Dress With Less: How to Style a T-Shirt for 5 Different Occasions
If you’ve ever opened your closet and thought “I have nothing to wear” while looking at countless pieces of clothing, know you’re not alone. I’ve said this phrase way too many times. And although logically I was aware of the paradox, emotionally, I truly felt like my wardrobe had nothing in it for me.
I’ve learned to understand that this overwhelming feeling usually means 2 things: 1) My closet needs to be decluttered and 2) I need to reevaluate my shopping habits.
We’re used to chasing the latest fashion trends and never missing a sale, but what often ends up happening is wardrobes filled with items that rarely see the sunlight. By decluttering your space and choosing to only keep the things you truly want to wear, you’ll feel like you’ve actually ended up with more options than before.
In this blog article, we’ll talk about dressing with less, capsule wardrobes, and how to style a t-shirt for several occasions!
Why dress with less?
Ever since the release of Marie Kondo’s decluttering guide The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, more and more people have started to pay attention to the things they buy and hold on to.
In a world of fast fashion and bazillion trends changing by day, it might feel overwhelming to keep up. So the idea of being happier just by buying less is appealing to many.
I’m currently reading Kondo’s book. Yes, her folding technique is revolutionary, but I’m more fascinated by the idea of having space and energy to be more. I used to think that a stuffed closet is the key to looking good. Now, I’m more drawn to the concept that it’s not how much you have, but what you have.
Dressing with less is about quality over quantity and putting practicality and personal style first.
Having a minimalist approach to your wardrobe can help you find abundance in what you already have and leave a positive impact on your wallet and the environment.
The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply and produces 10% of all carbon emissions. When we buy less garments that are of high quality, we help reduce the global waste by extending the life cycle of our clothing. And having items that will last over seasons, years, and even decades makes it easier to dress with less and create a sustainable capsule wardrobe.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
One term every dressing with less enthusiast should be familiar with is “capsule wardrobe”. In the 1970’s, author and wardrobe consultant Susie Faux first coined the term by defining it as a collection of a few essential items that can be mixed & matched and worn at any occasion. But only in 1985, when fashion designer Donna Karen released the first capsule collection “Seven Easy Pieces”, the term became popular.
The fashion industry uses capsule collections to create a sense of exclusivity. But these concise, timeless wardrobes are also about personal style and a way of living. In fact, many capsule wardrobe enthusiasts got into the game because they were tired of the consumerist culture tricking them into believing that they must own everything.
As fashion blogger Caroline Joy of Unfancy says:
“A capsule wardrobe represents more time + more money + more energy for the things in life that really matter.“
That idea alone is what draws people to this type of living. Deciding to dress with less is like giving yourself permission to focus on what you like and need.
What does a capsule wardrobe consist of?
As with many other concepts in the conscious lifestyle space, there is no one universal answer to this question. Some sources say you should narrow your closet down to 50 pieces, some say 30, some include accessories, some don’t. In reality, it’s not so much about the number, as it is about understanding what you actually need.
The first step is to establish your base wardrobe—this includes clothing that you will need for specific occasions such as sleeping, working out, etc.
You can then move on to create the actual capsule wardrobe, which should serve you for at least 1 season (3 months). Start by Identifying your primary outfit categories, for example; work, casual, going out, and active. Choose these by evaluating your own lifestyle and understanding what’s relevant to you.
Once you’ve identified your primary outfit categories, select your tops, bottoms, and shoes. You can come up with your own number, whether that’s 15-9-9, 10-6-6, 9-5-5, or anything else. And voilà, you have created your own capsule collection!
Pro tip: When choosing your clothes, think about their usefulness in each of your categories and how well you could pair it with other pieces in your capsule wardrobe. This collection should serve you for a whole season (3 months).
There are many items you can put in your capsule wardrobe. But the one that’s bound to be there almost by law is a t-shirt.
How to style a t-shirt for 5 different occasions
Many fashion enthusiasts worry about switching to a more minimalist wardrobe because they fear that by dressing with less, their outfits might look repetitive. That’s not the case!
To help you imagine how one piece of clothing can become unrecognizable in different combos, we’re showcasing a classic wardrobe essential—the t-shirt. So take a look at how you can create several different looks with the same base!
Casual day out
One of the most popular ways to wear a t-shirt is with pants. For a relaxed and easy look, combine the shirt with some mom or boyfriend jeans and pair it with your favorite sneakers. If you’re more into polished looks, swap the jeans for light cotton pants and choose sandals or boots as your footwear.
Pro styling tip: Tuck the t-shirt in your pants to elevate the look and accentuate the waist.
With athleisure, it’s all about the layers. Your t-shirt is the basis of the look, and different accessories and other tops add that extra touch. For a warm summer day, combine your shirt with biker shorts or leggings and tie a light sweater around your shoulders. This will not only act as a great style element, but will also keep you warm in case it gets a little chilly.
Adding some accessories can help you elevate your t-shirt game and create many different looks from the same items. For example, if headwear is your jam, choose a classic dad hat or a bucket hat. If you’re a bag person, style your t-shirt with a backpack or a fanny pack.
Pro styling tip: Wear a fanny pack or a shoulder bag over your chest to add some pizzazz to your athleisure look. This will create a new look out of the same shirt!
Whoever said that a t-shirt is too simple for a “going out” look just hadn’t met the right t-shirt. To dress up for a special occasion, combine your top with light pants or satin skirt—this will give your outfit a festive feeling. For a more polished look, you can opt for a tight fit shirt and add a clutch or an over the shoulder bag.
A great way to transform a regular t-shirt into a party piece is to tie it in a knot. Gather the lower end of the fabric in your hands, twist it until it looks like a rope, wrap it around your fingers, and secure it with a rubber band. You can do a middle knot, side knot, or even create a crop-top!
Pro styling tip: Tie the t-shirt into a knot to give it a more fun and refreshing look!
Work attire is often associated with simple cuts, which is why t-shirts are a great base layer to pair with more formal clothing. Depending on the bottoms you choose, you can tuck in the whole shirt, the front, or leave it as it is. Either way, as long as you style it with blazers, smart trousers, or pencil skirts, your t-shirt work attire is guaranteed to look professional.
Pro styling tip: When in doubt, wear a blazer! This combo will immediately make your outfit look more formal
The great thing about finding your staple t-shirt is that you can wear it at any setting, even when working out. Similarly to athleisure, your activewear look can be all about layers, matching, and expressing your own style.
Using your t-shirt for workouts can make it more prone to tearing or losing its form due to excessive washing. To avoid this, make sure to always turn your tee inside out and use only cold water. When possible, skip the washing machine and wash it with your hands. This will not only prolong the life of your favorite tee, but will also be more earth-friendly. To learn more about the care of your garments check out our ABC’s of garment care.
Pro Styling tip: Tie your t-shirt in a knot, tuck it in, or leave it as it is—this occasion is all about feeling comfortable.
How to find your favorite t-shirt
One of the key rules to dressing with less is finding garments that you can mix and use for different occasions and outfits. Finding the right type of t-shirt that represents you and your style is crucial because it’ll give you options to create outfits and looks using the same base.
There are 3 main things you should take into account:
The materials used most widely are cotton and polyester. Cotton is a natural fiber and is known for its comfort and breathability, polyester on the other hand is more stretchy and less prone to losing its shape after lots of wearing and washing.
If you want to learn more about the differences between these fabrics, check out our guide to cotton, polyester, and blended fabrics.
Note, that the thicker the material of your shirt, the heavier and more durable it will be. However, lighter material shirts are more flexible, less wrinkly, and a great option for hot summer days.
There are 3 main fits you can choose from—slim, classic, and boxy (also known as baggy or oversized).
A slim fit t-shirt hugs the body and has tight sleeves. A classic cut has well-fitted shoulders and usually hangs straight, just below the waist. Lastly, the boxy t-shirt has a wider body with longer sleeves and a dropped shoulder.
There is no one size fits all. All 3 cuts can be worn with different styles. It’s up to you to choose which t-shirt makes you feel and look the best.
3. Design & printing
When creating t-shirt designs, it’s important to know your style end goal. If you’re more into minimalist quotes or small emblems, embroidered shirts might be right up your alley. If you like your tees colorful, eccentric, and completely unique, opt for the all-over print option, where you can use the entire shirt as your canvas. But if you’re somewhere in the middle, choose direct to garment (DTG) printing. This technique offers a lot of color options—you can print detailed designs and photorealistic images with almost no color limitations.
I hope this article inspired you to dress with less and create a wardrobe that represents you and your style. Now it’s time to declutter and look for those staples you can combine with everything!
Ready to start designing your new favorite t-shirt?
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