One of the contradictions of my life is the fact that while I delight in staring at beautiful things all day and attempt to add items to my closet in what my husband describes as a “non-stop barrage,” I also really admire minimalism. Who hasn’t read all those articles about how chic Parisian ladies only wear like, 10 different items of clothing which they rotate on end – but each piece cost a zillion dollars and lasts forever? It’s such an alluring idea – to simplify your life and your budget – yet so difficult in execution, at least for me.
That’s why I adore today’s interview – with the beautiful Dawn Michelle. Dawn Michelle writes the blog Minimalist Beauty but as you will soon discover, is a minimalist in multiple areas of her life. She’s also kind, thoughtful, and full of wonderful guidance on achieving a streamlined lifestyle. Enjoy meeting Dawn Michelle!
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
Hi! I’m Dawn Michelle and very excited to be apart of the Feather Factor community. I’m a professional dancer, jewelry designer, and the creator of Minimalist Beauty. I currently reside in Los Angeles, California, but I grew up back east in Virginia.
Can you share a little bit of your story, and what inspired you to go “minimalist”?
I’ve always had minimalist tendencies growing up, but over two and a half years ago I was drawn to a minimalist lifestyle to finally declutter my home after getting married and better my financial situation. When my now husband and I moved in together, we brought all of our things with us. We did not need 75% of it, yet getting accustomed to living together was more important to me at the time. After we were married my husband was completely open to releasing more and more things. He also gave me free reign to rearrange the furniture weekly. He was patient with a few bad set ups before we settled with the layout we love now.
Also during that time I had $20,000 in debt and I was determined to not only pay it back, but to change my relationship with consumerism. I spent much of my free time at the mall to “window shop.” I wanted to be inspired by the latest trends and see the latest beauty products. I was an emotional and recreational shopper.
I knew that in order for me to have the financial freedom and peace of mind that I desired, I would have to not only change my lifestyle, but form new thoughts and beliefs around it. Believing that I am worthy of abundance helped financially, and knowing that I am enough just as I am helped me emotionally with living with less. My minimalist lifestyle has been the result of my new beliefs.
You mention that you wanted to pay off your debt. Can you share how you did that and what your approach was? What were some of your biggest savings?
I actually paid off $20,000 in debt which included two credit cards and my car note in about a year and a half. When I looked at how I was spending my money prior, so much of it was going towards skin care, hair care, makeup, and clothing. Although I am in an industry where your look is a big part of your job, I was determined to find easier methods to create that same beauty without spending so much money on it. Creating almost all of my beauty products, simplifying my wardrobe, and shopping with a clear eco-friendly intention has really changed my life.
Does minimalism in your life extend past beauty and fashion? Where does it go?
My definition of a minimalist lifestyle is decluttering, living with less, using non-toxic beauty and cleaning products, and creating an overall eco-friendly lifestyle that supports the planet. Although Minimalist Beauty provides a lot of information on DIY beauty products, organic cosmetics, and eco fashion, living a minimalist lifestyle is also a big topic. It has allowed me to appreciate what I have and focus more on pursuing my dreams.
Any areas where you indulge – where you are deliberately not minimalist?
I can honestly confess to owning a few more herbs, natural oils, butters, and clays than I can use up within a few months time. Because I make so many of my own cosmetics, I order ingredients in bulk. These ingredients can last me for six months or more depending on what I purchase and what I make. It saves me so much money to make my own beauty products, yet consumes an entire kitchen cabinet.
I loved your thoughts on minimalist fashion. Can you share some of your most effective tips and elements of a minimalist wardrobe?
The most important element of any minimalist wardrobe is to know your own personal style. When I first started studying capsule wardrobes, I started purchasing classic trousers, blazers, pumps, and other basics which really weren’t me. Once I really started understanding my own style the classic trousers were replaced by high waisted jeans, I gave away my wool blazers for a vintage leather jacket, classic pumps became obsolete to heeled booties or t-strap heels, and the basics became organic cotton tees versus traditional button ups. I had to learn to translate the basic capsule wardrobe to my unique lifestyle and preferences.
To declutter my closet, I’ve found it extremely helpful to take everything out to see exactly what I own. I narrow down duplicates, weathered pieces, and those items that I haven’t worn in six months. The six month rule works well with most anything. You probably won’t wear it or use it anyway, so allow someone else to.
Certain items don’t apply to this six month rule such as my winter jacket which I did not wear once this winter since Los Angeles had a warmer winter than usual. I offer a few examples of sample wardrobe lists on Minimalist Beauty with detailed descriptions of how I pare down my wardrobe. I usually declutter my wardrobe twice a year. Determining what your capsule wardrobe looks like helps you know what you may need to shop for and also keeps you from purchasing more duplicates of what you already have.
Having a “uniform” for each season make it easier to get dressed in the morning. In the fall and winter I tend to live in leggings, boots, tunic sweaters, and my leather jacket. It always looks pulled together and works well with my lifestyle of dance classes, auditions, etc. In the spring and summer I love wearing dresses with a light jacket if it’s chilly. I’ll wear the same dress with sandals, tennis shoes, or booties. I’ll change my shoes and accessories to have a completely new look.
I try to purchase pieces that will give me a lot of flexibility for unique styling and for different occasions. Although trendy disposable clothing can be fun to buy in the moment, it is better to invest in quality pieces that will last and that you will love for years to come. Accessories are one of the best ways to touch on the trends without having to remodel your entire wardrobe.
Are there famous women that you think are great examples of minimalist fashion/wardrobe?
I would not consider most celebrities minimalists in terms of fashion and style. If they were to wear the same clothing items too many times the tabloids would have one more negative thing to write about. I do feel that a few celebrities are timeless beauties though. Three that I admire are Amel Larrieux, Sade, and Audrey Tautou.
What are some of the items of your wardrobe that you wear the most, and that you love the most?
I love vintage pieces. Most of my wardrobe is thrifted because it is easier on my wallet and the environment. When I was in San Francisco this past October I found this amazing black vintage leather jacket from the 80’s. I pretty much wore that jacket every day. I also love my 18th Amendment and Chip & Pepper high waisted jeans, both thrifted as well, and my Asics Onitsuka Tiger Tokyo high tops which were bought new.
Can you share some tips for achieving minimalist beauty? What should a beginner start with, so it isn’t too intimidating?
Beauty doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or mean owning enough clothing for a few women combined. You can achieve the comfort, glamour, and healthy beauty with a bit more planning and a lot less spending. It is a freedom that most don’t believe exists.
Out of all of the many organic cosmetics that I’ve tried when I was working in cosmetic retail and on my own, raw honey has been the best facial cleanser I’ve ever used. Instead of using a product that only contains a small portion of a special ingredient, for example rosehip seed oil, I prefer to buy that same oil in bulk and use it in its natural concentrated form. I then do not have to worry about toxic chemical ingredients or preservatives. Becoming aware of the ingredients in cosmetics, both positive and negative, help you become a powerful conscious consumer. With that knowledge it is easier to not buy into beauty marketing and get exactly what you really need.
I don’t wear even half as much makeup as I used to working in cosmetic retail. Now I just save those ultra glam makeup moments for the stage. My everyday makeup look is a natural tinted moisturizer, bronzer, mascara, and lip gloss. To spice things up I’ll add black liquid liner on the top lash line, and on those sassy occasions give me red lipstick and I’m good.
For hair care I keep it really simple. I have curly hair so I use conditioner to cleanse my hair and for a leave-in along with a natural styling gel and natural oils. I am growing my hair long. I’ve been researching hair care from women with all hair types to learn as much as I can. Not using heat or chemical perms/color has truly made a difference.
Can you share some life advice that you follow?
I count my blessings every day especially when I notice myself falling far from positivity. Doing what I love, having running water, farmer’s markets, safe living conditions, and a loving family with amazing friends is such a blessing!
Finally – please share something surprising about yourself!
I love fairies!
After this interview I had a major girl crush on Dawn Michelle – how can you not? She’s everything minimalist that I’d love to be and that friend you’d ask for advice when you know deep down that you’re really supposed to do the right thing (I have other friends for when I want to hear the wrong/evil answer). Thank you Dawn Michelle for taking the time to share some of your learnings and wisdom with us all today – and for more, check out her blog Minimalist Beauty.