Fascinating and Fashionable: Sarah the Minimalist

This is the first in a new series of interviews with fascinating folks about their unique perspectives on style, fashion, and body image. I’m launching with Sarah Von of Yes and Yes, who is one of the most stylish women I know yet owns an absolutely tiny number of wardrobe items. Call her a minimalist, a capsule wardrobe aficionado, or a thrifty shopper, she’s got a good thing going. Let’s hear from Sarah!

How many pieces of clothing do you own? How many are thrifted?
Without actually counting each piece of clothing, I’d say I have somewhere between 20-30 pieces, not including accessories. I have 4 or 5 pairs of shoes that I regularly wear, but I have approximately a gajillion scarves and bangle bracelets. About 80% of my wardrobe is thrifted. If it’s not thrifted, it’s from Target, Old Navy, or TJ Maxx.

It should also be noted that I’m self-employed and I work from home. Virtually nobody sees me two days in a row. I seriously have three or four go-to outfits for each season and nobody is the wiser. Well, they weren’t until I just told the internet about it.

What’s your philosophy of wardrobe-building?
It’s probably overly generous to say I have a ‘philosophy’! But I try to limit myself to clothing that’s
a) versatile
b) layerable
c) fits really well

Also, if I find something I really love, I buy it in multiples. (I only have five pairs of pants. Three of them are Old Navy ‘Rock Star’ jeans. For a long time I only had two pairs of pants, then my BFF threatened to stage an intervention about my grey jeans.)

I spend about three months of each year traveling, so I’ve become very accustomed to living out of a carry-on for weeks at a time. Once you’re used to that, it feels weird (and sort of overwhelming!) to fill a whole closet with clothes when you know you can look good with just a few things.

Until about a year ago, 99% of my wardrobe was thrifted but it’s quite difficult to find clothing that meets the above mentioned needs at a thrift store. I still thrift when I want to fulfill a shopping urge without spending lots of money, but I’m much more likely to go to a ‘Proper Store’ if I’m looking for something specific to add to my wardrobe.

Sarah’s closet

Do you ever get bored with your clothes? How do you keep things interesting?
Very occasionally, but that’s usually when I’m traveling. If I’m feeling bored, I add a patterned layering tank. Or a scarf. Or tights!

What would you consider to be an investment piece? In other words, what are you willing to spend big on and why?
Shoes and boots! I balk at paying more than $30 for just about any piece of clothing, but I will happily spent $80 on a pair of nice ballet flats with arch support. I spent $50 getting my riding boots reheeled and I’d happily do it again.

What motivates you to shop? How often do you do it?
I shop once every 2 or 3 months, when I feel bored with the few pieces I have for that season or when I see a new trend I want to try. It should also be noted that I haaaaaate malls and I don’t particularly like shopping with other people, so that limits how often I got shopping as well.

Sarah with gorgeous blogger Carly of Smaggle

What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow your minimalist example?
It’s lovely if you want to have a small, curated wardrobe but don’t force yourself to edit your closet down to nothing if you like having lots of choices and clothes!

If you’d like a bit more space in your closet, get rid of anything that doesn’t fit, can’t be paired with several other pieces, or doesn’t make you happy. I have a few pieces in my closet that I wear once or twice a year, but I genuinely enjoy seeing them there on their hangers, so I keep them.

  • Allie

    I love this post so very very much.

  • http://Www.considermelovely.com Rocquelle

    I love Yes and Yes, and think Sarah is just lovely!! Power to her for managing a small wardrobe so wonderfully!! Great feature Sally.

  • http://yummantra.blogspot.com Leslie

    Ahhh! I love hearing about people who only have a few things in their closets and don’t spend tons of money on those things. BUT! My questions is this: how do you keep a wardrobe of items from Target, Old Navy, and TJ Maxx looking good for any long(ish) period of time? Once I wash some of those items a few times I find that they start to look shabby. Should I be washing everything in delicate? Or do you buy clothes from those places so that you can replace them every year or two at a low cost? Thoughts?
    Thanks!

    • http://yesandyes.org Sarah Von

      I don’t have any particularly great secrets but I usually:
      1) turn stuff inside out if I’m feeling ambitious
      2) wash everything in cold water
      3) line dry everything
      4) use my little lint eater machine thing. a lot.

      • Litenarata

        I also wash everything in cold water and line dry everything that isn’t jeans or a t-shirt, and I have more than a few H&M and Target items that have lasted for years. I’m not laundry-ambitious so I only turn stuff inside out when I know it’s an item that tends to get deodorant all over the armpits.

        • http://lifeloveandfood24.blogspot.com/ Rose-Anne

          I can echo the tips here! A lot of my clothes are from Target and some are from Old Navy, Marshalls, etc. My main sources of yuck in my laundry are from cooking and sweating (it’s hot in Texas, y’all!). Since my clothes generally are not filthy on wash day, I can wash everything on the delicate cycle. I air-dry everything (because I’m cheap and my stuff dries fast), and yes, I do turn everything inside out.

          I get so much wear out of my clothes that my Target clothes actually WEAR OUT before they look shabby…at least, in my opinion :-) I kinda like clothes with a comfy, worn-in look. But I’m not sure if that’s the same thing as shabby…?

      • http://www.margitmae.com Ashley

        Sarah — what kind of lint eater machine do you have? I’ve been looking to put one on my Christmas list but most of the ones I find on Amazon have pretty negative reviews.

  • Allie

    Also. How did I not know about Smaggle? AWESOME.

  • http://www.ymmakeovers.com Dee

    Two of my favourite bloggers in one place = awesomeness!

  • http://notdeadyetstyle.blogspot.com/ Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    I love Sarah’s blog, and her closet! She does a fantastic job of creating fresh looks from just a few pieces – very inspiring!

  • http://modernsauce.blogspot.com ModernSauce

    I think I WEAR a minimal wardrobe but stockpile way more – I always gravitate to a few outfits each season anyway. You’ve inspired me to purge!

    (We’ll see how far I get with that plan…)

    Love you ladies together!

    • Anonymous

      I am right there with you! I have a stuffed-to-the-gills closet but wear very little. And in the last few years (since becoming s devoted reader of AP) I’ve been working on adding in accessories and investing in good shoes. Selectively. The funny thing is, before when I utilized more of what I owned no one noticed my clothing. Now, I get compliments all the time. I think there is much to be said for a well-curated wardrobe!

  • Lorena

    My hats off !
    WOW, life would be so much simpler with closet like that – she has accomplished it- it CAN be done !

  • poodletail

    I love you, Sarah! While I adore seeing others in colors, mixed prints, new shoes every day I’d rather stick to the basics + accessories for myself. Thanks, Sal, for showing another way to dress and feel pretty!

  • Chelsea

    Great post! I love how, even though your wardrobe is small, you still have a lot of colors and patterns. I have a medium sized wardrobe of solids, but I’m working on finding more patterns to tie it together. Thanks!

  • http://www.zahnzone.blogspot.com LisaZ

    Since becoming a fashion blog reader I’ve gone a little overboard with the amount of clothing I have (for me, it’s still way less than a lot of people). It’s been fun, but I’m so ready to get back to a more minimal amount of clothing. I’m a person who prefers my “comfort zone” clothes anyway and so tend to wear the same outfits over and over again, whether a favorite dress or two, or jeans and a t-shirt/sweater I love. Hopefully this post will inspire me to go through my wardrobe and de-clutter. It gets overwhelming!

    p.s. I do love the idea of having lots of accessories like scarves and tights rather than more clothes. I’m going to work on that one, too.

  • Tiffany

    Question for Sarah: Did you always have a smaller wardrobe, or was there a specific time you decided to cut down your closet? (If it was the latter… how did you conquer that?)

    • http://yesandyes.org Sarah Von

      Tiffany,

      I think I’ve always had a relatively small wardrobe! Shopping has never really been my thing and I’ve been traveling/moving around since I was 18 so there was never much chance to build up stuff.

      I’ve certainly winnowed down my wardrobe before – but then it’s usually just a matter of donating the stuff I haven’t worn in months or the stuff that doesn’t fit well :)

  • Joules

    “I’d say I have somewhere between 20-30 pieces, not including accessories. I have 4 or 5 pairs of shoes that I regularly wear, but I have approximately a gajillion scarves and bangle bracelets.”

    How is that minimialism? My husband literally has five shirts, three undershirts, three pairs of jeans and two pairs of boots. He doesn’t accessorize and he never looks bad. I have Asperger’s so I can tell you the exact content of my closet:

    12 non-work shirts
    6 skirts
    8 dresses
    3 pairs of boots
    2 pairs of wedges

    At no point in time have I ever considered myself a minimalist. In fact, I could do to streamline my clothing… half the skirts annoy me and I only keep them around because they go well with half the shirts.

    • Litenarata

      Um…I would definitely call that a minimalist wardrobe.

    • jii

      Joules, I think that both you and the fabulous guest blogger practice Minimalism in your closets, and I believe that it is measured on a continuum. Your practice may be seen as somewhat more extreme, more cut to the bone. I have no problem including your closet and the blogger’s closet under the umbrella term Minimalist. But, labels suck, generally.

  • http://chiralcraft.wordpress.com Laura

    What I wonder is what she actually wears everyday. (From a glance at the website it’s a more general one, and she doesn’t post her outfits?) I tried a capsule wardrobe challenge recently and found that although strictly speaking things didn’t not go together, neither did they look very good – there was always something about the proportion that was off, or they just looked irredeemably boring. Maybe this is because I’m not a big accessories person. I would love to see a “week in the life of” from someone with a minimal wardrobe.

    • http://yesandyes.org Sarah Von

      Hi Laura,

      While I wear different pieces every day, it’s pretty much always a variation on the theme of skinny jeans/boots/layering tank/top/bangle or scarf. And I dress pretty colorfully so it all sort of matches/clashes in a way I like ;)

  • http://viktoriasbookshelf.blogspot.com Viktoria

    I love this. I have this idea that when I´m WISE, I´ll have a wardrobe like that.

  • Jessica

    I love your sense of style, and love the idea of a general uniform with colorful variations day-to-day.

    Where is that gray and rainbow striped shirt you’re wearing from? I LOVE it!

    • http://yesandyes.org Sarah Von

      Marshalls!

  • http://misswhimsys.blogspot.com Miss. Whimsy

    I would love to know what ballet shoes you own (with the arch support)! Great inspiration to be more conscious of the clothing we buy and own.

    • http://yesandyes.org Sarah Von

      I swear by the Born b.o.c. flats :)

  • http://www.aminglingoftastes.com Julie

    That really was fascinating! Sarah, PLEASE, if you’ve found quality ballet flats with arch support, share the brand names! I have foot problems and am constantly looked for cute things that are very comfortable.

  • http://bikesandthecity.com/ meligrosa

    simplifying is beautiful :)

  • http://diadefolga.com Lu Monte

    I loved this interview so much! I find minimalism is a great thing and, although I have a huge wardrobe compared to Sarah, I’m in the final third of Project333 – living for 3 months with only 33 pieces (the rest of my wardrobe is “hidden”). Now it seems to me I have a lot of unnecessary clothes… definitly I don’t need to buy anything new to have variety.

    Also, I love scarves just like her. :)