I’ve read a lot about the minimalist wardrobe, and it’s a really great idea. One thing that’s always bothered me about this idea of a minimalist wardrobe, is that simplicity (whether in style or design) is advocated over quality.
The emphasis is usually on plain, unfussy, or ‘basic’ clothes. Mixing them together to create different outfits because they are all interchangeable is a great idea, but what happens when inevitably one of those pieces wears out? What happens when one of those ‘basic’ sweaters you bought at Target pills to kingdom come? You may have paid $29.99 for it, but the true cost is much higher when you factor in replacing it after a month with another $29.99 sweater from Target. That’s not being a minimalist at all.
Soapbox Sidebar: In fact, buying clothes from places like Target is not only feeding the mega-consumption machine, it’s doing things like exploiting workers, creating environmental damage, and using fossil fuels. Yes, that ‘ultra soft’ sweater you purchased at Target last week is actually made out of petroleum products. Ick.
I love to bash on Target, but really, any mass-market store or website is going to sell clothing like this under the guise of being simple, minimalist, etc… The thing we really need to think about is the longevity and true quality of each piece we purchase. This will absolutely result in spending more for each piece, and I know this is a frugality blog, but stick with me.
Example: Walmart Tee vs. Nation Ltd. Tee.
Walmart sells dirt cheap clothing. No one can really argue with a tee shirt for $3.50. The issue is, what exactly is this tee shirt?
According to the product description, this tee is 57% Cotton/38% Recycled Polyester/5% Spandex. Recycled Polyester? So, a lot of recycled plastic. Got it.
The truth is, I actually own one of these shirts. I bought it at Walmart on a whim while grocery shopping because I needed a black tee. While it did the job for the outfit I wanted to create, after the first wash, it pilled like crazy. It’s been in the back of my dresser for most of its life now.
Truth is, these are okay for a one-time thing. Definitely not sustainable, definitely not even a real investment piece or even something you’d reach for time and time again. Definitely not minimalist.
Enter Nation Ltd.
Nation makes amazing tees. They’re organic cotton, they’re sustainable, they’re made in Peru by skilled workers in sustainable factories. They’re also $60-100. Also, they’re amazingly soft and stylish, take a beating, and last forever. I have tees from Nation that are 10 years old.
Nation tees are basic, sustainable, and your cost per wear is lowered the longer you have it. The true essence of frugality is ‘getting your money’s worth’. These tees do just that. When you’re thinking of a minimalist wardrobe, think not only of making the most out of a few pieces, but think long and hard about what those pieces actually are. You can spend some of the money you will save (by not buying a ton of clothes) on investment pieces you’ll cherish.
In the end, it’s up to you how you spend your money. We know from experience that investing in clothing that might be a bit more expensive is usually worth is when you consider materials, construction, factory environment, and sustainability in general. Aren’t we all just trying to do our part for ourselves and our world?
If you’re into this concept and want some further reading, this book is a great introduction to the idea of the minimalist wardrobe:
xoxo – femme fire.