You’ll hear the 80/20 rule being spruiked in any number of productivity forums. It relates to the fact that in most situations, 80% of the outcome and be achieved with 20% of the effort, and that final 20% often costs more than it’s worth.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a wedding. The pre-minimal me would have seized on the opportunity to go out and get a perfect ‘100%’ outfit, but I’ve matured since then and found that I could get a perfectly acceptable 80% version.

The thing that’s tricky about implementing the 80/20 rule in the workplace is that your 80% version is often not the same as your boss’ 80% version, or your client’s. With an outfit, no-one knows what the 100% version looks like and the percentage typically relates to how confident or ‘right’ you feel, so it’s an entirely self judged metric.

Just the newness of clothes adds a lot to this percentage, so it’s even more important to aim for 80% when 100% almost undoubtedly means making purchases.

Here’s how I got there.

I wore my ‘special occasion’ dress

I’ve decluttered many of my clothes, but I’ve always hung on to one outfit that will do for these kinds of special occasions. When this event came along, I didn’t even really need to shop my own wardrobe, I just reached for the dress that I bought to wear at fancy dos. I don’t really care that I’ve worn it many times, or that I bought it over three years ago.

It’s comfortable and I feel ok in it, but it’s not perfect. I’ve lost a bit of weight since I got it so it’s not figure-hugging and the shade doesn’t quite suit me, but it’s perfectly serviceable and good quality. I’m not going to chase that final 20% by shopping for a new dress, when my weight and style may change.

I bought a coat that I probably needed to buy anyway

Whenever I’m thinking about making a purchase, I put it onto my ‘someday’ or ‘maybe’ list depending on how certain I feel about how much I need it. I’d had a smart wool coat on the list for about two years. I’d been thinking I should get one as all my other jackets are outdoorsy/puffer styles that look a bit scruffy when I had to travel for business (see my post on wardrobe identities).

When the wedding invite said that the ceremony would be outdoors (in winter!) I gave myself permission to buy something that I not only needed for this occasion, but that would also serve me in my corporate lifestyle beyond this one day.

I splashed out on lipstick and a haircut

Instead of going the whole hog and buying a new outfit, I got that ‘new’ feeling by buying my first ever lipstick (I’ve always been a bit afraid of wearing color on my lips!) and getting my first post-Covid professional hair cut. These small things made me feel good on the day, and probably did a lot more for my look than buying a new dress would have.

It’s a good reminder that you can update an entire outfit just by changing up a small element.

I decluttered a pair of heels

For the day, I finally wore a pair of heels that I’d been umming and aahhing about decluttering for ages. They look gorgeous and they’re not too high, but I don’t wear heels enough to justify having this fourth pair and they are a size too big for me (I have to wear gel heel cushions to make them fit).

They looked great at the wedding and matched my dress, but after wearing them for the whole day and with a 20 minute walk to and from the venue, my feet were on fire. That made the decision for me – they didn’t meet my priority for comfort, whereas other heels I owned did, so they had to go.

After sitting in my wardrobe for nine years, only being worn about three times (including the wedding), I finally had the painful evidence I needed to make the decision to let them go.

How do you approach special occasions in a minimalist way? Any tips?