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minimalist fashion: the ins and outs of paring down

minimalist fashion: the ins and outs of paring down

minimalist fashion: the ins and outs of paring down

by: Maria Del Russo

Home | Journal | Style

April 24, 2020

Ask five people what it means to embody minimalist fashion, and you’re likely to get five different answers. Some people claim to be fashion minimalists if they only invest in ethical, sustainably-made pieces. Others are happy to own a large wardrobe, as long as every item falls within a narrow color palette. And others still think that the only real way to earn the minimalist label in fashion is to own an edited wardrobe — sometimes as few as 10 items or less.

In truth, all of these definitions fall within the umbrella of minimalist fashion, because the definition is, funnily enough, a little bit complicated. But if you’re hoping to do more with less, and embrace a slightly more minimal style, you’re probably asking yourself, “Where do I begin?”

Allow us to help you with that. (We promise it’s not all that hard.)

History of the Minimalism Trend

Believe it or not, the idea of minimalist fashion is a pretty old concept. Minimalism got its start in Japanese culture. Its roots are deeply connected to Zen Buddhism, which preaches the idea of only using what you need.

Buddhism teaches control over your surroundings, your actions, and your thoughts. Minimalism is similar. It asks you to consider whether or not you actually need the things you want, and then forces you to make a decision based on that.

This, obviously, flies in the face of the modern American approach to fashion, which can sometimes lean into the “more is more” category. In the United States especially, we’re constantly inundated with messages about things we need and the trends of the moment. Every day, we’re plugged into a system that tells us that if we don’t buy this electronic or piece of clothing, we’re going to be unhappy. Minimalism, on the other hand, asks you to take a step back and say to yourself: “Do I actually need another pair of black boots?”

But while minimalism seems to be a reaction to modern consumerism, it actually came over to the US and Europe the way many things do — through art. In the 1960s, the minimalist art movement came to New York as a reaction to abstract expressionism. These artists felt that art shouldn’t reference anything but itself, unlike the expressionists who thought that art should be all about their feelings. Minimalist artists sought to simplify things. (Sensing a pattern here?) And since life tends to imitate art, this idea eventually bled into fashion, first kicking off with the whole “mod” trend.

Today, we have The Minimalists — a duo of friends who embraced minimalism as a way to find contentment in their lives. Their documentary, Minimalism, helped spread the modern version of the trend. And of course, you can’t talk minimalism without discussing Marie Kondo — a woman who made an industry out of sparking joy from decluttering.

Types of Minimalists

As you can imagine, from how long and complicated the history of minimalism is, there isn’t just one way to practice this lifestyle. In fact, you could say there are many different “types” of minimalists, and many ways to incorporate minimalism into your everyday life. A few examples of these types are:

  • The Sustainable Minimalist: These minimalists choose the lifestyle in order to lower their carbon footprint. They also choose to be a little more mindful about what their clothing is made of. These types would love the Plant Life Capsule from ADAY — a capsule collection made entirely of beechwood tree fibers.
  • The Aesthetic Minimalist: If you’re more interested in a minimalist look instead of minimalism in practice, then you’re probably an aesthetic minimalist. These folks love simple, clean lines and monochromatic color palettes. But that doesn’t just mean all black! Luckily, all of ADAY’s pieces fall into this category, but the wrinkle resistant Pack It Up Pants ensure a streamlined look no matter what.
  • The Experience Minimalist: If minimalism is just a way to spend more time doing, then you might be an experience minimalist. These folks pare down in order to have more time to take in new experiences. This kind of lifestyle demands comfort, like these Throw It Higher Leggings.
  • The Essentialist Minimalist: Some would rather invest in one really good blouse than five cheap options that won’t last. We call these folks the Essentialists, and their look tends to be tailored and streamlined — just like ADAY's Suits You Blouse.

Taking the Minimalist Approach

So how does one dive into a minimalist lifestyle, especially when it comes to fashion? The idea is to do more with less — and that involves paring down what you own. It’s a good idea to take stock of each and every one of your possessions and ask yourself: Do I really need this? It’s a hard question to ask, because we tend to come up with excuses as to why we need to hang on to something. (“I swear I’m going to finally learn how to use that fancy pasta maker one day!”) But a big part of this lifestyle is being honest with yourself — and realizing if you haven’t gotten around to making homemade spaghetti yet, it might not happen.

This doesn’t mean you have to throw away all of your clothes and just buy a sea of black slacks and white blouses. There is still room for self-expression in minimalism. If you love a pair of mustard pants so dearly that you can’t bear to let them go, do you! If your idea of minimalism is rotating the same four, bright paisley shirts on the regular, then that’s alright, too. Minimalist fashion aims to take focus off of what you’re wearing and give that brain space over to what you want — be it experiences, community, reading, whatever. If bright colors and prints fit into that, then rock on.

Some folks love the idea of a minimal capsule wardrobe, either for every day or for specific things — like work. It helps them to not think about their wardrobe, and focus more on other tasks. Luckily, it’s easy to build a minimalist, capsule wardrobe, because, at its foundation, it’s about choosing pieces that work seamlessly together without much thought.

An example of a capsule wardrobe looks like this:

  1. A simple white tee, which is perfect on its own or as a layer.
  2. A crisp, polished white blouse that can go from workday to weekend.
  3. A chic, button-down shirt, which looks just as good with jeans as it does with slacks.
  4. The perfect cozy sweater for layering — or for wrapping around your shoulders as an accent.
  5. A structured blazer that isn’t too fussy and looks amazing with jeans.
  6. A pair of black slacks that are stretchy and comfortable.
  7. Your go-to pair of blue jeans. (Hint: If they’re not visibly soiled, they only need to be washed every 8 to 10 wears.)
  8. An all-season skirt that works just as well with your white tee as it does with your blazer.
  9. A simple dress for every occasion imaginable.
  10. The coziest leggings that look just as good in the yoga studio as they do the farmer’s market.

We know what you’re thinking — that doesn’t sound like a lot. But according to those who have made the switch, the benefits of having less are overwhelming once they get used to a smaller closet. Those who have embraced the lifestyle say that their attitudes have improved, they feel like they have more time for important things, and that they’re not bogged down by meaningless stressors. Sounds like a dream to us.

Now that you’ve gotten your crash course in minimalist fashion, you’ve got all of the tools you need to build your own capsule wardrobe. It’s the first step in simplifying your closet — and your life. Don’t you feel better already?