The Idea of One

I am embracing a more simple wardrobe these days. One reason is we’re moving house within the next couple of months, and want to make the move as easy as possible. Another is (probably) a push-back to the accumulation I’ve done over the last couple of years, mostly in thrift and consignment stores.

Even after all the buying, I didn’t have an enormous wardrobe – it’s not possible in a 1925 cottage, with teeny closets! But I did start to feel that “more” was not more. I felt my discretion starting to slip. So I’ve been culling and donating a lot, and really concentrating on keeping clothes that I love, that make me feel great and Visible.

To that end, being a compulsive person at core, I’ve been reading and re-reading style books and blogs that offer advice on the “perfectly small wardrobe”. Among my readings, I found this, at Becoming Minimalist:

Embrace the idea of one. When one can be enough, embrace it – one black dress, one swimsuit, one winter coat, one black belt, one pair of black shoes, one pair of sneakers, one handbag.

And a similar idea at Midway Simplicity:

Don’t own more than you need to wear. This creates space for things that really give you pleasure.

These are novel ideas for me to contemplate. (It’s not a prescription for anyone else. I don’t have any judgment about having a large or HUGE wardrobe, if that’s what pleases you.) It’s influencing me to single out the most beloved pieces and the ones that truly reflect my taste. The Idea of One keeps me from duplicating the same items, and forces me to be more creative.

As an example, I was tempted to purchase this cute striped skirt from ASOS:

So cute! But I’ve got two similar already. ASOS skirt

It is a darling skirt. And I happen to have a striped knit skirt and a striped knee length skirt in similar colors, hanging in my closet. Lesson: I love striped skirts. Lesson #2: Maybe two striped skirts, accessorized and well-cared-for, are enough. That $35 could be better spent on some fabulous tights, a cool pendant or — wait for it — a fun evening at a cafe with my husband.

It makes sense to own duplicates of many wardrobe items, of course. One bra would be a laundry disaster. Ditto camis, undies, basic white tees, and hard-working jeans.  Sally of Already Pretty wrote a great post about “Multiples That Make Sense“, and it’s well worth a read.

I am doing very well with one white button down shirt, one watch, one denim jacket and one denim skirt. Boots? Not going to happen.

Over to you: what do you think you’d be content owning just one of, wardrobe wise? Or is this whole concept just plain nutz?

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  1. I have an obsession with stripes. I was looking into buying some jumpers for the winter and found myself bookmarking stripey jumpers. WTH? I do need jumpers but I surely don't need to look like I have got a uniform all the time. This concept is brilliant and is going to pushing me forward to look for other styles and try new things on myself. Thank you Patti, brilliant as usual. 

  2. I think you won't be surprised to hear that I love the idea of one! In practice, though, it would be hard for me to do. I need emergency backups for items that get dirty or damaged, or that don't work the way I'd hoped. And like the others said, I need different levels of dressiness, different heel heights, etc. 

    I often will just have TWO of something. Two pairs of jeans: one dressier for heels, one more casual with flats. Two pairs of work trousers: one brown, one grey. Two winter coats: one dressy, one casual. You get the idea!

  3. If you just have one of each, the daily wear would mean buying new quite often. That actually makes sense! Your wardrobe wouldn't date and you would have to shop every now and then.

    There is the problem with colour. As I'm currently working on wearing items only from my small capsule I find it boring to wear the same colours over and over again. Having more little capsules will solve that, and still keep the total amount of clothes down. So, the idea of only one of each is great, but doesn't work if you're a colour addict!

  4. I believe in having only one purse…one black one, one red one, one brown, one floral, one velvet, one pink, one orange….LOL.  Seriously, that is my major weakness. In other things, I am good with the one concept.  I try to keep my wardrobe simple and functional but I love playing with accessories.  

  5. If it thrills people to cut back, that's fine with me but it seems self-punishingly puritanical to me. IF you can afford things and store them and manage them and IF they give you pleasure, why not have them? As long as you're not ruining your life by hoarding or overspending…it's not like you're going to get points towards heaven by having one pair of jeans.

  6. I'm happy owning one purple velvet blazer, everything else, I need multiples of !

  7. I love the idea of minimal, but not the reality. Too constricting artistically!

  8. Hi Patti,

    I think i will think more seriously about it – I have way too much clothes –
    I had a glimpse of becoming a minimalist and looks very interesting

    Ariane xxxx

  9. Hun, I am one of those people guilty to buying the same or very similar to the same thing. I don't know why that is. Case in point I own very similar shirts and cardigans from White House Black Market. It's because I like that item so much that owning it in a double color or a very similar pattern, silouhette etc. is like a given. I should invest in more unique, different pieces in my closet. I do agree though, that stripe skirt is just so gorgeous and 100% my style, too. =)

  10. Excellent post Patti!! I've been "culling the hoard" quite a bit for fall-seeing what works and what doesn't and noting the holes. iIpassed on or donated TONS of stuff–mostly only worn once (thankfully it was all thrifted anyway) I'm determining what works, what doesn't and why. And I'm really sticking to Vix's mantra–If you don't LOVE it -out it goes!!
    I'm going to do another purge this weekend–I have far too many cardigans and jacket!!

  11. As long as I can fit all my clothes in one wardrobe I'm happy. Being a second-hand, impulsive kind of buyer there's no way on earth I could ever pass up another 1970s maxi or psychedelia catsuit when they're a few quid! I just make sure I sell/donate or giveaway at least two things for each new addition to my collection, it doesn't have to be like for like so a belt and an old pair of sandals can make room for a new skirt. x

  12. I agree that there are items that I only need one of.  I have 1 denim jacket (if it even still fits) and I usually only use 1 handbag (altho I keep some old ones if I love them).  Right now I have a lot of clothes because most of them don't fit!  I'm at my largest size ever, and I'm determined not to stay at this size. So I've bought a few things just to get me by (mostly thrift).  But once I get to a size I'm more comfortable with, I like the idea of only having clothes that I love that make me feel good.
    I love posts that make me think of things from a different perspective.

  13. I think it's very smart.  I tried hard during my Nosh Opping Expedition to get down to one, but I'm too erratic in my style to be happy with just one.  I have a short black skirt, a black mini-skirt (for layering), a knee length black skirt, a black midi-skirt and two black maxis.  One of casual cotton jersey and the other pleated.  Is it ridiculous?  Yes.  But I have style schizophrenia and wear all of these skirts regularly. 

  14. Part of my challenge this year is to cut down on my impulse buying (I have a strategy in mind for post-challenge too), and see what the workhorses in my wardrobe really are, and what's…just not.

    I can't see myself with only 1 of something, unless I do it like, "one pair of cobalt pumps, one pair of red pumps, one pair of yellow pumps." I love colour and find it hard to weed that out.

  15. Great concepts and discussion, Patti! So many factors affect "multiples" – e.g. different lengths of dress pants to go with different heel heights, gradations in degree of "dressiness," body changes. I really like how blogging is coming reveal so much, such as garments more noticeably in need of alteration than I thought, options for experimentation which don't necessitate accumulation. Thanks for letting us in on your process! 

  16. I'm definitely working on this cutting down. Like you the one thing I can't have one of is boots. I adore boots. I can happily have two pairs of sandals, one black, one taupe. I own one pair of shorts. I've been really working with my wardrobe to edit down to pieces I really really love. This has meant ruthlessly culling what doesn't fit and doesn't work. I have been hanging onto a few pieces here and there in case I change my mind or "need" it, but I have gotten a lot more particular about buying quality pieces that work with as much of the rest of my closet as possible.

  17. Hm.  Of wardrobe basics, I do tend to have just one…but it is the unusual pieces in my wardrobe that have a tendency to multiple.  The skirt you've pictured is darling.

  18. This concept is awesome and needed.  As soon I as read the title of your post, the article you referenced over at Becoming Minimalist immediately sprang to my mind.  I think it was also at Becoming Minimalist that I first ran across the notion that minimalism is the antidote of consumerism.  I also love the idea of "minsumerism" –

    I've been doing a closet-limiting project this summer that's helping me
    figure out what's "enough" for my life, while concurrently expanding a massive
    household decluttering and simplifying mission that's been years in the
    making (as we've made multiple moves).  It's amazing what a long, meticulous process it is to tease out and undo the
    influence of our culture's consumerist, acquisition-focused lifestyle.  I think the exercise of figuring out instances where "one" just might be enough for one's life (clothing or otherwise – I discovered I had 8 pairs of nail clippers!!  Why??) is a great step in halting the mindless consumerism that can actually end up reducing rather than enhancing our quality of life.  It's hard to explain the profound sense of peace, freedom and clarity this process continues to bring me.

  19. Very wise words! I have to say I have been trying to cut back on multiples too off late and finding that I have ingrained shopping habits that I have to consciously check myself to stop – I do not need another party dress!!  I don't think I could do just one but I could certainly do with what I currently have for a good long while (in addition to getting rid of stuff) without buying anything else!

  20. I have been reading a lot on minimalism lately as well, and trying (slowly) to apply the concepts to my home and my wardrobe.  So far I'm still just in culling items that aren't flattering, but I have a long way to go before I'm debating the ONE theory!!  

  21. I am struggling with wardrobe space and really think I should take some of your advice.

  22. Dressing is a way for me to experiment and be creative so limiting myself to just one of different items would be like a child throwing away all his color crayons except for red. 

    I go shopping at the Mall and bourtiques most every weekend for a few hours as a fun sport and hardly ever purchase anything.  I avoid all sales gimmicks, coupons, any thing that reminds me of one who is on a diet and goes to a smorgasboard for lunch or dinner.  I feel like most items of clothing do not tempt me when they are full price and yet it is still interesting to be out and about looking at fashion and how they are being styled more than actually purchasing them.  What I do purchase I tire of  easily (like a child) and give them to Goodwill so my closests are never overflowing.  Except like you in the boots department. Don't make me count my boots.  Too embarrassing.

  23. I am TOTALLY on the same page as you!  I have been donating and selling in consignment shops.  I have one black summer dress I could probably wear every day .. a smart buy.  And, like you .. I have way too many things in my closet – still!  Great post Patti …. 

  24. I don't think I can do one of very many things, in that case it has to be very specific items such as one floral skirt or one striped button down. But I can't do just one skirt. I suppose the only thing I have one of is a watch and I wear it and love it everyday. It is the perfect watch, it is my signature piece! Oh this sounded really like a love poem to my watch, but I do love it.  However, I am also striving for a smaller wardrobe, but sometimes it is hard to know what is going to be your favorite piece and for me it is as periods a struggle to stay in that size, if there is not a lot of elasticity in the clothes. Living in a country with four seasons also makes it extra demanding, as you for example need one summer jacket, one spring/autumn jacket, one jacket that restrains rain, one winter jacket, and one jacket for very cold winter days. However, knowing that others share the some thoughts about reducing down their closers is very inspiring! I think it is worth striving for! Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  25. love this – don't own more than you need!
    true words, but harder to live by

  26. My compulsive nature finds this idea very tempting, but I know that I would get rid of things, and feel like I had nothing to wear. My problem is that I enjoy exploring many different "personalities" with my clothing, so that tends to lead to a very expansive wardrobe. I feel ya on the space, though. Living in Chicago, where most apartment buildings were built before 1940, the closets leave much to be desired. I appreciate the character of the buildings, but I wish they would just add a walk-in closet, here and there. I would DIE for a walk-in closet!

  27. I love this concept. I only have one closet, but it's overflowing. I very much want to simplify, and am really trying to examine what I love, and what's been hanging unworn for too long.

  28. What a timely post.  Two days ago, I was feeling quite stressed, busy and overwhelmed. So I went shopping.  Came home with three pairs of shoes I really didn't need.  I'm thankful that I kept the receipts because they are going back.  How many pairs of sandals do I really need?  How many pairs of leopard print shoes do I need.  
    My discretion has slipped as well; very often I shop thrift so I don't feel as quilty but even then I justify things because of the low price.  That can be as counter to having a well curated wardrobe as over purchasing retail can be.
    I'm trying to get on board with this whole concept and your post was very well time as I begin my endeavor!

    Lisa/Dangerous Curves

  29. I know that I have a lot of things in my closet that I don't wear. I do like the idea of one though. It would work extremely well for my business of making reversible clothes!

  30. What a brilliant idea. I've just done the wardrobe cull and am about to restock. Loving the idea of having those one off go to pieces that show you for who you are rather than the accumulated clutter. If I had to pick a piece to own just one of  I'd have to say a watch. I've been thinking on that subject all day. I don't own one but am off to find a perfect one tomorrow. 
    Sounds like we have the same wardrobe, after the cull I have one white shirt, one denim skirt and one denim jacket.

  31. I also live in a tiny home built in 1916. Talk about small closets! But I think that fact keeps me disciplined.
    If I could only own one thing in a particular category I'd have to say a great fitting leather jacket would be my choice. Just one would be fine as long as the fit was perfect. But, I'd also need one good winter coat because I hate being cold.

  32. I've been trying to cut back on multiples, though I occasionally will buy a "backup" of a favorite item if it's a classic (for me) and goes on sale. I've recently begun doing closet edits every few weeks (just work on one area, like pants or jackets) and that's also helping me determine what I really wear vs. what I *intend* to wear, and that's helped too.

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