As Aussie anchor Karl Stefanovic proved in 2013 by wearing the same suit every day for a year, men in many lines of work have the option of a uniform, and they use it to simplify their lives. Miranda Kahl, art director at Saatchi & Saatchi, showed that women can do it too; Kahl settled on a black suit and white silk shirt as her work uniform. She made the change after showing up late for a meeting after trying on too many outfits that morning — and even then she was unhappy with her ensemble.
When asked about it by a skeptical friend, Kahl said, "Have you ever set up a bill for online auto-pay? Did it feel good to have one less thing to deal with every month?"
If you aren't ready to go the "uniform" route, but want to simplify your life your life, a capsule wardrobe could be a good compromise. A capsule wardrobe allows you to experiment with minimalism before taking the plunge into a simplified wardrobe. (Over on Treehugger, Katherine does a great job of breaking down the concept and how it might work with specific pieces.)
You don't need to buy all-new clothes for a capsule collection, so don't worry, this needn't be costly. After all, the idea is that you're reducing your choices, not adding to them. That being said, you might find that the addition of one classic item that you don't have yet (like a well-fitting denim or white button-down shirt or a great black knit dress that you can layer over) can make your existing pieces go further.
Sharing some similarities with the KonMari method (in short, getting rid of everything that doesn't bring you joy), the capsule concept asks you to consider your existing clothing and divide it into three piles: The "Fave" pile of items that you wear often and should get integrated into your capsule; the "Maybes" pile, which are items that aren't just right but you have some attachment to; and the "No way" pile, which is stuff you never wear, don't like wearing or that doesn't fit. Donate your "No Way" pile and put the "Maybes" in a box under the bed so they won't be distracting on a day-to-day basis. Whatever you haven't pulled out of the "Maybe" box at the end of a year of rotating through the seasons, you should donate.
Also, keep all the clothes you love but are out of season in another box under your bed so you aren't looking at them constantly when you're getting dressed. You should be left with the seasonally appropriate items that you love and wear.
Quite a few fashion bloggers have taken the capsule wardrobe challenge, with some going as low as only 12 items, but most falling in the 35-40 pieces range, including Caroline Rector of Unfancy.
Here's are Rector's suggested rules for creating a capsule wardrobe:
Rector settled on 37 items because she found that number works for her, but she encourages each person to come up with their own number. She further details what those items should and shouldn't include: "Your 37 pieces should include: tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear, and shoes. Your 37 pieces should not include: workout clothes, jewelry, accessories, purses, swimsuits, pajamas/loungewear, underwear, and the jeans you wear when you paint your living room."
A sample list
I've been playing with this idea, and I've removed seasonal outdoor clothes from the equation (winter coats, hats, scarves, gloves and my snow boots), and I got down to 30 items. Here's what I have on my list, which differs from Rector's because I don't wear jeans and she has four different pairs of denim on her list. I also don't really wear shorts unless I'm working out, but I love skirts and dresses. In contrast, Rector only had one dress on her list.
Tops: Denim button-down, structured black blouse, patterned knit top, brown wool sleeveless shell, red striped shirt with 3/4 sleeves, thin lace shell with long sleeves for layering, short-sleeve loose wool tunic
Bottoms: Slouchy black pants, patterned leggings, black leggings, long brown skirt, short black skirt, short red sweater-skirt
Dresses: Long black dress/slip (great for layering), patterned dress, short cream-knit dress with long sleeves
Shoes: Brown knee-high boots, short black ankle boots, plain brown heels, red high heels
Outerwear: Cropped army-green jacket, slouchy white sweater, long black cardigan, ankle-length gray cardigan, patterned sweater-cardigan
Accessories: Two scarves, one a chunky knit alpaca, one a light wool that can be wrapped in various configurations; three pairs of tights (two patterned, one plain charcoal gray)
If you try this yourself, make it your own by adding or subtracting items as needed depending on your job. If you wear a uniform for work, replace some of those items suggested for work with your uniform clothes and shoes, of course.
If you frequently go out in the evening, include evening wear in your list (getting dressed for an event at night should be simplified too), but if you don't need party clothes, one fun dress or sparkly blouse is plenty.
Like all such organizational tools, this one isn't meant to be slavishly followed — it's just a way to define goals and give yourself boundaries and guidelines. Have fun with it!