Shopping Smart

How I Create A Sustainable Wardrobe As A Former Minimalist

By | Friday, February 19, 2021

I’ve always been a minimalist. Perhaps not by the dictionary definition of the term, but I own few things and I’m mindful about my purchases. 

As for my clothes, I own exactly:

(1) one pair of jeans

(1)  pair of black formal-ish pants that I can dress up for work or dress down for dinner with friends, and

(1)  pair of black leggings to lounge in.

I also have only one set of pajama shorts and for tops, I rotate between old college t-shirts for bed. I have a pair of sweatpants from college and one pair of joggers I caved in and bought mid-2020. 

Already, that’s the vast majority of my wardrobe. I bought my workout leggings second-hand, and always get rid of an item of clothing if I’m picking up a new addition to my closet. I own less than ten pairs of shoes (including heels, snow boots, water-proof shoes, sneakers, and hiking gear). Needless to say, I enjoy owning less and don’t impulse-buy very much at all

But re-wearing my clothes every day in 2020, particularly when so much of what I own is second-hand or a bargain buy, has worn them out and I now need more clothes — higher-quality ones at that, too. 

Pre-COVID, I used to work in a formal, financial office. My limited weekend wardrobe with my single pair of jeans or my black pants rotated between a handful of shirts was assisted by my weekday wardrobe of pencil skirts, formal blouses, tailored pants, and sheath dresses. While I owned just one to two of each, these were high-quality pieces I had invested in for client calls and the office environment, at large. I kept a pair of heels in the office that still looks brand-new since I wore old sneakers for my commute and anytime I left the office for a walk. I took time and effort to care for these weekday items, given how expensive they were, and I felt as if my limited wardrobe, otherwise, was more than sufficient. I’d often re-use office blouses and dress them down over the weekend with jeans or a denim jacket, or even dress down pencil skirts with graphic t-shirts, instead. Pre-COVID, this wardrobe worked for me, bargain purchases and second-hand clothing, included. 

In 2021, though, I’m beginning to recognize that much of my wardrobe has simply become worn. Although no one of consequence ever sees me, not even on a weekly basis, and that I look perfectly presentable for Zoom calls where no one can see the quality of my leggings, I nevertheless feel as if my wardrobe needs a revamp. As such, instead of spending less on my wardrobe this year, I plan to spend more. I want to continue to maintain a largely minimalist setup but replace older, second-hand, bargain pieces with pricier, high-quality items that will last me much longer than just a few months. 

I realize that lower-quality items at bargain prices that you replace every 6-9 months likely cost less than a pair of leggings from, say,  Lululemon. But, as someone who enjoys keeping a small wardrobe, I dislike needing to shop continuously. I succumb to an Instagram ad like anyone else but at the end of the day, I often return impulse purchases and try to be as thoughtful as possible before adding a piece to my collection. Whether that’s by researching the values of the company or by finding 5-10 outfits that I can use that item of clothing in. As such, buying more quality, expensive items that last longer and only needing to make a purchase once every few years, versus once every few months, appeals to me. 

Granted, not every high-cost item is long-lasting, just as not every bargain purchase will wear down in a few months, but I plan to do my research and prioritize quality over cost, this year. 

Additionally, I’m succumbing to expanding my loungewear wardrobe. In the past, a pair of leggings was sufficient for me but since adding a pair of joggers last year, I’ve realized I need more comfortable pants to wear around the house and for quick walks or grocery runs. While my approach towards this pandemic in 2020 was to simply get through and focus on the other side of it, for the forthcoming post-pandemic world, my mindset in 2021 is more realistic. I recognize that we’re in this for a while, despite the vaccine rollout, and I now just want to make my life easier and enjoy the situation as best I can. And, believe me, comfortable and cute loungewear goes a long way towards making work-from-home more enjoyable versus simply tolerable. 


While spending more in 2021 may not be the approach most want to take, for me, it makes sense. I’ve saved a lot of money in 2020 by ignoring my needs and wants and just using the resources I already had, whether it be my limited wardrobe or my declining mental approach to the pandemic. In 2021, I want to change that and if that means throwing some money at these problems, so be it.

Keertana Anandraj is a recent college grad living in San Francisco. When she isn’t conducting international macroeconomic research at her day job, you can find her in the spin room or planning her next adventure.

Image via Unsplash

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