A minimalist capsule wardrobe: hints and tips

I’ve been doing The Project 333 for three years now*.

The Project 333 is all about having a wardrobe that contains 33 items of clothing – or less – and working within those limits to find clothing that fits your lifestyle and meets your needs.

When I first began capsuling, I was not convinced that having less would give me more options, but it has. These days, not only do I own less, but what I own must

  • Fit my colour code of blue and green. I then use black and grey as base colours (for bottoms and shoes etc.), and yellow and coral as “contrast colours” for accessories to give a bit of pizazz,
  • Fit my body, as it is, here and now (no clothing for “when I lose weight”). If I can’t fit into it, it doesn’t belong in my wardrobe,
  • Be of good quality. No cheap, crappy design-to-fall-apart items, and
  • Fit my lifestyle – be items I wear on a regular basis, for the way I live and am active.

Sticking to a colour code has helped me be more selective when choosing items for my wardrobe, and helps all my items work well together. Many wardrobe capsulers do the same thing. Commonly selected colours include black, grey and cream, but you can choose whatever colours you like.

Sticking with clothing that fits is a no-brainer. Before I started capsuling a literal majority of items in my wardrobe were stuff that didn’t fit, or that I didn’t wear for various reasons. Life is too short to have a wardrobe full of too-small clothing that makes you feel bad!

Sticking to good quality helps me look my best. I’m not a fashionista and never will be, but at least when I wear good quality clothes I look presentable, neat and tidy. Nobody ever looks great in cheap, tatty clothing. If you can’t afford good quality items new, but good quality items secondhand instead. You’ll look better than new cheap rubbish.

Stick to items that fit your lifestyle. For me, that’s jeans and merino tops (which are a little bit tidier than t-shirts). Have a wardrobe that works.

It’s fine to break the rules too – if you’re a businessperson half the time and a jeans and t-shirt person the other half of the time, have a separate capsule for each part of your life. In my case, I have a separate mini-capsule (10 items or less) of gym clothing that I only wear for working out.

Myths about capsule wardrobes

  • Capsule wardrobes do not have to be black, white and grey. Yes, it looks pretty on YouTube, but if these shades do not suit you, or you don’t like to dress this way, don’t have a wardrobe full of them! My wardrobe is based on shades of blue and green – my favourite colours – and black is limited. I own nothing white.
  • You don’t have to own “classic” anything! You’ll see so many lists telling you about “must-have classics” and “necessary basics”. None of it is true. Own what works, and what you like. For me that’s jeans and leggings, plus 50s style dresses for summer. For you, that might be something completely different. Base your decisions on your lifestyle, your body and your tastes.
  • Making mistakes is fine. Everyone buys clothing they expect to wear then never do. We all make mistakes. Just don’t keep them! Learn from your mistakes, and pass them on to someone who will wear them. Better yet, return them for a refund if you can. But don’t feel guilty. Everyone makes mistakes. I know – I’ve made plenty!
  • If you’re unsure, box it up! Not sure about letting an item go? Box it up! Then, after three months, if you didn’t need it, it’s probably ready to go someplace else. The exception to this is seasonal clothing such as heavy coats, bikinis etc.

Capsuling is a skill that takes time to learn. Be kind to yourself, and you’ll be so glad you gave it a go! I sure am! 🙂

*You can read what I’m wearing by clicking the Capsule Wardrobe tabs on the top of this blog.

Kids’ clothing: cheap items, or fewer?

Here in New Zealand, you can pick up a brand new t-shirt in kiddie sizes for $4, or a pair of leggings for $6.

You can buy shoes for as little as $10, or $1 a pair in the charity shops.

This is a good thing – from the point of view that no child in New Zealand should ever lack clothing, or leave their home shivering through a lack of clothes to wear.

But cheap clothing can also mean our homes are awash in too many items, and we can’t keep track of what our kids actually own.

More clothing also means – more washing, more storage, and more replacement when cheap items fail and fall apart.

Finding a balance

I believe there are some items worth paying more for, and buying better quality versions of, if you can. If money is an issue, secondhand options of better quality are a great alternative.

I buy good quality: Winter jackets and coats, sunglasses (check they’re safety standard compliant!), sunhats and sun protection clothing (this includes rash vests and swimsuits).

Oddly enough, buying good quality socks is also worthwhile. I’ve found cheap ones just fall apart. Good quality school shoes are a must – buying leather lasts so much long, and is a money saver in the long run.

If you have a child that does a dangerous sport, don’t skimp on safety equipment on body protection equipment either (shin guards, mouth guards, that sort of thing).

It’s also a great idea, while not clothing exactly, to spend a little more on good quality school bags, lunch boxes and drink bottles (non-plastic).

Anything else, buy using common-sense. But I have found that kids need less clothing than you might think, especially if they wear a school uniform throughout the week.

The “F” word…

Fashion! Arrrrggggghhhh!

My kids (12, 11 and 10) are at an age where they’re starting to appreciate the way they look, so I do tend to buy a few upmarket fashion items these days (not too many!) so they feel part of the “in” crowd.

Buying a T-shirt with a trendy image on it, or even a cool bracelet can make a huge difference to how your kid feels about fitting in.

Ditto on the sunglasses here.

Regarding eyeglasses: Don’t skimp on cheap frames, if at all possible. These are an item that your child needs to wear every single day, so choose a pair that they feel good about wearing, and that they feel makes them look good. Be gentle, and a little tolerant here 🙂

A few extra dollars on an item your child will wear 2-3 years is very little on the scheme of things.

Wise decisions

Overall, the key to your child looking great and feeling trendy, as well as being comfortable and warm isn’t owning masses of clothes.

It’s about owning enough good quality clothes that meet their needs.

Thirty cheap, ill-fitting t-shirts will never look as good as five great, well-made ones. And no child needs more than five t-shirts!

Audit your child’s wardrobe regularly with them, eliminating any items in poor condition or that don’t fit. Keep the wardrobe size manageable, with good choices, and your child will be happy – and well clothed – throughout the year.

friendshill_dawniesroom

Do minimalists homes have to be black and white?

Not all minimalists live in shades of black and white.

I love color. My bedroom definitely counts as minimalist, but color is everywhere – in the wood furniture, in walls the color of seaglass, in greenery and clear light bursting in through the open windows and in vases of fresh flowers.

minimalist blue bedroom

My bedroom at the farm. Choose the colors that make you happy and give you peace. And not everything has to be black and white!

Minimalism is all about finding the things that bring you joy…and eliminating those things that make you feel heavy, cluttered or depressed.

My room is an oasis of peace and calm, and being there brings me bliss. I feel at ease, relaxing or reading a book.

I genuinely believe that a calm, beautiful bedroom free of clutter helps us feel more rested and happy, as well as supporting our relationships with those we love.

Minimalists don’t have to wear black, grey and white, although many do find calm by eschewing color. Choose the colors and items that make you happy. Build your life around them.

minimalist flat surface

The top of my tallboy. I have an antique Chinese box I keep some items of jewellery in, and an antique Chinese brass horse I’ve had since I was a child. Plus a small china dish to keep jewellery when I take it off at night. Three items – any more, and things would feel cluttered. The walls are painted the color of seaglass, which makes me feel rested.

For me, I base my wardrobe around my favourite colors of blue and green, and everything I wear is purposeful and comfortable. Color abounds, but my wardrobe has less than 33 items, and I wear everything I own. Nothing is unkempt, or kept simply because I bought it and feel guilty, or because I might fit into it again someday.

summer_capsule_2016

Minimalism frees us to be ourselves, outside of the demands of society. Own things because they make you happy and support who you are, not because you feel you should own them. If you want a neon pink house and it fills you with joy, then own that neon pink house and rock it with joy! 🙂

Be who you truly are.

With none of the stuff others tell you to have. Don’t be what other people tell you to be – you’ll never find your bliss that way.

Be your genuine self. No more, no less.

Capsule wardrobes for changing body weights and shapes

Today I’m going to talk about the five keys to successful wardrobe management for changing body weights and shapes.

Your body might change due to age, lifestyle, or you might be going through repeated pregnancies. Some people yoyo up and down a fair bit, and others are athletes whose weight and muscle mass goes up and down as they compete.

Whatever the reason, there are five keys that can help to plan a capsule wardrobe that will keep you looking great at any shape or stage in life.

The five keys to managing a successful capsule wardrobe when your weight fluctuates are:

1. Know your current body shape – and make peace with it.
2. Keep your active wardrobe small and in one place.
3. Use boxing and storage to manage non-fitting clothes.
4. Stick to a colour palette that works for your skin tone.
5. Ignore garment sizes on labels – they can be very misleading!

1. Know your current body shape and make peace with it.

Making peace with your current body shape can be hard, especially if you’ve changed a lot from how you’d like to be, but it is the only way you can ever look your best.

People always look their best in clothing that fits. If it’s too tight or too loose, or simply feels the wrong shape, it needs to be moved out of your active wardrobe.

Clothing that doesn’t fit properly never looks great. It’s that simple.

You might find you need to go up or down a size or two since you last bought new items. That’s fine. Everyone changes over our lifetimes. That’s normal.

Make peace. Accept your body as it is. It’s the only body you’ll ever have, after all! 🙂

2. Keep your active wardrobe small.

The concept of an active wardrobe is central to those of us who change shape, or whose weight fluctuates.

An active wardrobe consists of everyday clothing items that are relevant to you, who you are, and the current time of year, here and now.

Nothing else, no matter how beloved or how beautiful, belongs in your active wardrobe.

Your active wardrobe is the clothing you reach for, day in day out, to look your best and feel comfortable. It’s your core wardrobe.

Your active wardrobe includes all the items you currently wear:

  • that are seasonally appropriate,
  • are relevant to your location i.e. if you live in Singapore, where it’s hot all year round, your beautiful down jacket does not belong in your active wardrobe, even if it looks great!
  • are a great fit,
  • make you feel great when you wear them, and
  • are in good condition.

If any item does not meet all of these requirements, it does not belong in your active wardrobe.

Managing an active wardrobe is simple: If an item doesn’t fit you right here, right now, today, box it, donate it, or throw it away. Then repeat the process every 2-3 months. I schedule my wardrobe checks in my calendar.

I prefer to hang up everything I currently wear – including t-shirts and jeans – keeping drawer space for underwear, sportswear and nightwear only.

That way, I can see at a glance all of my options at the start of the day.

By hanging everything, clothes stay aired and fresh, and un-creased. I like to use cedar wardrobe hangars to keep moths away, and I have a few bags of lavender hanging in my wardrobe to keep everything extra-fresh.

By keeping your active wardrobe small, you can maintain your clothing properly, and make sure everything is well-kept and in good condition.

If anything starts getting too tight or too loose, or looks shabby, put it into one of three piles:

  1. If it’s great and you want to keep wearing it when you change shape again, store it properly.
  2. If it’s in good condition, but you won’t wear it ever again, donate it.
  3. If it’s in poor condition, throw it away or cut it up for dust cloths.

If you’re capsuling – and I strongly recommend this! – your active wardrobe should be no larger than about 30-40 items, including accessories.

I use The Project 333 to guide my wardrobe capsuling, and it’s awesome, but whatever system works for you is fine.

I find that about 30 items of clothing is plenty for me day-to-day, plus a separate sportswear capsule of about 10 items.

2. Use boxing and storage.

If an item doesn’t fit you right here, right now, today, box it, donate it, or throw it away.

I box my clothes that don’t fit in a big plastic crate which I store in my wardrobe, together with my off-season clothing.

I also put lavender bags and some cedar balls in the crate to keep bugs away.

Because we live in a damp climate, I collect those little silica gel sachets from shoe stores, and put them in my storage box too, to keep away damp. They seem to really help keep my clothes in great condition!

Wherever you decide to store your clothing, check it won’t get damp – ruined clothing is no good to anyone!

Go through boxed clothing every three months, and discard anything that wont be worn again.

Sometimes I’ll bring an old item out of storage because it’s seasonable again, or because I’ve dropped a bit of weight and it looks great again. Other times I’ll decide I’m really never going to wear something again, and I donate or throw it away.

Do whatever works for you. But by keeping items that you aren’t currently wearing out of view, your active wardrobe will remain uncluttered and dressing well will be so much easier!

4. Stick to a colour palette that works with your skin tone.

Understanding the tones and hues that work well on you makes a huge difference in looking your best.

Here’s a quick and easy flowchart to help you figure out what “season” you are with the original, four season system by Color Me Beautiful. A quick search online (or on Pinterest) will give you a full palette of colours and tones that will suit you.

color me beautiful 4 season flowchart

An easy way to determine which season you are, with the 4 season flowchart

You can also choose a set palette of colours to work from. My palette is:

BASE COLORS: Black, Denim
ACCENT COLORS: Blue, Purple, Green
POP COLORS: Coral & Warm Red.

(I’m a “Spring” in the Color Me Beautiful system.)

Choose colours that will work well together and that you enjoy.

A snapshot from Color Me Beautiful. Learning what colors suit you can make a huge difference in looking your best.

A snapshot from Color Me Beautiful. Learning what colors suit you can make a huge difference in looking your best.

5. Ignore sizes on garments – they can be very misleading!

Clothing can vary a huge amount, regardless of the size on the label. This can make shopping online really tricky.

In most cases, when shopping online, you’ll find a “Contact Us” link – feel free to contact the sales staff and ask for more information about the garment, including length, waist size etc. Some brands are known to run large while other run very tight.

As a general rule, American sizes are much larger than European, which are much larger again than Asian sizes. Australian and New Zealand manufacturers are somewhere between the US and the UK in sizing and fit.

Summary

Anyone can capsule, and capsuling works particularly well for people who have a changing body shape to deal with, because so many of our clothes may not fit us at any given time.

The concept of an active wardrobe can make a huge difference. Give it a go, and see how it makes things easier for you!

Happy capsuling!

minimalist wardrobe

My current capsule wardrobe.

What two years of minimalism has taught me

I’ve been minimalist for two years, so I wanted to talk about how everything is going and where I’m at.

Peace and calm can come from having less.

Peace and calm can come from having less.

Where I was

I used to have a garage stuffed with belongings and broken things.
I had a wardrobe stuffed with clothing I never wore, yet nothing seemed to fit me.
I had huge amounts of jewelry I never wore.
I had heaps of kid toys I needed to get rid of, and outgrown kid clothing that was still hanging around. I couldn’t seem to get rid of baby items either!
My kitchen drawers could barely open and I couldn’t find anything.

I didn’t realise how much the mess was making me depressed. Everywhere I looked, I saw clutter instead of calm, and it got me down.

I started avoiding dealing with any sort of cleaning, simply because it was too much. Which made everything worse of course.

The mess was a vicious cycle that was bad for my mental health and physical well-being. They do say that people who live in cluttered homes have more illness. Upon reflection, I can understand why.

Where I’m at

The garage

The garage is no longer stuffed.

The amount of stuff in it is still dropping. I’m still clearing belongings out, still selling stuff, but the progress is slow now, as we’re down to the dregs of it.

We live on a farm, so our garage hosts everything from animal feed and lamb crooks to our washer and dryer and a huge deep freeze. Our laundry is also out here. Two years ago, it was piled high with stuff we never used! These days we have much less stuff in our garage than we had when we lived in an apartment.

We live on a farm, so our garage hosts everything from animal feed and lamb crooks to our washer and dryer and a huge deep freeze. Our laundry is also out here. Two years ago, it was piled high with stuff we never used! These days, we have much less stuff in our garage than we had when we lived in an apartment.

Once we sell the farm, we’ll also sell the farm equipment we’ll no longer need, keeping only a few standard gardening and house maintenance items.

My wardrobe

I only have clothing I wear. I clear items out regularly if I find I’m not wearing them. I still make shopping mistakes, but I’d say I’m a recovering shopaholic now, on her way to healing. I’ve been doing the Project 333 for three years now, and I’m where I want to be.

minimalist wardrobe

My current capsule wardrobe.

Jewellery

I gave away most of my jewellery. Cheap pieces went to charity, and valuable pieces went to friends who I thought would enjoy them. It’s nice to see a friend wear an item that I never wore.

Jewellery should be passed on, shared and enjoyed – not hidden away. And I found jewellery is rarely worth much to sell secondhand.

My bedroom

My bedroom is tidy. I have some rules that help me to do that, such as three belongings only per surface and if it ain’t a “display item”, don’t display it! These rules help me keep life in control, and keep my room as an oasis of calm and peace.

I’ll talk about my rules to help me stay organised and keep the clutter away in a separate, upcoming post.

My room is a haven for me. It never used to be this way.

My room is a haven for me. It never used to be this way.

Baby items…and sentimental items

All the large baby items and general baby stuff is all gone.

I created a “treasures box” to keep precious children’s stuff in – their first baby outfits, and their first baby rugs. The box also holds other small sentimental items I want to keep safe. It’s about twice the size of a shoebox, and I find that’s all the space I need.

Then I sold big items at a low price to a friend whose baby was coming soon, and gave the rest to charity. It made me feel good to know I was helping other parents at this special time in life, when everything is so expensive.

Having a “treasures box” helps me take care of these extra-special keepsakes. I sometimes open it up, and hold these soft, beautiful things for a while…and have a bit of a cry 🙂

Kids rooms

I go through the kids’ rooms regularly too.

They have nothing but clothes that fit and items they use, plus a few keepsakes. Their rooms are tidy all the time now (mostly!) because their rooms aren’t crammed with stuff.

My 9 year old daughter's room. No, I didn't tidy it. She keeps it neat, and cleans it herself.

My 9 year old daughter’s room. No, I didn’t tidy it. She keeps it neat, and cleans it herself.

My kitchen is easy to navigate these days, and the drawers are all uncluttered. Life is easier as a result, and cooking is less of a chore. Keeping food stocks to fewer items helps.

Clearing out the kitchen was a long process that took months, one cupboard at a time. Kitchens are prone to clutter!

Clearing out the kitchen was a long process that took months, one cupboard at a time. Kitchens are prone to clutter!

I’ve accepted that I’m not a gourmet chef and will never have my place on Master Chef New Zealand! You know what? I’m okay with that 🙂

Instead, I cook healthy, simple food for my family, and that’s good enough. The media dumps a lot of expectations of us, and realising that many of these are unrealistic is a key part of learning minimalism and being happy with who we are.

I’m not saying things are perfect…

Far from it! Life is still a work in progress. But every month feels better and better, and I feel more on top of my life with every step, not less.

I didn’t realise how much my problems had to do with simply owning too much stuff. I couldn’t ever clean the house because picking up the junk was a mission before I could even begin to clean!

Looking at the mess made me feel so tired, and I didn’t really know how or where to start. I didn’t know how to cope. I felt lost at sea within my own home, and a place that should have been a safe space of rest and contentment was a disaster area of chaos and noise and clutter.

I thought that maybe buying better stuff would help, or maybe buying the right stuff. But what I have learned is the key to sanity is having less stuff altogether.

Through minimalism, I’m learning that…

I’m not a fashion model, but I can look great.

I’m not a home decorating expert, but my home can be a friendly, welcoming oasis for my family and friends.

I’m not a crafty person who knits and sews and…well, I’m just NOT! But I have other skills 😉

I’m not a Supermum, but I can encourage and support my kids in getting organised and keeping their rooms, bodies and lives neat, clean and planned.

I’m not a Master Chef, but I can prepare great, healthy food for my loved ones 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, and that’s pretty special!

Minimalism is teaching me that it’s okay to just be Me. With all my imperfections, and all my not-quite-rights.

You know, the mass media teaches us to believe that every aspect of our lives much be exceptional in a way that requires lots and lots of stuff, and then it tries to sell us all kinds of products to create that exceptional, stuff-filled life.

But that’s wrong. Being pretty much okay in a whole stack of areas can add up to being pretty exceptional overall.

Minimalism teaches me that it’s time to stop looking at what we’re supposed to be, and instead take a good look in the mirror at who we actually are.

Usually that’s pretty good. And if we’re loving partners, caring parents, and thoughtful citizens, then we’re probably doing all right.

So that’s where I’m at.
I’m doing all right.
With less stuff, and more calm.

5 benefits of a minimalist capsule wardrobe

There are lots of benefits of having a minimalist capsule wardrobe. Whether you stop at 33 items, like I do with The Project 333, or you go to something smaller with the 10 item wardrobe, it’s up to you.

But one thing is certain: you probably won’t go back once you’ve tried it!

5 benefits of a minimalist capsule wardrobe

More money. I don’t shop for a hobby any more. Instead, I shop when I need to, and I know what I need because I don’t have clutter in my cupboards that prevents me figuring out what I actually need.

A better wardrobe overall. I’m no fashion guru. At all. I don’t get fashion. But these days my wardrobe is manageable, and everything I have in my wardrobe fits me and looks good. I dress better, and I’m not afraid to spend money on good quality items because I know I’ll wear them when I buy them.

Better wear from my clothing. Because I have fewer clothes, I get better value from the items I have, as I wear each item more often.

Fewer mistakes. I still make mistakes, but there are less of them, as I have a better sense of what works for me now. De-cluttering my wardrobe really helped me get a better sense of my own style.

Knowing what to wear when. I stopped living in sports clothes and lounge-wear, because having fewer items enabled me to separate out separate sportswear and home-wear capsules. So now I know that Ugg boots are for home, and yoga pants are for the gym. Yes, I was that clueless about fashion! Even if you’re a fashion diva, having a minimalist wardrobe will help you organise your clothing better.

minimalist wardrobe

My current capsule wardrobe.

What is classic clothing?

The simplest explanation of classic clothing is:

Classic = understated, functional and well-made.

Identifying a classic item

You can identify a classic item, or an item that has the potential to be a new classic, by these guidelines:

  • Tends to have lean, simple lines, aren’t overly fussy or brightly-coloured, and are sedate.
  • Often neutral-toned, to go with a variety of other items worn with them.
  • Often they seem even a bit boring by themselves!
  • Designed well to be fit for purpose i.e. they do a good job at what they’re supposed to do.
  • Often (but not always) made of natural fibres that tend to look good and last longer, and breathe.
  • Don’t tend to date. Their lines and style are not overly representative of the era they were designed in.
  • Not offensive, gaudy or attention-seeking in any way.
  • Many classics derive from workwear and menswear and have been adapted, over time, to gender-specific forms.
  • Classics can come from high end fashion houses right through to low-cost budget stores. They may cost more, but don’t have to.
  • Classics tend to look good on a variety of human frames, weights and shapes.

Does classic have to mean expensive?

No. However, good quality tends to cost more because more effort has gone into its manufacture.

For example, a heavier weight, double-stitched white t-shirt (a classic) is going to cost more than a cheaper, light-weight t-shirt from a budget store.

If they’re cut well, both can look good, but the heavier weight item will hang better and wear better over time.

Does classic have to mean black?

No, although many classics tend to come in black, because black is serviceable and shows less wear and tear.

Black is currently favoured at all levels of fashion because darker fabrics tend to look more expensive than lighter coloured fabrics at the same price / quality point.

Black also tends to suit people of a Chinese background (“winter” colouring in the Colour Me Beautiful four season system).

Much of our current clothing is being designed and manufactured in China, so the browns, fawns, camels and russets that used to be more commonly found in Western fashion and which do not suit Chinese colouring are disappearing rapidly from mainstream fashion.

Does classic have to mean natural fibres, such as wool, silk, leather and suede?

No, but natural fibres tend to breathe better, meaning they need less washing and don’t get sweaty. Visualise how it feels to wear a leather jacket compared to a PVC jacket and you’ll get the idea!

Natural fibres also tend to look better, and an untrained eye can easily spot the difference in a lot of cases. Natural fibres tend to have status as well as being more comfortable and durable to wear, especially when it comes to shoes (leather), knitwear (merino and other wools) and evening wear and lingerie (silk). And most of the higher-end designers prefer to work with natural fibres.

Although we have developed a lot of incredible man-made fabrics, few of them have the appeal of naturally sourced fibres. Yet.

Is an item “classic” for me no matter what my age and weight?

No. Some things just don’t suit some people. Most things don’t suit all people. I live in jeans, but I have friends who never wear them. Neither of us is wrong, we’re just different.

Choose the items that work well, for you, in your body, here and now.

Likewise, your weight can make a huge difference in how classic items look. For example, larger women often need more volume in dresses below the waist to balance a larger bust and forearms, so sheath dresses (great on leaner women) are hard work for bigger gals to wear well, while swing dresses can look incredibly sexy.

Accept your body in all its uniqueness, and work with what you have.

What items are never going to be classic?

Anything with excess detail, lots of bling, large logos or brand names emblazoned on them, knock-out colours, or a skin-tight fit is a pretty safe bet for dating really quickly.

This suit manages to be both boring and obnoxious at the same time. Truly horrible.

This suit manages to be both boring and obnoxious at the same time. Truly horrible.

Why don’t classic clothes ever date?

They do. See my comments below about Levis 501’s, and business jackets from the 1980s.

However, classic items tend to span a few fashion seasons at least, and some span decades.

Plain black leather ballet flats, if good quality, are a good example. There’s nothing to date. I remember wearing flats in the 1980s, and I had friends wearing them in the 1970s, although they never reached the huge popularity they now have until recently. I’d say they’re a great investment – but time will tell! 🙂

What classic clothes are the best investments?

Classic items that you like, will wear and enjoy, and that suit you and your lifestyle are the best investment. That sounds obvious, but there’s no point in buying great suits if you are a stay-at-home mum who needs great casual wear!

I’ll talk about some of the best and worst “classic” clothing in a follow-up post.

What if I don’t suit a classic look?

Not everyone suits a “classic” look, especially those of us who look better in more relaxed, easy-going clothing, but I believe everyone needs staple items in their wardrobe that make up the backbone of their wardrobe and that they can turn to again and again.

In my case, my staples are jeans, shirts, jackets and boots. They’re classics and won’t date quickly, but my look is casual and easy-going.

“Classic” can mean anything you want to, in how you look overall, but it should always mean good quality, good value (cheap isn’t necessarily good value!), a good fit, and comfort.

Do classic clothes ever date?

Yes. More often with women’s clothing than with men’s. Women’s clothing, as a rule, dates more quickly and follows greater extremes of fashion.

A good example of this is the womens business jackets of the 1980s, which were sold at the time as “classic items” yet now look incredibly dated. Women’s jackets have since become far more tailored, shorter, and less boxy, and the shoulder pads have all but disappeared.

1980s fashion

A business suit from the 1980s, now very dated. Since then, women’s jackets have become shorter, far more fitted, and the shoulder pads have all but disappeared.

Do classics cycle in and out of fashion? Should I keep an old classic in case it comes back in again?

Yes – and no. Classics come in and out of fashion, it is true. But rarely exactly the same way. Saving “classics” from a previous cycle can risk you looking very dated, unless you’re clever with a sewing machine, or don’t care about looking “vintage”.

As an example: Levis 501s jeans are back in fashion again, yet they were incredibly “out” during the late 1990s and early 2000s, after being a “can’t live without” item in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The current 501’s have been altered in fit slightly around the bottom, and the legs are more tapered than the 501s from the 1980’s version.

So even though 501’s are meant to be a “classic”, they’re not exactly the same, and a pair of 1980s 501’s would look dated if worn today, and distinct from the modern version.

What about “fake classics” and “must-have” classics lists?

Magazines and clothing stores are full of ads for the next “must-have” classic that you absolutely must buy – from them of course! 😉

Don’t believe it!

Fake classics tend to include anything: overly tapered, fitted, brightly coloured, emblazoned with a logo / logos, from a trendy or up-and-coming fashion house or designer, anything very of-the-moment (including a particular colour or theme), anything that must be a particular brand (Rolex watches and Gucci handbags are often no better than similar-looking items or knock-offs).

Classics are workable, comfortable, good quality clothes you’ll get the best value from, that can mix and match with a wardrobe from any era. To build a wardrobe of classic items that work well takes time, and shouldn’t be a rushed project.

Above all, don’t ever feel like you must have any particular item simply because someone tells you so!

What classic items do you have in your wardrobe, and what items can you not live without?