Minimalism began as an art form in the 1960s and has since been become a lifestyle. You can apply minimalist to any part of life, but committing to a minimalist wardrobe is the easiest place to start.
Having more clothes often means we enjoy them less. We have a full closet, yet nothing to wear. Minimalists subscribe to the idea that by owning less, we free up the time, energy, and money to get the most out of life. As Marie Kondo would say, we should only wear clothing that “sparks joy.”
The more intentional we are about what we keep in our closets, the freer we are to seek fulfillment.
The Benefits of a Minimalist Wardrobe
Minimalism encourages us to invest in things we love, instead of accumulating things we like. When you have fewer options, you force yourself into a positive mindset. And we all know the feeling we get when we put on a special outfit. Imagine feeling that every day.
Throwing away your clothing may seem like a daunting task. These are just a few reasons why it’s worth it:
- Tidier closet: you no longer have to dig through items you don’t wear
- Increased confidence: when all your clothes are your best, you feel good no matter what you put on
- More time and money: being satisfied with your wardrobe means shopping less so your time and cash can be spent on more important things
- Positive environmental impact: 13 million tons of textile are thrown away each year in the U.S. alone. Much of this can be prevented by investing in long-wear clothing, instead of fast fashion
But getting rid of clothes provides more than a clean closet. It gives you confidence and time to pursue what really matters.
Minimalist Wardrobe vs Capsule Wardrobe
Capsule wardrobes are a subsection of minimalist wardrobes.
To make a capsule wardrobe, you limit how many items of clothing you buy each season and don’t purchase anything else. In its extremes, these closets have fewer than 10 items, including socks and shoes. Most capsule wardrobes have 30 items or less.
Capsule wardrobes require a lot of planning and determination. How many of us can make it a whole season without buying anything?
Minimalist wardrobes are more flexible. There is no set number of items. A minimalist closet could have 20 pieces or 200. What matters is you wear all of them – and they all bring you joy.
How to Start Your Minimalist Wardrobe
To establish your wardrobe, you will have to purge your closet. The hardest part is choosing what to keep. Here’s your step-by-step journey.
Step 1: Think About Your Daily Needs
Minimalism is as much about self-awareness as it is about practicality.
To build a sustainable closet, we have to ask who we are, what we do, and what our goals are. This helps us determine what we truly need.
Think about where you live and what you do. Living in a hot climate means you won’t need a lot of scarves and gloves; if it’s cold most of the time, a few shorts will do.
It’s also important to be realistic about your lifestyle.
Not big on partying? Toss the stilettos or the dozens of bow-ties you’ll never wear.
Never going to hit the gym? Donate your sports shoes to someone who will use them.
The caveat to this is that these things can still bring us joy. Maybe you don’t have a reason to wear a certain outfit regularly. That’s ok. If you look forward to events where you do, keep it.
As long as you’re enjoying your clothing more, you’re doing it right.
Step 2: Choose Your Style
After you’ve made practical considerations, it’s time to think about style. Think about your favorite clothes, as well as the ones you spent the most money on. Chances are, you already have a personal style – you may just not know it yet.
Do you lean towards whites or bold colors? Prints or solids? What is your favorite fabric?
What you feel most confident wearing? For some, this may be gym clothes; for others, a suit and tie. These outfits should be the anchor of your closet.
Step 3: Think About Laundry
Just because it fits your style, doesn’t mean it fits your life. If you can’t afford dry cleaning, don’t buy an expensive suit. Likewise, don’t buy sequins if you aren’t going to hand-wash.
Remember, minimalism is about making your life easier and more enjoyable. Find outfits that match both your aesthetic and your routine.
Step 4: Choose a Color Palette
Having a color palette increases the mixability of your pieces. This means most of your clothes will match and you’ll save time putting outfits together.
Picking a color theme goes hand in hand with choosing a style. Maybe bold colors give you more confidence or wearing all black makes you feel sleek.
Choose what makes you feel the most like yourself and stick to it.
Step 5: Find Creative Ways to Get Rid of Clothes
The number one rule: if it’s too big, too small, or reminds you of your ex, get rid of it. Once you choose a personal style and color palette, you’ll also want to get rid of clothes that don’t match.
To avoid tossing them into a landfill, use one of these alternatives.
- Donate: to places like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, or friends
- Sell them: many independently-owned thrift stores will give you money or store credit for well-preserved pieces. Take three items you aren’t going to use and exchange them for one that you will
- Swap parties: Gather clothes you no longer wear, throw them in a pile, and invite your friends to do the same. It’s a great excuse to get everyone together, and you can trade pieces of clothing over a bottle of wine
- Upcycling: this involves some crafting skill, but there are plenty of youtube videos about how to repurpose old t-shirts into bags, dresses, and even shoes. Take something you don’t use and make it into something you do
Regardless of how you choose to dispose of your clothes, make sure the ones left perfectly fit your lifestyle and aesthetic.
Deciding What to Buy
Once you have streamlined your closet, you’ll be more aware of what you add to it. When shopping for clothes, ask the following questions.
- Does it fit? Clothing should fit without being altered or altering yourself
- Does it match? Consider whether you own the pieces necessary to make an outfit
- Will I wear it? If you can’t envision an event where you would wear it, don’t buy it
- Do I have something similar? If it serves the same purpose as something you already have, you don’t need it
- How long will it last? Buying trendy clothes isn’t off-limits, but consider the lifespan of your purchase
- Does it spark joy? This is better phrased as, “Will it spark longterm joy?” If you feel differently at home than you did at the store, return it
Defining your style and color palette should take out most of the guesswork.
If you have doubts, give it a day and come back to it. You might spend more time thinking about your purchase, but this saves the hassle of getting rid of it later.
Minimalist Wardrobe Example
As we’ve discussed, the ideal closet will depend on what works for you and your style. But, having guidelines can be useful.
Here are examples of minimalist closets. These are for working professionals and do not include accessories.
- 5 Dress shirts
- 3 Slacks
- 7 Casual shirts
- 3 Casual pants
- 5 Shorts
- 2 Pairs of dress shoes
- 2 Athletic sneakers
- 1 Pair of casual shoes
- 3 Sweaters
- 1 Light jacket
- 1 Winter coat
- 2 Swim trunks
Total: 35 items
- 5 Blouses
- 3 Skirts or Slacks
- 5 Professional dresses
- 5 Casual dresses
- 7 Casual Tops
- 3 Casual pants
- 4 Shorts
- 2 Heels
- 3 Flats
- 2 Athletic sneakers
- 3 Cardigans
- 1 Light jacket
- 1 Winter coat
- 3 Swimsuits or bikinis
Total: 47 items
This may seem like little. But a closet with only 5 shirts, 3 pants, and 2 shoes can make 30 different outfits.
A mixable wardrobe allows for many combinations. This is why choosing a color palette and general style is essential.
How to Maintain a Minimalist Wardrobe
After perfecting your wardrobe, you may wonder how to keep it minimalist. Trends change and so will your sense of style. But keeping your closet fresh and stylish is easy with some planning.
In general, there are two categories of clothes:
- Long-term: coats, cocktail dresses, jeans, professional wear
- Short term: seasonal or flashy pieces
Choose long-term clothes carefully and invest in pieces that don’t go out of style. The classic example is a black cocktail dress for women or a tailored suit for men.
These are articles of clothing that you either wear almost every day (e.g. work clothes, coats) or that you only use for special occasions (e.g. wedding outfits). Either way, you want these to showcase your best style.
On the other hand, seasonal items (e.g. winter hats or swimsuits) and trendy pieces (e.g. loud prints or neons) are short term investments that should be cycled out.
This is one area where a capsule strategy is beneficial. Make a commitment to having a set number of trendy pieces (5 or less), and trade them out every season.
You’ll still have the variation of a regular closet, without having too much at once.
It’s possible to maintain an exciting minimalist wardrobe if you are intentional about how you choose and get rid of your clothes. And as you define your style and find clothes you love, you won’t want to change clothes as often.
Becoming more satisfied with our closets allows us to grow in other areas of life. By only owning clothes you want to wear, we feel more confident and organized.
You’re a lot happier with less.