How to Dress Intentionally with a Pared Down Closet

We’ve often heard it said that integrity is who you are when no one is watching. I always thought that meant what you do in secret and in part, it is. But I also think it means being faithful and intentional even when it doesn’t feel like a big deal. It’s the minor, almost unnoticed decisions of our days that prepare us for what lies ahead.

What does this have to do with our wardrobe? A lot.

And how do we begin to process what it means to have integrity as we approach our closets and get dressed each day? Like most things: little by little.

The fact that we get to express ourselves creatively through fashion is a gift. It’s another area of our lives where we’re constantly making tiny, unimportant or unnoticeable decisions. Yet, how we show up in the small things will reflect how we show up in the bigger moments of our lives.

We can mindfully show up and develop our integrity through the clothes we choose to wear as well as noticing our relationship to ourselves and the pieces. Here’s how:

1. Be Curious

Notice the thoughts that come to your mind as you’re getting dressed. Don’t judge yourself or your clothes, simply notice. Are they thoughts like: If only I could squeeze into that smaller size or I hate my thighs or If I only had that blazer that so-and-so had?

If you’re comparing or struggling with loving and accepting yourself physically, chances are these same negative thoughts are showing up in your career, relationships, home life, etc. What if, as you zipped that zipper and a painful thought came up, instead of accepting it you shifted the perspective into one of gratitude and love toward yourself? Instead of, Ugh I’ll never have a thigh gap to I’m so grateful for my strong legs that allow me to walk, run and adventure through my life?

Every moment is an opportunity for growth, if we choose it to be.

Image via Sara Kerens

2. Be a Storyteller

We all are storytellers. Everyone of us. And we are constantly inviting others into a journey when they are with us. Our physical appearance is the first thing people notice about us. What message are you intending to give off versus the reaction you are getting from people? Is there a disconnect?

Ask a few trusted friends how you come across. In college, I was insecure about my body, so I hid myself in baggy sweats. One day, a mentor told me I needed to start taking myself seriously and put on some mascara and clothes that fit me. How did she know I was hiding? I thought I was being so sly covering up my flaws and insecurities by being “sporty.” But my hiding was no secret — all anyone had to do was look at me. If I didn’t take myself seriously, how was I to expect others to?

3. Be Creative

Over 60 percent of millennials are in debt and living above their means. It’s so easy to be this way, especially in our just-one-click-away culture. Perhaps it’s time to pay off the credit card debt, create a budget and work with the closet you have and not the closet you can’t afford. How you spend your time and money is a reflection of what you care about most.

While I want to look put together, I don’t want my legacy to be, “Man, that girl sure knew how to dress.” I want to leave the world a better place and be defined by a generous and kind heart with a commitment to invest in the lives of others.

While I want to look put together, I don’t want my legacy to be, ‘Man, that girl sure knew how to dress.’

One of the most profound ways I’ve been challenged to integrate integrity into my wardrobe is by pairing down my closest to a more lean capsule wardrobe. I don’t want to fuss about my clothes, but I do want to be comfortably chic. A few ways I do this are:

1. Make a list.

At the beginning of each season, I make a list of things I need, I.E. my black pants are on their last thread and I’d really like to save up for a nice trench coat. Search your closet and make of list of things you’d like and need. Once you determine your budget for that quarter, you may have to save a few things to buy for next year. This has completely extinguished random shopping trips for me where I would spend $50 here and there and end up frustrated with a closet full of clothes I didn’t really like or were out the next season.

2. Check for versatility.

Now when I go shopping, I make sure I can envision myself wearing the item in three completely different outfits. If I can’t, then the piece is a no-go for me. Even better is if I can find multiple seasons of the year to wear the piece. Functionality and versatility is key.

3. If you don’t love it, then get rid of it.

Go through your closet and take out anything that fits into the category of: If I lose 10 pounds, I’m not crazy about the color, the straps always fall off, those pants cut off my circulation, etc. The reality is if you don’t love it, then you won’t wear it. And when/if you do, you usually regret it.

This was a painful process for me as I began to pair down my wardrobe. My closet was full of items that I didn’t really like, but felt obligated to keep them because of what I paid for them or worse, I kept them because maybe they’d fit me one day. My wardrobe is much smaller now, but it takes me only a few minutes to get ready in the morning because it’s made up of only pieces I love, feel confident in and know I’ll be happy in throughout my day.

Image via Sara Kerens

The lean wardrobe is becoming a movement and there are incredible brands on the forefront of this capsule mentality. A few brands I love are: VETTA, AYR, The Podolls and Cuyana. (At the end of this article are listed even more.)

Chanel was really onto something when she said “Less is more.” And like building any characteristic, it takes time, discipline and patience. Focus on one or two of the minor changes above and practice incorporating them into your life and wardrobe this summer!

What are some capsule pieces that make you feel good about yourself?

Images via Tutti del Monte

Kat and Em are the girls behind The Refined Woman, a blog about embracing femininity without sacrificing functionality. They believe that fashion can empower us and that elegance never goes out of style.

4 COMMENTS
  • Michiella Stone July 19, 2017

    Oh man, this article was so spot on that I’m honestly convicted in a good way! I have too many pieces that I’ve kept “just cause” that take up closet space. These are the same pieces that I regret wearing when I actually do wear it out. I really like the idea of downsizing my wardrobe to the pieces I love and that I know I will feel confident in. That’s what’s important!

  • Kathleen Silver June 28, 2017

    This article gets to the heart of our “clothing issues” that reflects deeper issues of how we see ourselves. Visiting ones closet can be an emotional experience! If we follow their suggestions the emotions we experience can be more positive and instill a greater sense of confidence. Clothes are not the real you, but they can be a frame to help showcase the real you!

  • Wendy June 23, 2017

    Love this! I am part of a movement of college women who believe personal style should reveal our self worth and tell the world how we want to be treated.
    We are at Arizona State, Sun Devils Wear Prada is our name?Look for our short video series coming out soon… called Your Collegiate Closet… I’m posting your article to our pages!!!!

  • Ah, I really need to do number 3 – get rid of things I don’t like. My closet is 80% items I don’t wear. It’s crazy!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

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