. I can blab on about ethics and fashion and high costs being worth it until I’m blue in the face, but I realize that you need to wear clothes. I do too. And someone has to pay for the groceries. The point isn’t to be perfect, the point is to try.

More minimalist wardrobe posts, HERE.

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81 Comments

  • Reply Anonymous April 15, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    I agree with so much of this. I have stopped buying fast fashion for myself and my children. My husband has come on board too. We've made a decision to buy as little as possible, to buy as ethically as possible, and to use what we have until we need to recyle it. I prefer to have one really long lasting piece than ten different things, as it makes it easier for me to get ready for the day. I want my children to appreciate what they have too. While it can seem strange to spend a lot of money on one thing that might not look terribly expensive, I have learned over time that when you buy cheap, you and others pay a price for that. You either don't get long out of the thing or the persons involved in making it are paying a high price in terms of working conditions. I've found my one grey wool scarf that was difficult to justify buying but ended up being a gift to myself as a treat is the only scarf I've worn all winter. All of the others in my closet never made it out, so out they go and someone else can enjoy them.

  • Reply Leah April 15, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Great post, Erin!!! Bravo!!

  • Reply Rachel Quednau April 15, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Yes! Amen to all of this. I have developed a similar clothes philosophy in the last couple years, after many years of shopping fast fashion and buying a lot of clothes. The ethical aspect is the number one reason I have shifted in this direction, but quality and durability also matter. Thanks for you voice, as always.

  • Reply Erin Van Genderen April 15, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    This is a great post, Erin. So thoughtfully written. I think that, by taking even the tiniest of steps to become more informed consumers, we're making an impact, even if we're not doing the minimalist thing "perfectly." What I particularly appreciate about your approach is the sense of slowness – the waiting, searching and saving for a few special items – in contrast to the speed-greed of fast fashion. Thanks for being a voice of calm in a culture of excess.

  • Reply Alie April 15, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Bravo! I agree wholeheartedly. Great post!!

  • Reply Jennifer April 15, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    I so adore this sentiment! Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks:)
    Jennifer

  • Reply Julia April 15, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    excellent post. i so agree with this philosophy and not just for clothing. it's often worth it spend more on an item that is better quality and will last longer than having to buy five cheap versions that will break/die or you won't love. but of course that's not always possible and sometimes you have to compromise. for secondhand shopping (which i love) i've recently discovered thredup.com- online consignment- which has a pretty good selection of kids and adult clothes.

  • Reply jesssomewhere April 15, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    you should check out Be Good clothes! They make staple basics much like Everlane but the fabric is organic and dyes are AZO-free. I find it frustrating that Everlane's motto is "radical transparency" but they're not transparent about where the fibers are grown and what inputs are used. https://begoodclothes.com/shop/womens-knits/pine-tee-white/

    • Reply Erin April 15, 2015 at 3:33 pm

      Terrific! Thanks for letting me know about them!

  • Reply Simone April 15, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Excellent post. Thanks Erin! You articulate so well so much of how I feel about shopping. A necessary evil, but one that doesn't always have to feel so bad.

  • Reply Gabriella April 15, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Great post, Erin! I love that you're sticking up for your values and stands on these (sometimes) tricky issues.
    x

  • Reply Athene Chanter April 15, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Great post! Love your jeans, btw. Where are they from?

    • Reply Erin April 15, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      Thank you! They're my ten-year-old jeans from Paper Denim + Cloth!

  • Reply Loribeth Tanner April 15, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    I've definitely been feeling like I couldn't afford to have a minimalist wardrobe lately because I've been having to replace most of my clothes for weight gain reasons. I buy cheap things on an impulse hoping they'll make me feel better about my body and end up regretting my purchases and giving them away only a few months later.
    After reading your post, I recommitted myself to buying less at a better quality. No more Forever 21 and Marshall's binge shopping for me!

  • Reply Anne April 15, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    It makes me so happy to see you using the word sticktoitiveness. It's a word I inherited from my mother, and a quality that has always been highly valued in my family . . . silly, perfectly descriptive words are the best, aren't they? Thank you for your thoughts on clothes. I've been enjoying all of this series, and this post is especially validating. I took about fourteen months to not buy any clothes at all, in an effort to jump-start some minimalism in my closet and to work through what clothes I want to keep around. I've found that getting rid of things is easy and finding worthwhile replacements is hard. Your words have been immeasurably helpful as I'm trying to sort through my feelings on the matter and create a game plan. Some days it seems a little silly to think so hard about it, but clothes are such a big part of the day in and day out. These things really SHOULD be given thought. Thanks for fueling my own thoughts. 🙂

  • Reply Hannah S April 15, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Love this post and agree wholeheartedly. I have been slowly transforming myself to this, I used to be an avid sale shopper at H&M, Banana and JCrew and have been trying to move myself away from this (and the constant switch of clothes) and more towards organic better fitting clothes. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply Aimee April 15, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    This post was very helpful! In my efforts to transition to a more thoughtfully sourced, minimalist wardrobe I have definitely gotten bogged down by cost. But then I pull myself back to realize it doesn't have to happen at once and when I can afford the pieces, they should last longer allowing me to spend less in the long run. Thanks for the reminder today with this post 🙂

  • Reply Emily Braley April 15, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    Great post!
    🙂
    Thanks for responding to readers….and that you wear $15 tee shirts too.

  • Reply Stacy Rutherford April 15, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Really enjoyed this, Erin. I'm gradually moving toward a minimalist or capsule wardrobe, and continually remind myself that affordability doesn't need to mean cheap clothes. There are some items I'll still pick up from Target and the like, but little by little I will add more high-quality pieces. Making it a priority when first starting out on the journey to a minimalist wardrobe is so important. I make it a part of my monthly budget, and plan for everything I want or need.

    • Reply admin April 15, 2015 at 6:58 pm

      Brilliant! So helpful!

  • Reply Samantha Jones April 15, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Clothes are a much more challenging issue for me, in a way other choices like food, cleaning products, transportation, are not. It's a professional need – I work a 40+ hour week in a relatively formal office – not suits, but not casual if you want to be taken seriously. In terms of amount, I actually already have a minimalist wardrobe – professional and casual combined – without trying, but only items I've purchased second hand are in the ethical realm. I'm now no longer in an area where I can shop professional quality consignment regularly, which I've found to be the only way I can actually find items I need (it's less urban, fewer people.). Right now I just try to reduce volume – buy little, buy only items that are exactly what I need, and take care of what I have, even if repairs are equal to the original purchase price. For me even the low end fast fashion lasts many years, so I feel the jump in price I need to make is not feasible on our one income budget. Would love to know how other office workers have figured this out!

    • Reply Vanessa April 15, 2015 at 6:54 pm

      I also work in a semi-formal office, and I do almost all of my shopping on eBay. If you have a fairly uniform office wardrobe, you probably know what size you wear in certain brands/certain cuts. You can set up alerts on eBay as specific as you want – so I get an email only when someone is selling a shirt that's the brand, price, size, and color I want – and I can even add whether it'll send me used, new without tags or only new with tags. It's a slower process, but you can get phenomenal deals. For most items I spend less than $35. If you don't know your size in many brands, get a tape measure and email sellers to ask for measurements, or dip your toes in by buying from sellers that accept returns.

    • Reply Erin April 15, 2015 at 6:58 pm

      Brilliant! So helpful!

    • Reply Samantha Jones April 15, 2015 at 8:09 pm

      Yes – so helpful! Thank you!

    • Reply admin April 15, 2015 at 6:36 pm

      Hey Sarah! First of all, congratulations! Three-months postpartum is no joke! I didn't have much that fit the way I was used to at that stage either. Everyone's different of course, but I did find that most of my clothes did end up fitting again eventually. I wrote a post on the subject a few weeks ago—mostly related to nursing—but I would add that I mostly stuck it out and relied on the same few comfy pieces. And I totally understand that that might not work for you, but I really *did* wear the same clothes many days in a row. They were mostly super simple (I had a long black jersey dress that I wore constantly), so I didn't really get bored of a particular pattern. If you don't think that sticking it out would work for you in the longterm, I might still add a few new basics that you can wear often without getting bored of them (a new pair of jeans that fit comfortably; a simple dress that you can dress up or down with a change of shoes or scarf or something similarly festive). Mostly though: find something that makes you feel good. There's so much to be preoccupied with when you have a tiny baby to care for, I'd cut yourself some slack on the clothes front!

    • Reply admin April 15, 2015 at 7:24 pm

      Been there, Sarah!!! Get the jeans that work for you now, pin or bookmark, or rip out of a magazine the ones that you might want for someday.

  • Reply Sarah Struthers April 15, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Hello! I'm a new follower from finding your nursing article, which was perfect by the way. I've been considering building a wardrobe quite like yours (fewer pieces, better quality, ethically created) however, having just had a baby my body has entirely shifted. I'm three months postpartum and still I have no jeans that truly fit, and my shirts aren't flattering anymore either (pouchy tummy and new found curves will do that to a girl). What would you recommend I do at this point? I need to get dressed, and I can't wear the same thing every single day, but I really can't afford to build up a minimalist wardrobe like yours so quickly. Any thoughts? (and I'm nursing. which only complicates things further).

    • Reply Melissa April 15, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      I don't know what else you read blog-wise, but one of the blogs I read regularly just posted about a nursing-friendly spring capsule wardrobe – http://wheremyheartresides.com/2015/04/08/the-nursing-friendly-spring-capsule-wardrobe/ – so I wanted to chime in with that in case you'd find it helpful!

    • Reply Erin April 15, 2015 at 6:36 pm

      Hey Sarah! First of all, congratulations! Three-months postpartum is no joke! I didn't have much that fit the way I was used to at that stage either. Everyone's different of course, but I did find that most of my clothes did end up fitting again eventually. I wrote a post on the subject a few weeks ago—mostly related to nursing—but I would add that I mostly stuck it out and relied on the same few comfy pieces. And I totally understand that that might not work for you, but I really *did* wear the same clothes many days in a row. They were mostly super simple (I had a long black jersey dress that I wore constantly), so I didn't really get bored of a particular pattern. If you don't think that sticking it out would work for you in the longterm, I might still add a few new basics that you can wear often without getting bored of them (a new pair of jeans that fit comfortably; a simple dress that you can dress up or down with a change of shoes or scarf or something similarly festive). Mostly though: find something that makes you feel good. There's so much to be preoccupied with when you have a tiny baby to care for, I'd cut yourself some slack on the clothes front!

    • Reply Sarah Struthers April 15, 2015 at 7:11 pm

      Erin, thank you for your thoughtful response! I did see your article about your nursing wardrobe, and embarrassingly your statement that "the problem is the jeans, not you", had me overly emotional. When I referenced wearing the same thing every day I meant literally the same tee every single day, because even the Everlane tees are rough on our two-graduate-students-with-a-newborn budget. I'm thinking a trip to my local Buffalo Exchange is in order though? But maybe my timing is just off. Maybe this ethically curated wardrobe will just have to wait a bit and I can go get some Old Navy jeans for the time being. Thank you for reminding me to stick it out and cut myself some slack-this is so hard!

      Melissa, I've never run across that blog, but it was so reassuring to see a capsule wardrobe built around maternity pieces! Thank you!

      • Reply admin April 15, 2015 at 7:21 pm

        Yes, yes, yes. Your point about making "the best choice for me" is really (really) what it's all about.

    • Reply Erin April 15, 2015 at 7:24 pm

      Been there, Sarah!!! Get the jeans that work for you now, pin or bookmark, or rip out of a magazine the ones that you might want for someday.

      • Reply admin April 15, 2015 at 7:33 pm

        Elizabeth: You are not alone! I think we're gonna need to find someone with experience to ask! Consider it done!

    • Reply admin April 15, 2015 at 6:27 pm

      Mine's been great, especially for t-shirts. I wear an xs if I want one that's fitted and an s if I want it a little roomier (like the one above!).

  • Reply Molly B April 15, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    How has your experience been with Everlane's sizes? It's been so difficult ordering from online post-baby!

    • Reply Erin April 15, 2015 at 6:27 pm

      Mine's been great, especially for t-shirts. I wear an xs if I want one that's fitted and an s if I want it a little roomier (like the one above!).

  • Reply Melissa April 15, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    This post is wonderful. I'm gradually moving in the direction of a better quality, some-more-expensive-items wardrobe, but I've got lots of progress still to make. Thanks for the tips and inspiration 🙂

  • Reply Kari April 15, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    I agree completely with your sentiments. Unfortunately, it is very hard to put them into practice living in Canada. Most of the responsible companies don't ship to Canada. So I'm stuck with a choice between cheap, irresponsible clothes or expensive, irresponsible clothes. (I found it very ironic that the BeGood t-shirt mentioned above is not available to Canadians, despite the fact that the fabric comes from Canada.)

  • Reply TC April 15, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    Love the last line — you're right, it's not about being perfect. I'm considered "plus size" and so it gets hard for me to find clothing from companies I really like and want to support. Hell, it's hard for me to even find clothes in my size in a physical store. I have to buy online a lot of the time, so whenever I feel guilty about that, I just think, "at least I'm only buying one pair of jeans, not four." The things I do buy, though not always the most environmentally/socially best choice, are the best choice for me and I know that I'll wear them again and again and again.

    • Reply Erin April 15, 2015 at 7:21 pm

      Yes, yes, yes. Your point about making "the best choice for me" is really (really) what it's all about.

    • Reply Anonymous April 25, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      I've also been frustrated at the lack of larger sizes at eco-friendly shops and the plethora of polyester in the plus size sections of retail stores. Time to break in my sewing machine, I suppose, but it would be nice to be included sometimes.

  • Reply Elizabeth M April 15, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Hi Erin – lovely post and great topic! Wondering about your thoughts on applying this philosophy for office life. Working in an office 5 days a week, I do feel a little pressure to have a variety of clothes even though I would love to be able to wear the same few tops/pants/etc every week. Any advice or thoughts? Thanks!

    • Reply Erin April 15, 2015 at 7:33 pm

      Elizabeth: You are not alone! I think we're gonna need to find someone with experience to ask! Consider it done!

      • Reply admin April 15, 2015 at 7:54 pm

        Yes! I've only ever had one, but I've had it for a year and half or so and it's been terrific!

    • Reply Catherine April 15, 2015 at 7:59 pm

      Elizabeth, I think this article is an interesting read regarding office wardrobe! http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a10441/why-i-wear-the-same-thing-to-work-everday/

    • Reply Samantha Jones April 15, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      Hi Elizabeth –

      I posted above with an office dilemma, so I don't have the answer on ethical sourcing but I am able to wear somewhat varied outfits without owning a lot of clothes. I re-wear skirts and pants during the week, when I buy tops I only buy ones can I wear professionally and casually, I have nice base cardigans (office is always cold, plus covers up something that shows too much skin for professional attire) and I have several scarves and earrings that I rotate. I loved the Harpers Bazaar article and while a "uniform" not necessarily practical for some of us it bolstered my desire to stand up to the pressure you reference above. I really don't mind wearing basically the same work outfits over and over and I don't really think people notice or care.

    • Reply Elizabeth M April 16, 2015 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks for the article and tips Catherine and Samantha! And looking forward to a future post on this topic Erin!

    • Reply Vanessa April 16, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      I let go of a lot of the pressure to have more clothes when I realized how frequently the (well-dressed) men in my office rewear their clothes without self-consciousness or unease. I decided that for me to feel like I needed to do anything differently was bullshit, and anyone who felt the need to have an opinion on how frequently I wear things needs to butt out.

  • Reply Heather April 15, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    So you would say you are happy with the everlane cardigans? I have spent what seems like a significant amount on a pair of cardigans, meant to be worn everyday, only to have them pill on the sleeves within a couple months.

    • Reply Erin April 15, 2015 at 7:54 pm

      Yes! I've only ever had one, but I've had it for a year and half or so and it's been terrific!

    • Reply Heather April 15, 2015 at 8:18 pm

      Great! Thanks!

  • Reply Monica April 15, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    Great post, totally agree about quality versus quantity and the idea of checking as many boxes as possible, even if it can't be the "most perfect t-shirt from a supply chain perspective ever" every time. I do wish Everlane would start sourcing organic cotton because then they would check so many boxes! If I have to have an item from a brand that's not that great, I try to buy it from consignment, at least it's not going to a landfill then!

  • Reply Julie April 16, 2015 at 12:49 am

    Hi Erin,

    I've seen you mention Everlane a few times and am just wondering if you have always had positive experiences with your clothes from them? I ordered a few basic t's/tanks from them last year and found the fabric starting to wear out after a couple of wears and zero washings. I love their simple style and always like the pieces I see on your blog but am concerned about the quality.

    • Reply Erin April 16, 2015 at 1:29 am

      I've always really liked them! Wouldn't recommend otherwise!

    • Reply Anonymous April 16, 2015 at 5:30 am

      I've had this same issue, only after a year or so though. I like the fit of their tees but won't buy from them again. I'd have to buy new tees every year!

      • Reply admin April 16, 2015 at 12:39 pm

        Hey Lexie, Thanks for your note! I've actually mentioned this shirt a number of times in this series as it's an affordable option that I've really enjoyed. I'm really glad that you've found luck at JC Penny. T-shirt reco aside, all of this is really about finding what works for each of as individuals (that's why I've made this series less about individual pieces to purchase and more about a philosophy of clothes shopping more broadly!)

  • Reply infusionfibers April 16, 2015 at 1:50 am

    Really great food for thought, and a lot of things I have thought about myself. I shop at thrift stores often, and find a lot of great, quality clothing (aaand a lot of mediocre, spontaneous "treats" as well) and my closet is stuffed. Come to think of it, it has been stuffed since I was a little girl. I love clothes, but I don't love having so much stuff. I've often fantasized about a seriously brutal purge, and then working toward those few, super lovable, lasting staples. It makes me sigh just thinking about it. I really enjoyed this post. And we are almost wearing the same outfit today 🙂

  • Reply Kamala April 16, 2015 at 2:18 am

    Lovely post. I've been struggling to put the same thoughts into words, as ethics and quality in clothing has always played on my mind, thanks to my parents. Thank you for writing this post – and all the other growing a minimalist wardrobe, as I'm really enjoying them.

  • Reply Jackie April 16, 2015 at 2:54 am

    I know it was mentioned already, but I have to also reiterate that I am using thredup.com to start to slowly (slowly!) replace a couple outdated/ill-fitting pieces with better quality items. Thredup has "like new" clothing (some still have tags on them.) And I've had success ordering & making returns simply too. There are items that I've drooled over in the past, but have never been able to afford. But with their steep discounts and the "USED" aspect, they are in my price range now. This is especially helpful because i work in an industry that is very judgmental, and full of"fashion-forward" and "stylish" people — it is hard to keep pace. Buying used, whether on ebay, thredup, buffalo exchange, wasteland etc., or having a Naked Ladies Party and doing a clothing-swap with your friends, or getting hand-me-downs – it can save boat-loads. Also, I've given thredup some of my Like New clothing that I just never wore, and got store-credit in exchange. So — able to purge things that never quite fit, and get credit for it to buy things that are tailored better. Win win.

  • Reply Lexie April 16, 2015 at 6:25 am

    Great post and good referral on the tee shirt. I imagine like me many readers are single women on a tiny budget supporting themselves. As such I do shop JC Penny where I buy all my clothing. it last for years and it is affordable. Being well made is a great plus. I only shop for clothing every 3=4 years and when I do so I stock up at Penny's who serves my budget. The "eco" "sustainable" idea is great for those with disposal income but not realistic for most of us as its all so overpriced. That tee shirt you feature today is the most reasonable piece I have ever seen on here. Most of your choices are out of my price range and therefore cannot be considered. . My jeans are under 20 or they are not bought. I like Penny's because they are a old American company and they recognize that many shoppers need a good product for a low price point. Their clothes are providing jobs for many along the process and a sensible price as well as last for years. I have Penny's clothing primary in my closet and its been washed hundreds of times and looks great. My current tee shirts ,PJ's , shorts , jeans and undies are from Penny's, all 6 years old and look like new. I get compliments all the time on my clothing colors and style which is Penny's trademark of great colors and style. As I am not a consumer and not driven by advertising or designer crap, I find that sensible clothing works well for me and keeps me on point with my budget for the little spending I can do

    • Reply Erin April 16, 2015 at 12:39 pm

      Hey Lexie, Thanks for your note! I've actually mentioned this shirt a number of times in this series as it's an affordable option that I've really enjoyed. I'm really glad that you've found luck at JC Penny. T-shirt reco aside, all of this is really about finding what works for each of as individuals (that's why I've made this series less about individual pieces to purchase and more about a philosophy of clothes shopping more broadly!)

  • Reply Momofthree April 16, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    This is my favorite post yet. I will wait until I visit my sister in Brooklyn, save up for some Madewell jeans then go and actually try them on since I hate returning things in the mail. I love the minimalist wardrobe idea, especially since I dislike a cluttered closet. Thank you for your wonderful posts about this!

  • Reply welliewalks April 16, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    wonderful post! thank you!

  • Reply M April 16, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Love this post – thanks for sharing. I've had "Overdressed" on my list of books to buy for a few months now (I think I may have heard about it from your blog?) and this post makes me want to read it even more. So important to focus on quality over quantity, and try to ensure that quality means ethical as well as durable. I love that you share brands that are all of those things, it helps me make decisions on items of clothing with my small budget. xo

  • Reply Anonymous April 16, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Beautifully written. BEAUTIFULLY. Thank you and nice job.

  • Reply TheKorthuis' April 16, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    I LOVE your blog..so inspiring on many levels! 🙂 Thank you! And, I LOVE your bracelets in this post. Can you share where you purchased them from? Thanks so much! <3

  • Reply codellia April 17, 2015 at 12:40 am

    Thank you for an inspirational post. I've grown to adopt minimalist lifestyle because of your blog.

  • Reply primjillie April 17, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    I agree also. I've found my favorite clothes are the ones I've paid a bit more for. They seem to fit better and last quite a bit longer. I've got a coworker who will only buy "cheap" and she never seems happy with her choices. I keep my clothes for years, so I don't mind spending a bit more (I do love sales though and will try my best to look out for deals).

  • Reply Inge April 17, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    I love this Erin, you're so right!

  • Reply Anonymous April 17, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    I think people sometimes underestimate the power of a good consignment shop/thrift store. As a city dweller I'm sure I have more of them at my disposal than others do, but they are an invaluable resource if you're like me and a) like shopping, and b) try to be fiscally/environmentally conscious. A solid Crossroads or Buffalo Exchange has all the fast fashion your little heart desires at an even lower price and with the knowledge that your pennies ate going to a less dubious source. And there's always plenty of higher-end stuff if you want clothes that actually last, original tags attached.

  • Reply Anonymous April 18, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    This was a great post, thanks for sharing! I love your pendant necklace, where is it from?

    • Reply Erin June 29, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      Just seeing this now, sorry! My pendant is a little vintage brass pendant that my mom gave me in high school!

  • Reply Indre April 28, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Reading this was like reading my own thoughts. I even copied this post into my evernote to be able to come back to this over and over again.
    So glad I found you for the first time this morning! (via Kathryn of Business of Introverts).

  • Reply Celia R October 1, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    What lip color are you wearing? I love it. So dreamy, lady.

    • Reply admin October 1, 2015 at 8:39 pm

      Stowaway's peony!

  • Reply Sue Dot March 14, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Love the comments about keeping dinner on the table and buying groceries. How true – the times I have gone mad spending on clothing and footwear instead of concentrating on the necessities. I do mostly trawl around charity/thrift shops though, as I get more for my money and keep to a couple of cheaper ones which always have a sale rail. The downside is the internet, where I tend to have splurges – thankfully not as bad these days. My wardrobe gets pared down twice a year; the items donated to charity – what a wonderful feeling that gives me.

  • Reply C April 27, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Hi! Would anybody be willing to spare some time to give advice?

    I’m a 16 year-old girl who has been making efforts towards streamlining my possessions where possible – in the area of knick knacks and such, I have had some degree of success. However, the one obstacle I run into time and time again is my closet – much of it is simply t-shirts and jeans/shorts (a holdover from childhood, and scoliosis), and all of it cheap. Few things fit properly. I can tolerate some of the items, but love none of them, with the result that almost all of it goes unworn.

    Thing is, my mum is the one providing money for the clothes/shoes, and she would rather we buy from cheaper fast-fashion stores like Cotton On, H&M etc. with the reason being I don’t need expensive clothes since I’m just a kid. She also doesn’t appreciate that my style is vastly different from hers (she doesn’t have a defined style, I gravitate towards streamlined basics in neutrals). I don’t know how to communicate to her that I would rather have fewer, but better quality, better looking and better fitting items in a limited colour palette that I will love and wear constantly rather than things that fall apart or will remain unworn in the depths of my closet.

    Knowing that ethical fashion is currently out of reach, I am instead aiming for things that are decently constructed at affordable prices (converted into USD it hovers just under $30). Certainly not F21. Money is not an issue for us, yet I don’t know how to put across the idea that this will be an investment towards clothes that express me and that look more sophisticated (yes, most of the time I am vastly underdressed and she’s not entirely happy with that).

    Thanks in advance for any advice!

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