Fall Minimalist Wardrobe: Why it's harder than it sounds. 


Last month, I wrote an article about Slow Fashion October — in the process this blog came out too. 

I hope that sharing my own struggles with hyper-consumerism will help us all be a little more compassionate to ourselves (and others!) as we work un-do decades of shopping or browsing habits that no longer serve us — or our planet.

fall minimalist wardrobe ideas

How I ‘failed’ Slow October.

As someone who is actively making changes to their consumptions choices — and try’s to convince other people to do the same — it can feel especially bleak to realize you’re human. AKA: not perfect. 

I failed Slow October, before it even began.

 I bought all the stuff I wanted in August and September and spent far more time on Instagram, Pinterest, and all my favorite clothing websites then I’d like to admit. I also bought a few new things that I probably didn’t really need, made from fabrics I don’t love (non-natural fiber mixes), which means they’re less likely to stay in my closet long-term, and a skirt from (gasp!) a non-sustainable clothier. To be clear, I don’t think buying things makes you a failure. Living aligned to your values takes constant reflection and adjustments. Sometimes it’s hard to admit when old habits have gotten the better of you.

Here’s what I bought.

3 t-shirts

1 button up

1 sweater

1 skirt

1 dress

Total spent: $280

why I ‘failed’.

  1. I really wanted to be spending my time doing something else — hiking, painting, finishing the book I’ve been working on for ages, or researching Unami flavoring in vegan foods.

  2. I bought things in a feeling of not enough-ness — and wasn’t aware that I was doing it at the time.

  3. I bought a few things in a rush and now am annoyed that the fabric isn’t 100% cotton or wool.

  4. I bought 3 new t-shirts, and I probably only ‘needed’ 1 of them (A wolf-shirt, for a family photo!)

  5. I bought a skirt from a non-sustainable retailer.

  6. I spent $280 when I could have used that money to go on a fun camping trip, put it toward a new fence we need, or to attend a fun concert this winter.

Why I ‘succeeded’.

  1. I’m aware of why I feel like I ‘failed’.

  2. I was intentional about my purchase of that black skirt, I love it, and plan to wear it all the time!

  3. I thrifted a portion a my purchases.

  4. I realized that thrifting is great, but it can also be exhausting and may cause me to make more impulse purchases — which is why I need to go in with clear ideas of what I’m looking for and stick to that list.

  5. I’m working on altering a silk dress that I bought at a garage sale a year ago and never did anything with — and making that effort makes me feel good.

So why is a fall minimalist wardrobe harder than it sounds?

  1. Advertisements are sooo good at getting us to buy.

    And most of the time we don’t even realize we’ve been influenced. Or that we just spent the last thirty minutes staring into the internet abyss. Fall can be especially tough, as retailers crank up their advertising budgets and share the latest trends in fall fashion.

Why minimalist fall fashion is harder than it sounds.

2. We communicate a lot about what we wear — or don’t wear.

Wearing the same thing over and over again or not being ‘on trend’ can make us feel out of touch, boring, or lacking in some way. Recently, I was in Ireland and had packed my nicely curated 15x30 wardrobe. At the start of the trip, I was so happy that I had packed light —it makes travel so much easier. Unfortunately, I didn’t pack enough warm items and instead of getting to wear a few items twice, I ended up having to wear almost all my items every day. Thank God for layering.

My sister who packed twice as much as me, had something different to wear almost every day of the trip, adding to my feeling of not enough-ness. Consequentially, I felt like I needed “something new” when I got home. When really, all I needed was access to the things that were already in my closet!

Advertisements often prey on this feeling of lacking or not enough-ness — in order to get us to buy. If you’re not taking care of your mental or physical health it’s easier to get swept up into “retail therapy” quickly. This feeling of not enough-ness can creep into our lives in so many different ways. If you’re not feeling confident about your body, or your work, or your life, you can end up seeking “worthiness” via retail therapy — and that isn’t a health way to address those issues.

What I took to Ireland. Bottoms: Jeans, wool skirt, black pants, yoga pants. Tops: jean shirt, long sleeve merino wool crew neck, stripped shirt, black tank top, t-shirt. Top Layers: Long gray cardigan, carmel wool sweater, pink pleather jacket, rain jacket. Shoes: Boots, tennis shoes.

What I took to Ireland. Bottoms: Jeans, wool skirt, black pants, yoga pants. Tops: jean shirt, long sleeve merino wool crew neck, stripped shirt, black tank top, t-shirt. Top Layers: Long gray cardigan, carmel wool sweater, pink pleather jacket, rain jacket. Shoes: Boots, tennis shoes.

3. We’re used to getting new things, for cheap, multiple times a year — thanks fast-fashion — even though we probably don’t need anything.

If you ever participated in a feeling of ‘Back to School Shopping’ even though you’re no longer in school, or wanted to do away with your entire closet because you want to make an outward expression of an internal change, you may have been sucked into buying clothing you really didn’t need.

4. If you’re like me and love color and fashion, having a minimalist closet full of black and white baggy “wear anywhere” items isn’t actually that much fun.

It can feel stifling. Fashion isn’t solely a practical exercise, it’s supposed to be expressive, experimental, and exciting. Getting dressed in the morning is supposed to be enjoyable. Fall-fashion is the best. It’s not so cold that you are literally putting on fourteen layers of clothing in order to keep warm, and not so hot that you are wondering if you can get away with wearing your swimsuit as a body-suit. (You totally can…)

Spending too much time shopping, or having too many options can be overwhelming. It can take up too much space in life — especially when there are other, perhaps more life-giving ways to use it. 

Why is slow fashion so important to me? 

We consume 400% more clothing today, than we did 20 years ago. A whopping 80 billion pieces of clothing each year. 

The average American throws away more than 65 pounds of clothes each year - and that has a huge environmental impact. 

Over 60 million people are employed in the global clothing and footwear sector and most of them make less than half of what’s considered a “living wage” in their countries. 

We’re spending more time shopping than we are enjoying the things we already own.

Lifestyle diseases are on the rise in the USA, because people are spending more time consuming things then doing things that are good for their body, mind, and spirit.  

And probably most importantly, it’s not making us any happier.

If fact, research shows that the best investment of your time is experiences, not buying stuff. So even though I love fashion, I hate shopping. And if I compare shopping to spending my time hiking, traveling, or making and eating good food — I’d choose the latter every time.

But shopping (or browsing) is more accessible now than ever. So it’s easy to think, I’ll just check and see if they have they have a sale, only to realize you’ve been sucked into a retailer sink-hole. 

women's fall minimalist wardrobe ideas

Crafting a fall minimalist wardrobe is harder than it sounds, especially if you love fashion.

That’s why every fall I remind myself of all the different outfits I can create with the loved items already in my closet by taking the 15x30 challenge and focusing my time on the things that bring me the most joy — like taking a hike. 

Here’s a look at this year’s 15x30 challenge. I hope it inspires you to be mindful about what and how you consume — and choose the things that actually make you happy!