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6 Things an 18 Piece Wardrobe Taught Me

Sustainable Fashion

Last Updated on January 23, 2024

I haven’t talked about fashion a lot on this blog. I posted about my 18 piece wardrobe experiment last January and left you hanging. In case you need a reminder, I picked out 18 pieces of clothing to wear for the whole year. 

I made it about 8 months before throwing in the towel. I just couldn’t handle it. I loved it at first. By the third month, I was tired of it. By the sixth month, the clothes needed to be repaired. 

6 Things an 18 Piece Wardrobe Taught Me from #zerowaste #ecofriendly #gogreen #sustainable #minimalism #minimalwardrobe #capsulewardrobe

My whites were getting dingy, buttons had gone missing, and hems were coming undone.

My three shirts simply weren’t up to the task of everyday use. Most of the items were second hand to begin with, and the incessant washing became a burden too difficult to bear. 

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I know I’ve mentioned several times on the blog that I used to have over 200 dresses alone. I LOVED fashion.

I still love clothing and using it as a form of expression. 50% of the reason I wanted to be an actor was getting to make a career out of playing dress up.

I love clothes so much…. I had a fashion blog. *GASP* No, I will not link to it. Yes, it is still on the internet.

You may try to find it, but I’d doubt you’d be successful. I started it when I was a freshman in college and it lasted one week.

It. Is. Hilarious.

Little baby Kathryn is pretty cute. My writing is surprisingly not as horrendous as I thought it was going to be although the photos could definitely use some work. I just remembered the blog name in a dream three days ago. 

I digress. Doing this 18 piece wardrobe experiment taught me a lot of things. 

1. no numbers:

18 is a number, and that number doesn’t have to be the end all be all. No number has to be the end all be all! 

Minimalism isn’t a numbers game. It’s not about only having 3 shirts and 2 pairs of pants. If that’s the closet you love, then that’s awesome for you!

For me and my life, 18 wasn’t enough. I don’t know what my enough is, but I think I’m slowly finding it. 

RELATED: What Do Zero Waste and Minimalism have in Common? 

There are all sorts of blogs that tell you, you have to have a set number of pieces, and while it is a GREAT experiment (especially if you’re used to living with excess) it’s not a hard and fast rule.

I will never go back to two stuffed closets and 200 dresses. That was over consumption, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a little fun with my clothing.

I view clothing as a form of self-expression and keeping a teeny-tiny closet made me sad. 

I’ve let myself off the hook, and I’m allowing myself to have fun and explore my style and explore the pieces that truly work for me. 

2. breaking out of black and white:

This is a really, really common trap for people minimizing their wardrobe. It’s easy to just go all black and white. That’s classic, right!?

Well, I felt like a waiter in all black and white. I just really wasn’t into the stark contrast. Also, black and white aren’t really my colors. I felt like I was pretending to be someone else. 

It wasn’t until I started to infuse warmer neutrals in my wardrobe, did I start to feel like myself.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love me some neutrals, but I prefer khakis, tans, and blushes. I think they complement my skin tone really well. 

I wear those colors, and I feel good. 

The fashion industry is based on wanting to feel good. When you wear something that makes you feel good you look good. My 18 piece wardrobe didn’t make me feel good, so I didn’t look good. 

When having a small wardrobe, it’s important to wear pieces that make you look and feel like a rockstar! You want to get excited to get dressed every morning.

Now that I’m infusing new (second-hand) pieces into my wardrobe, I’m excited to get dressed. Outfits are coming together easier and I’m a lot happier. 

3. defined style:

200-dresses-Kathryn was dressing for multiple personalities. My closet was more of a costume closet.

I had a lot of vintage clothing. I had dresses from the 40s, 60s, and 70s. I could immediately jump into any decade or any personality I was feeling whether that was preppy, rocker, or boho. 

I’ve really learned to listen to the styles that make me feel the best. Preppy styles with a bit of boho flare is where I lean.

This mean classic lines with maybe a bell sleeve or interesting drape. If I really want to get dressed up and have fun, I borrow clothes from my friend’s closets. 

Having a small wardrobe taught me what I like and what I don’t like. It also helped me pay very close attention to fit.

RELATED: 3 Steps for Cleaning Out your Closet and Defining your Style

I know exactly what length a shirt should and shouldn’t be to compliment my pear shape. 

I know exactly where a dress should hit. I know exactly where my pants should be hemmed. Being aware of fit is soooo important. You know those pieces you love but never seem to wear because something just feels off? 

Most likely, it’s a fit issue. I have narrowed down my fit so well, that I could walk around with a tape measure and tell you if I was going to like a shirt before I even put it on. Is that shirt 22″ in length? No, thank you! 

Be ruthless. 

I have also learned to pay special attention to color. I really like color, but I don’t like too much color. I like to stick to a pretty neutral wardrobe. (Just not black and white) I don’t like a lot of really bright colors unless it’s on the occasional happy sundress. 

By paying special attention to the colors I wear most often, I’m able to quickly decide future purchases.

I recently had a beautiful blue dress I was considering buying. It was a very bright blue, I wouldn’t normally be drawn to. I decided to let it go because it didn’t fit in with most of my wardrobe. Bright blue is not something I would normally wear. It’s just not really my color.

I knew if I brought that piece into my wardrobe, it would sit there mostly untouched. However, if that dress were pink… I’d try and find a way to wear it every day! 

4. it’s ok: 

Living a zero waste lifestyle can make it feel like shopping is bad or wrong. And, while over consumption is bad. There’s nothing wrong with shopping if it’s done in an ethical way. 

We’re never going to be completely free of shopping. In fact, I’m in desperate need of undies as we speak. (Side note: if you have a favorite ethical underwear brand please let me know in the comments.)

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I still feel guilty when shopping, because the number one rule is to buy less!

But, there also needs to be something said for having a little fun. Having a dull and dingy 18 piece wardrobe made me sad. It made me really, really want to go shopping. 

It’s like being on a crash diet. Depriving yourself of food is only going to encourage gorging later.

Instead, it’s better to make thoughtful better choices over a long period of time. This makes it fun and personally sustainable. 

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While I think challenging and testing yourself can be a good experiment, it’s definitely not ideal long term. 

Bottom line. I enjoy clothes. I enjoy shopping. I enjoy wardrobe as a form of self-expression.

How do I combine this with my zero waste and minimalist outlooks? (I only live in 300 sq. ft. 200-dress- Kathryn’s closet was bigger than that!) 

I only shop local and second-hand unless it’s for necessities (socks and undies) or very hard to find basics (lookin’ at you white tank top.) I love shopping local second-hand!

I’m able to support my community and prevent any new resource production. 

It seems like a great compromise, and I feel pretty guilt-free. I’m always very, very critical when it comes to fit and color.

Even though it’s practically guilt free shopping, I don’t want to take something unnecessarily off the market. I also, don’t want to have pieces in my closet that are unworn. 

5. constantly edit: 

I am always editing my wardrobe. Just because I liked the way it fit in the dressing room, standing up straight, in bad lighting, for 2 minutes, does not mean I’m going to it when I’m running around work or walking the dog. 

If you don’t love it, it’s time to give it back. There have been several pieces I have bought at the thrift store, worn a couple of times and decided I should let them go. 

That’s perfectly fine! It’s like you borrowed it from the thrift store for a couple of days. There’s no reason to force it to work out.

This prevents my closet from getting packed, and I’m constantly keeping an eye on what works and what doesn’t. 

Each piece you bring into your closet teaches you something new about your style, and you’ll be able to make better choices in the future. Don’t hold onto pieces because you think it might work out in the future. 

If it can be altered, alter it that week. If you don’t alter it immediately, it’s time to re-donate it.

I don’t feel too guilty about re-donating. If it was good enough to make it onto the shelves 2 weeks ago, it’s most likely good enough to make it onto the shelves again. 

6. texture and pattern:

Don’t forget about out texture and pattern. A wardrobe, even a black and white one, can have more life if you throw in a little bit texture or pattern.

I made the huge mistake of doing all solid black and white and all similar texture. If I had thrown in a fun black and white pattern or more texture like lace or even cable knit, things might have been different. 

In my small wardrobe experiments, texture and pattern really seem to make a difference. It can just be a little bit. My patterned sweater is a cream sweater with black polka dots. It’s not like you have to go crazy.

But, just that little something extra makes things feel more elevated. 

This was a pretty long post, but for the first time in a while, I am LOVING my current wardrobe. I am having so much fun with it. It’s mostly pink, white, tan, and navy. I am so excited to get dressed in the morning. 

I think I’m finally finding my groove. I can’t wait to do a full wardrobe update with everything in my closet. 

I want to hear all about your wardrobe! Everyone does everything differently, maybe I can pick up a few tips from you. How do you feel about your current closet? Do you have a teeny-tiny wardrobe and love it? Do you have a capsule wardrobe? 

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  1. My go-to for undies and socks (and basics in general) is PACT Organic apparel. If you haven’t already, you should check them out.

        1. I bought my items from them online, and their organic cotton thongs came in packs of two in plastic, but I think it may have been recyclable? (Don’t quote me on that!) Their organic cotton camisoles came in a cardboard box with no other packaging. The free socks (mentioned in my above comment) that came with my order came in a cardboard box.

        2. PACT comes in a cardboard box in the market (sold at Whole Foods).

          I also recommend Brook There, a small ethical company on the East Coast. Larkspur LA for more funky colors.

  2. I live in CA too and I don’t think we really need capsule wardrobes. I have a coat that I only wear like twice a year max because it never really gets that cold here in SoCal.

    For me personally, black is the color of my soul, mostly because my soul likes to spill stuff on itself on a regular basis so it works for me.

    I stopped using shopping as a form of recreation years ago and I’ve been wearing out the excess since. I’ve gotten down to like 50 pieces total, including shoes, workout clothes and accessories that I wear all the time, with like 15 pieces that I’m still figuring out what to do with. That feels about right for me, and they’re all awesome quality so I’ve been wearing them day in day out for years

  3. A few thoughts in no particular order: I really like your blog ? Thank you for the time and effort you put into informative and interesting topics. While the terms zero waste and minimalism are fairly new to me, the concepts are things I’ve been moving toward for a few years now. It started with great thrift stores when I lived in Texas, then added recycling and lots of traveling while living in California. Frequent mobility and limited space definitely caused me to rethink what I am willing to cart around.

    One thing I don’t like about many minimalism blogs I’ve seen is the unending cycles of black and white clothes. I detest white and tolerate black. I don’t mind having a smaller wardrobe, but please give me lots of color! I started editing my wardrobe several years ago. Taking time to really figure out my personal style has helped tremendously. Usually I will remove an item or two from my closet when I bring home something from the thrift store (pretty rare for me to buy new clothes). This keeps me from accumulating too much and getting bored but I also don’t spend a lot of money. The best thing for me is that I’m not wasting resources all the time either.

    Now that I’m back home in Ohio, I find myself wishing my community had better recycling programs and that my family would be on board with reducing waste. It gets overwhelming at times when a family member’s hoarding tendencies butt heads with my need for far less. At least my family and a friend are more interested in at least recycling, which is a start. My 11-year-old nephew even asked if we could bring home our water bottles from vacation so we would know they’d get recycled. Win as far as I’m concerned!

  4. Currently trying to minimize my wardrobe so have been donating to goodwill and posting to thredup. Your blog is very inspiring. I would like to curate a wardrobe based on black, white, grey, navy, green, and coral accents.

  5. I wear underwear and socks from Boody which is sold in chemists in Australia, they’re comfy as! Very breathable and made of bamboo I believe… may need to fact check that though.

  6. I too am on an underwear hunt. I had no luck with Brook There or Pact – both were not full coverage as promised (and Brook There has a frustrating, terrible return policy for all non-underwear items). Pact is by far the most reasonably priced, so if you like their styles I would suggest them. Only Hearts also looks possible, but I don’t know how they are packaged. Also, I’ve seen Boody in some stores in the Bay Area, but I try to stay away from bamboo fabric since it is typically produced with a lot of chemicals.

    1. I only wear Boody underwear and have converted my husband too. I also had the same concerns about the way bamboo products are produced but Boody is produced sustainably and has a close linked system.

  7. I have been shopping at PACT for thongs and camisoles, and I have been very happy with my purchases. The prices are extremely reasonable for using predominantly organic cotton and a sustainable company. The items I’ve got are something like 95% organic cotton and 5% elastic (I believe that covers holding the underwear up and the shelf bra in the camisole). I tried to find 100% organic cotton of the above items and had no luck, so once I decided to give on the 5% elastic, PACT was the best choice I could find. Their website is very informative and I feel like they are way more transparent than a lot of other "organic" and "sustainable" companies. Their customer service also has impressed me! My camisoles each came with a coupon for a free pair of organic socks, and my underwear came with a coupon for 15% off my next order – love it! I’d be interested to see what you think of them!

  8. If you’re interested in adding colour to a capsule wardrobe I would definitely recommend getting your colours done. I don’t know if this exists in the US but I got mine done by a company called the House of Colour ( ). Basically you meet with a sort of stylist specialised in what colours flatter each skin tone, you are explained step by step which colours flatter you and why then you receive a little handy wallet full of samples of the colours that suit you for when you go clothes shopping next. Sounds very basic but it actually had a HUGE impact on my style and wardrobe. My purchases are MUCH better informed now that I finally know what suits me and what doesn’t and the clothes I am in make me look a lot healthier and more vibrant.

  9. Sophie, I, and millions of other women, began having "colors" done back in the early 1980’s in the United States. Amway was the first company that I know of that did home makeup consultations, complete with the little color fan for the Spring person, the Summer person, the Fall person, and the Winter person. (etc, etc.) The makeup line was (maybe still is, I don’t know) called Artistry.

  10. PACT underwear has been great for me! 🙂 Also, thank you for this post (and all the posts you share)! I too have loved fashion for pretty much my whole life. A couple of months ago I moved and I have been working on sifting through my wardrobe one step at a time. I haven’t made much progress yet, but I believe that I can!! I agree though that you do not need to stick with a strict number and it is best to feel out what is best for you instead.

  11. You probably found undies by now but the organic cotton boyshorts from Hanky Panky are the nicest undies I have ever had. And comfy and they have matching bras 🙂 Also came in a cardboard box without plastic. They do have tags attached to them, as this brand is also sold in stores (you might find them in Nordstroms).

  12. Thinking about your undies question, I don’t yet know of a responsible company (in many senses of the word), that uses recyclable packaging, and makes a comfortable yet long lasting product. But I wonder if there’s such a thing as bespoke underwear, made by a tailor.