My 36-Item Minimalist Wardrobe

Jennifer Chan
Sep 1, 2019 · 6 min read

How I maintain a capsule wardrobe — even as a lawyer.

I have created a capsule wardrobe… by accident. I discovered Courtney Carver when she was spotlighted in the Minimalism documentary but frankly I didn’t feel the pull of trying to pair down my wardrobe since it was never really out of control.

The major items that I really wanted to address were my compulsion to upgrade my tech, splurge on take-out and restaurants, impulsively purchase books because they were an “investment”, and pair down needless subscriptions (at one point I had a subscription to The New Yorker, The New York Times, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and the Washington Post — yikes!).

However, I stumbled upon a Youtube Channel, Vested Interests, in which she documents her practice of minimalism with an emphasis on her wardrobe. Her 31-item wardrobe is her “daily wear” that doesn’t include things like shoes, socks, under wear, and lounge wear (Courtney Carver does include shoes in her Capsule 333 but omits the rest). I decided it would be neat to count up my daily wear too.

Here’s the jist:

  • I have 36 items that consist of my daily wardrobe. This includes shirts, pants, t-shirts, shorts, and jackets.
  • I have 42 items if you include shoes.
  • Not included in my daily wardrobe: loungewear (3 pieces); work out gear (6 pieces); socks and undergarments (I haven’t exactly counted these up but I do laundry every 2 weeks)

Let’s go through them!

Shirts

My shirts minus 3 t-shirts.

I have 18 shirts (not pictured are 3 t-shirts that live in my dresser). From left to right are as follows: 2 tank tops for the summer, shirts I wear to work, and ending with more casual shirts (the pinstripe shirt is out of order and should be closer to my work shirts).

Business:

  • Women Rayon Short-Sleeve Blouse — 2x white, blue, navy (Uniqlo)
  • Randy Blouse — black (Babaton)
  • Tonal Edge Silk Shirt — white (Club Monaco)
  • Quinn Straight-Fit Stripe Shirt (Banana Republicsuper old)

Casual:

  • Cropped Piqué T-Shirt — green (Kotn)
  • Turtleneck — mustard (Babatonsuper old)
  • Urban Renewal — flannel (Urban Outfitterssuper super old)
  • Women Rayon Long-Sleeve Blouse — black (Uniqlo)
  • Women Denim Long Sleeve Shirt (Uniqlo)
  • Oversized Button-Down Shirt — black (BDG super old)

Although Uniqlo is not winning any awards in terms of their labour and material practices, I love the Rayon blouses because I can wear them with suits and jeans. These blouses are so versatile without breaking the bank.

Suits

My workwear

Pants

  • Conan Check Cropped Pant — Sm Hndstooth Cig/Nvy (Babaton)
  • Borrem Pant (Club Monaco)
  • Stretch Pants — blue (Uniqlo)
  • Lillean Pant — black (Club MonacoI couldn’t find the exact same pair since mine are really old)

Blazers

  • Blazer — grey (Ann TaylorI couldn’t find the exact same one since mine is really old)
  • Borrem Blazer (Club Monaco)
  • Parke Blazer — blue (J. Crew)
  • Parke Blazer — black (J. Crew)

As you can see, I have four pants and four blazers. With the exception of the Borrem blazer and pants, I bought these items piecemeal over time. I mix-and-match them throughout the week with whatever shirt I feel like in the previous picture.

For example, the Babaton pants don’t have a ‘mate’ in the sense that there’s no corresponding blazer. Instead, I found it works well with navy so I tend to wear them with the navy Rayon Uniqlo shirt and the navy J. Crew blazer. Mix-and-matching these items allow me to wear bursts of colour in a typically drab conservative attire.

The times that I do wear a cohesive colour, for example, the black Club Monaco pants and black J. Crew blazer (which surprisingly match), is when I head to court. For the most part, however, I’m not that formal.

Casual

Casual wear

Three pairs of jeans:

Three t-shirts:

  • Hemp-Cotten Tee — Khaki (Frank And Oak);
  • The Good Cotton Boy Tee — Blue (Frank And Oak);
  • Navy striped t-shirt (Gap) (I’ve had this t-shirt for awhile and won’t be purchasing anything more from Gap due to their labour standards)

And underneath the t-shirts, in the middle column, I have a standard thick grey sweater from H&M (it’s so old I couldn’t find a link).

Lastly, I have three pairs of shorts:

  • Barely Baggies shorts — black (Patagonia),
  • Cory Ripped Black Denim Shorts — black (TOPSHOP);
  • 4" Stretch Chino Short — navy blue (J. Crew)

Coats

Outerwear

I have six jackets. It’s unavoidable. I live in Toronto where the summers are hot and the winters are freezing. All my coats are very old (4+ years) with the exception of my rain jacket.

  • Cotton Jacket —khaki green (H&M)
  • Black Faux Leather Jacket (Forever 21I bought this back in the day when I still shopped there. I liked that it was faux leather)
  • Long Wool Pea Coat — black (Marc Jacobsthis is the men’s version of it)
  • Short Wool Pea Coat — black (H&M)
  • Women’s Resolve Jacket — black (The North Face)
  • Addie Long Length Jacket with Removable Hood — black (Noize)

Shoes

I didn’t count shoes into my daily wardrobe (I note that Vested Decisions didn’t either) but I do have six pairs bringing my total number to 42.

  • Alice Ballet flats — black (Michael Kors)
  • Dorothy Leather Pump — black (Michael Kors)
  • Snakeskin Textured Pumps — beige (ALDO)
  • Classic Superstars — white/black (Adidas)
  • Air Force Ones ’07 trainers — beige (Nike)
  • Alex Square-Toe Chelsea Boots — black (Urban Outfitterssuper old)

Final Thoughts

I’m happy with what I have. My style involves wearing lots of black (I did live in Montreal for three years) but I’m slowly venturing out. While I definitely purchase expensive items, it’s important to highlight that these were slowly accumulated over the span of years. I have resoled my shoes, repaired blazers and coats, and so forth. Even my Forever 21 faux leather jacket, which I purchased for about $30 back in 2010, has been repaired several times!

It’s also hard to avoid expensive businesswear. As a lawyer, it’s important that I wear clothes that make me feel confident and comfortable while also will last for years upon years. I bought my black Club Monaco trousers in 2012 and still wear them a few times each week.

Since I work so much, I really don’t have much casual wear. I’m happy to throw on a t-shirt and jeans when I’m out with my fiancee or friends but can also dress up jeans with one of the blouses.

I also am more mindful now about the brands I wear. I love Frank And Oak, especially their jeans, because they’ve partnered with an eco-certified facility in Dubai to make hydro-less denim. I also love Kotn because all of their cotton is made ethically in Egypt where they are intimately involved with every step of the supply chain (100% traceability). The same can be said with Patagonia and The North Face.

This all comes at a price but I’m happy to pay for it.

Overall, I’m happy with my capsule wardrobe, especially given that I live somewhere that really experiences four seasons, and it gives me enough flexibility that I never get bored of my wardrobe.

If you have any questions please feel free to let me know in the comments!

Simple, Not Easy

Purposeful Work | Personal Finance | Pragmatic Minimalism

Jennifer Chan

Written by

Productivity, craftsmanship, and the pursuit of excellence at work. Writing now at jennifertchan.substack.com.

Simple, Not Easy

Purposeful Work | Personal Finance | Pragmatic Minimalism

Jennifer Chan

Written by

Productivity, craftsmanship, and the pursuit of excellence at work. Writing now at jennifertchan.substack.com.

Simple, Not Easy

Purposeful Work | Personal Finance | Pragmatic Minimalism

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