When my workplace introduced a limited colour palette of black, white and grey a year ago, I basically stopped buying new clothes. I have bought the odd fresh t-shirt or top, and two new jumpers, but have pretty much survived this Sydney winter in the same 4 dresses, 2 cardigans, 2 skirts, 2 pairs of tights and 1 pair of jeans.
what I learned when I wore the same clothes in a limited colour palette for a year:
Fewer clothes makes getting dressed so much easier
It’s true what they say about uniform dressing, there is much less to consider in the morning when all you have to worry about is the temperature and what kind of situation you are entering that day – having less items of clothing will immediately narrow down the choices you have to make once you have taken weather and context into consideration.
You will save a lot of money
If you limit the colour palette of your wardrobe, going shopping will lose its charm. You will look at half the clothes on the rack and simply say ‘not for me’. Over time, the desire to even go shopping will almost disappear.
Doing laundry will become much more important
You will need to do laundry and mend your clothes much more frequently to keep your limited wardrobe clean and ready to wear. But doing these things regularly will also save you money.
If you stop doing your laundry regularly, the temptation to go out and buy new clothes will rise. This desire can be squashed simply by catching up on your laundry – seriously, it’s like having a whole new wardrobe, and costs next to nothing! I even enjoy folding laundry these days.
I enjoy mending clothes less, but it has certainly saved me money and has made lots of favourite garments last much longer (even when I am wearing them with greater frequency). I never really understood why Marie Kondo would recommend throwing out something that has lost a button (I guess because if it is non-functional and is just lying around the house it won’t spark joy?) – but it only takes 5 minutes to sew that button back on. I keep a cute little sewing kit near the couch these days, and mending is a great excuse to watch trashy television.
You will learn which silhouettes and fabrics you really like
In my case, I like a short column – a shift dress or a pencil skirt – in a stretchy fabric. This is because my day job as an events coordinator requires me to bend, lift etc every day, and any clothes that are too restrictive just aren’t going to cut it. I also learned that I will always reach for a boatneck before any other neckline. I am really pleased that my experiment with wearing a limited wardrobe helped me work out what clothes I naturally reach for and will always wear. My practical personal preference just naturally worked itself out once I stopped shopping for shopping’s sake. Now I know what kind of clothes to sew for myself when I plan my next me-made wardrobe.
Working out the real gaps in your wardrobe will become easier
Once you stop buying clothes just for the sake of buying clothes, you will have much more clarity about gaps in your wardrobe. But you will also think much more carefully about whether or not to buy the items that you think you need. I have 4 winter coats, but 1 is currently too small for me, and 2 are near the end of their life and are feeling a little ratty. The 4th (the nice one), I accidentally left in Melbourne in April and my sister is coat-sitting it for me this winter. Every time I consider buying a nice new coat, I hesitate, and just go on wearing the same old ratty coats that are starting to look a little sad. And it has been okay. I figure I will just wear these coats to death this winter, and a new coat will be next year’s problem. It feels fine, and my bank account is much healthier.
Have one special dress or outfit that makes you feel amazing
Sometimes you do just get sick of wearing the same clothes day in and day out, and an easy way to make you feel fantastic is to have a special outfit in reserve. For me this outfit is a pretty and bright summer dress – so different to my normal clothes! Winter is a little trickier, but I am certainly thinking hard about what would make me feel glamorous as well as cosy when I go out to a Sunday lunch. The trick for me is having those outfits ready to wear, so I don’t even have to think about it when I need an outfit that feels a little special.
Accessories in a minimal wardrobe add breadth and depth
Because I really miss having colour in my wardrobe, and because I resent my individuality and sense of self being stifled, I express myself through accessories I have made myself. Especially brightly coloured Nani Iro scarves and hand knitted wrist-warmers in intricate lace patterns and perfect colours. I love being able to change the pop of colour, and I feel individual and interesting on the bus in the morning, even if I have to shed these layers and uniform up in my plain black, white and grey once I get to the office.
Getting rid of clothes will feel great, and can make you money
Once you work out what clothes you actually enjoy wearing, you will also work out which clothes you never wear. The introduction of a limited colour palette at work coincided with a bedroom renovation we did at home that left us with a huge and gorgeous master bedroom, but no wardrobe. I now store all of my clothes in a large danish tallboy, with a little bit of hanging space in a cupboard in our roof. When, through necessity, I cleared out all the clothes I never wear, I realised I had enough for a market stall at a local second hand and vintage market in Sydney. I spent six hours there on a Saturday in April, and made $580.
Having a new, smaller wardrobe that you love and actually wear will make you feel so much lighter. It felt amazing to get rid of so many clothes, and I find that the clothes I have now are so much better organised – I can see everything and it is easy to find what I need in the morning. While I’m still struggling with the limited colour palette, I do think I understand ‘uniform dressing’ a little more, and know what my own personal uniform would look like.