How do you begin?
I must confess, my involvement in minimalism has been… tentative to start. If there was a scale between minimalism and maximalism, I feel as though I would currently be leaning towards the larger end of the scale. I’ve dressed my blatant overconsumption in a “I’m experimenting with my personal style!” cloak.
But denial stops here, we are part of the problem. With the rapid onslaught of “micro-trends” it’s easy to get caught up in the fear of missing out on the hottest new trend whilst it is indeed still the hottest new trend. The nature of these fads passing so quickly pressures us into buying and continues the horrific cycle of fast fashion.
When being confronted with the pictures of landfill sites filled to the brim with barely worn clothing, alongside the frightening statistics; minimalism seems to be a glimmer of hope in the darkness. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have any flaws, but it is certainly a way we can personally help to affect the fashion industry in a positive way. Firstly, we need to remove the barriers which hold people back from being able to join this movement.
Economic barriers and toxic body standards
The version of minimalism seen in the media most, and seemingly gets the most praise, is (and it’s no surprise) the version portrayed by celebrities. Think Zoe Kravits and the Olsen twins. Immediately, it is clear from that there is an incredible wealth gap between them and us, the consumer. This leads me to believe that minimalism is predominantly an upper-class aesthetic.
In Vogue's ’10 steps to the Essential Minimalist Wardrobe’, the clothing recommended never dips below the $100 mark. Though this is what we expect from Vogue as a high fashion magazine, it highlights the extreme prices of these 'essential, quality' items, which minimalism champions. For minimalism to be truly accessible, we need good quality clothing to be affordable.
There is also the problem of thinness being the ultimate accessory for a minimalist wardrobe. See: models being praised for their execution of, wait for it, a white t-shirt and jeans. This can be seen across all styles, but I find it most prevalent in minimalism.
Already there are many movements across the fashion community to break these harmful ideals and work towards total inclusivity. But that doesn’t mean we don’t still have a long way to go.
Is colour allowed in minimalism?
One of the preconceptions about minimalism is that it is boring and lacking in colour, but that is not the case. Though there is a big focus on solid basics, your wardrobe doesn’t have to be a sea of beige. Queer Eye fans will know the importance of “Hero Pieces”, (thank you fashion guru Tan France). They offer an item of interest to complement the basics in your wardrobe and something with a bold pattern, texture, or colour is perfect for this. In winter, a hero coat is essential and in summer, when layering is difficult, think trousers.
How can I start?
If you're ready to start culling your wardrobe, I would recommend the Marie Kondo method. It is unlikely that you have missed this tidying revolution, but if you have, here is a very simplified summary to tackle your wardrobe:
Hold an item of clothing
Think about whether it "sparks joy" in your heart
Thank the clothing for its service and set it aside to be donated
Neatly fold your clothing, and welcome it back into your wardrobe!
I found following this method immensely beneficial to my mental health by minimising clutter. Tidy room = tidy mind. It also made me more thoughtful about my future purchases, and whether I really wanted them, or if I was just chasing a "buy now!" dopamine boost. No more SHEIN hauls and no more next day delivery wormholes.
The desire to be more sustainable is what has prompted many to keep trying minimalism. Charity shopping and thoughtful buying is just the beginning. Holding big companies accountable for the pollution they are creating is essential to promote change and slow the onslaught of effects of fast fashion.
Exposing the working conditions of the employees who create these fast fashion pieces, shows us what the real cost of astronomically low prices is. Minimalism is a cute aesthetic, but can also be used as a device for revolution by halting the support of unethical fashion.