the perfect wardrobe

clothes on wooden hangers in closet

This summer I’ve been experimenting with choosing a core wardrobe of as few pieces of clothing as possible. I’m not quite sure why I’m doing this, or if I could explain it to someone without sounding crazy – although it may have something to do with a fantasy that I’ve entertained for several years, of having only as many clothes as will fit in a piece of carry-on luggage.

I have no logical reason for needing to do this. I have enough closet and drawer space to comfortably hold a good-sized wardrobe (although my closets are admittedly smaller than most). But I’m still obsessed with whittling and editing and selecting only my most favorite things.

So I’ve focused on a limited colour palette. And I’m pretty ruthless about getting rid of the pieces that I just plain don’t like – that look wrong on me, or don’t fit properly, or don’t make me feel good when I wear them. My selection criteria have become quite high: If I don’t feel amazing in a piece of clothing, it’s gone.

Over the past four or five weeks I’ve stuck with one pair of dress pants and one pair of casual pants per week, plus one t-shirt or short-sleeved top per day, and one long-sleeved shirt (or sweater, during cooler weeks) to layer over the T. Those things (plus my pajamas, and underwear, and a loose flowing dress to replace the casual pants on hot weeks) are all I wear. During heatwaves, when I may be sweating a lot, I rinse out the long-sleeved shirt and dress in the evenings and let them dry overnight.

Last weekend I went shopping at a local second-hand store, looking for some replacement t-shirts and a brown skirt. Because, although I favour fewer clothes, I also like variety. And I’d rather buy second-hand than feed the commercial fashion machine.

It’s all a work in progress, but I’m imagining a time – perhaps before the end of the year – when I only own:

  • 2 pairs of dress pants
  • 1 pair of chinos
  • 2 pairs of yoga pants
  • 2 skirts
  • 3 dresses
  • 3 or 4 long-sleeved shirts
  • 1 or 2 sweaters
  • 1 wool blazer
  • a dozen T’s

How large is your ideal wardrobe? What’s the minimum size you could comfortably pare it down to? Do you struggle with having too many or too few clothes?

If you’re interested in reading more about minimalist wardrobes, you might enjoy this blog post about Joshua Fields Millburn’s favorite clothes, or this post from Leo Babauta about teaching kids to pack ultralight. Or this blog about a woman’s one-year experiment with wearing only one dress. (Yes, you read that right. She wore only one dress for an entire year.) Or this blog post describing Tammy Strobel’s tiny wardrobe.