The rise of the minimalist wardrobe

The overabundance of cheap clothes means that many of us use only 20% of the garments in our wardrobes. Meanwhile, the clothing industry wreaks havoc on our fellow humans and on the planet. But it didn’t use to be like this. Today’s hyper-paced shopping and discarding is a relatively new phenomenon. And as the fashion business battles increasing sustainability problems, we may soon have to revert back to the norm.

One way of tackling overconsumption is by reducing what you wear. Outside of uniformed jobs, being exempt from the need to vary your look is a luxury mainly afforded to men, and the habit of wearing an identical outfit every day is embraced almost solely by men, be that Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs or almost every suit-wearing office worker in the world.

Jennifer Logan lives with her husband and two children in California, where she works as an osteopath. Around 10 years ago, after she and a friend started talking about how great it would be to have a uniform in order not to have to think about what to wear, she made a wool dress out of second-hand jumpers and wore it almost every day – until it shrunk in the wash.

Back to wearing clothes in a more usual way, Logan battled with decision fatigue. Finally, she bought a new dress: black, knee-length, sleeveless. Three years later, it’s still practically the only garment she uses. “I wear it for everything,” Logan tells BBC Culture. “Date night… Everything I ever do. I am wearing it to a work conference this week.” She only dons alternative wear, like her pyjamas or sweatshirt and sweatpants borrowed from her daughter, for messy cleaning or for ceramics class.

Logan has built her wardrobe around her dress. She sometimes adds merino leggings or, if it’s cold, trousers or a sleeved top. Before, she would spend most days in jeans and a T-shirt, but now, she says, she always feels dressed up. And no-one seems to notice it’s the same dress.

Quality not quantity

Tackling overconsumption by just reducing what you wear is not without complications. Fashion has a function, and what we chose to wear any given day tells the world who we are. And even though Logan dresses her garment up or down by adding accessories, she also says she has recently begun feeling a little tired of wearing black every day and is now considering swapping her black dress for one of colour.

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