Choosing A Wardrobe Fit For The Tiny House Life: female edition

Fashions fade, style is eternal.

~ Yves Saint Laurent

Years ago I would wonder why some of the world’s most successful people always seemed to be wearing the same thing. It was as if they either had a daily uniform or were just way too predictable. Whatever the case even today some of our most fascinating cultural icons don a daily uniform. Consider Mark Zuckerberg and his gray t-shirt and zip-up sweatshirt. Or what about designer Thom Browne who is never seen out of his cropped pants and no-socks uniform? Then there’s our own POTUS who seems to have cornered the market on navy blue, single-breasted suits.  And who could forget the late Steve Jobs who made history multiple times in a black, mock turtleneck? The point is, when you have a busy life or want to eliminate clutter and frivolous decision making or just want to keep things in perspective, wearing a well thought out wardrobe gives you one less thing to think about.

It turns out that when I think of simplifying a wardrobe and preparing a wardrobe for a tiny space I almost always think of the male perspective. But as it was brought out in a comment from the original post of the same name it would be good to see how this may or may not differ for a ladies wardrobe. I must admit that I don’t know much about a woman’s wardrobe. Fortunately though I am married and have a wife who seems to know quite a bit. * wink wink *

Style icon and actress Drew Barrymore recently wrote an article for the blog Refinery 29 in which she states, “But, the big problem is this: My closet keeps getting larger and larger with this unhealthy diet of shopping without clarity. What am I looking for, really, and why can’t I find it?”

As I researched a professional woman’s wardrobe I kept running across a set of what seemed to be standard roadblocks.

  • I am expected to dress a certain way.
  • I have a number of interests that all require different clothes.
  • For every type of occasion there are appropriate types of shoes.
  • Each outfit requires accessories.
  • There is a social norm I must adhere to.

Turns out these are legitimate concerns but also turns out they don’t have to be. I want to stress that when we – as a couple – were paring down we had a conversation similar to this:

“Hon? Why are you all of a sudden obsessing about us having a smaller wardrobe?”

“Because [wife]. We just don’t have the room to house all the clothes we don’t wear and while you may not be a clothes hog I am and I need us to do this together and support each other through it.”

“Good point,” she says. “Too many choices can be a burden,” I think. “I see how sometimes you think the clothes make the man and even sometimes I think that about myself. But truth is our clothes are accessories to who we are. They don’t make or break us or our position in the world. Let’s do it. Let’s go for “just enough and just right!”

So we both signed up for Courtney Carver’s Project 333 almost five years ago and started with these basic tenants:

1. Purge everything that doesn’t fit. Purge may mean throw away. It may mean take to Goodwill. It may mean to simply give to someone who is that size. Whatever the case, lose the “jeans that will fit if I just lose 5 pounds”, the “fat clothes”, the “skinny clothes”, and the “I just need to have the hem taken out a bit” pieces.

2. Purge everything that doesn’t flatter. Bye bye mom jeans. See you later Dockers elastic waste. And good riddance to anything that is overly baggy, saggy, or downright frumpy.

3. Purge everything not worn in the last year. Like Salami or Smoke Gouda, there is an expiration time to your wardrobe. If you haven’t worn something in twelve consecutive month it is time to give it the ‘ol heave ho!

4. Choose a base color. Do you wear more blacks than browns? Do you prefer khaki over everything? Use it then and make a neutral like black, brown, or khaki your foundation piece. Anything else needs to find itself a new home.

5. Choose accent colors. Be it a ties, a belt, a scarf, a turtleneck, or a pair of shoes, select a few shades and pieces that are flattering and complement your foundation color.

6. Pare down your shoes and purses. With a foundation color you no longer need the Baskin-Robbins shoe closet. Minimize to possible a pair of dress shoes, a casual shoe, a sneaker, and a sandal or flip-flop.

7. Accessorize. Take this to mean what compliments who you are. Chances are though that does not mean a 14k Gold, figaro link chain with a St. Nicholas medallion.

PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING

My darling wife has a “Life Is Good” tshirt for every day of the week (although it seems like month). It has become her uniform. But why you may ask? She feels good in them. They make her smile. They are comfortable. And they fit her lifestyle. That is key. Choose clothes that fit your lifestyle. If you are a SAHM why do you need 4 formal dresses? If you work in a corporate setting why not consider a few pair of classic dress slacks or skirts, a few white blouses, and then either scarves or belts or a sweater or two to differentiate the looks? Once we started to show our own closets we were able to avoid a jam-packed tiny closet, keep our style (and even enhance it), and maintain storage space where needed.  You’ve seen the example of my wardrobe. Let’s take a look at hers:

Hers

  • Underwear – 21 pairs in a mix of nude, black, and various colors. We prefer a brand like Exofficio that is odor resistant, moisture wicking, durable, lightweight, and quick drying. Easy to pack and great in all situations.
  • Bras – 4 professionally fitted.
  • Camisole – 1 nude.
  • Socks – 3 footie socks (for sneakers), 6 pair of wool “Life Is Good” socks, and 2 pair of nylon dress socks.
  • Sandals – Life rarely calls for more than a good pair of leather Birkenstocks.
  • Open toed dress sandals – 1 pair.
  • Sketcher runners – 1 pair.
  • Jeans – 2 pair and neither with holes, aged spots, or otherwise unsightly areas.
  • Khaki capris – 1 pair. Lands End makes great pants for men and women. The capris in this list are durable and made in the USA.
  • Black slacks – 1 pair.
  • Shorts – 4 pair. Two pair of denim and identical yet different shades. The other two are Columbia brand hiking type shorts (non-cargo).
  • T-Shirts –  12 short sleeve. 2 long sleeve. 5 tank tops.
  • Button-Up Oxford – 1 wrinkle free.
  • Short sleeve tunic – 1 seasonal.
  • Knit Cardigan – 1 gray.
  • Hoodie – 1 timeless hoodie sweatshirt.
  • Pajamas – Whatever tshirt can be sequestered from husbands drawer.
  • Belts – 1 black casual.
  • Coats — 1 Carhartt with hood.
  • Swimwear – A comfortable, well-fitted, one-piece.
  • Active Wear – 2 pair of workout shorts and 1 sports bra.

While this list is nowhere near exhaustive and may not represent every woman’s needs it is a good idea of what some essentials are and how you get what you pay for. Value, fit, and comfort are key!

 

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MAVnotMagic - July 26, 2015 Reply

My only issue with paring down my closet is the fact that I have so many uniform items that I am required to have yet never use. I recently moved barracks and had more boxes of uniform items then the rest of my wardrobe combined. Talk about a seabag drag!

Lynn - July 26, 2015 Reply

Love this!
thank you so much!

Sue - July 26, 2015 Reply

Understand about your wife’s wardrobe. That would be pretty much mine, even at age 64, since I’m mostly in jeans/capris & t’s. Now that I have a job, I have a few khaki’s & work shirts. 😉

S Paul - July 27, 2015 Reply

Clothes/accessories that don’t wrinkle are ideal for rolling and storing. Also, make sure you have appropriate clothes for your environment; if you are in very snowy and cold conditions, you will want more than a Carhartt jacket with a hood. In other words, buy quality products that will last. Depending on your accessories, clothes can have multiple uses in a variety of climates. Speaking from experience because I’ve lived in my camper for two years now; you learn the tricks of the trade and learn to make things work more than one way, including clothes. Especially clothes. 🙂

Erin - July 27, 2015 Reply

It would be interesting if you made this a series.

Maybe the next installation could be a couple of young professionals who have to wear business casual 5 days a week. This could address some of the “standard roadblocks” that don’t actually seem to be issues for you or your wife.

Laurie - July 27, 2015 Reply

Andrew, do you have the sources of the garments in your Pin?

Sharon - July 28, 2015 Reply

This is a great start. Obviously, each person will customize their individual wardrobe to their living situation and climate.

All I can say is, 21 pair of underwear at $20 each is a small fortune!!

Joy - July 28, 2015 Reply

I run a non profit and work in a business setting that requires me to have suit I.e. jackets, skirts, tops and slacks that are appropriate for the office, board meetings, public speaking and TV appearances. I also need workout and running clothes, swim suits and for all seasons. In addition, I need casual weekend wear, date night and occasional formal wear for fundraising. Naturally I need shoes for all those options, Help!

    Erin - September 3, 2015 Reply

    Since they don’t seem interested in responding to anything other than praise for the article, here are some storage tips for the shoes, at least:

    If you have room, Ikea’s shoe cabinets are great, and can fit a LOT of shoes, especially smaller women’s ones.
    For high heels, their infinitely useful BYGEL rail can be used to hang your shoes in a closet, or display the really nice ones wherever you like.
    If you don’t have space, you can buy or make drawstring cloth bags to keep them in. Then you can pile them in a tote or in the bottom of a closet without worrying about them scratching each other. An added plus there is that you can add odor absorbers or sachets of potpourri/whatever to make them smell nice.

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