Minimalist Wardrobe – Essentials for Simpler Living

It’s not difficult to find ourselves surrounded by clothing, yet not be able to find something to wear.  If you’re ready to clear out your closet to save space and time, a minimalist wardrobe is just what you need.

A minimalist wardrobe is essential clothing pieces that match and last longer than “fast fashion”.  It’s just what you need for work and play, and can be made with a checklist or guide.  There are men’s and women’s, real-life to extreme, but there’s always something to wear without all the clutter.

Are you drowning in your closet, but never have anything to wear?  Do you really need that shirt in every color of the rainbow or the latest pants straight from the runway?

What is a Minimalist Wardrobe?

A minimalist wardrobe is one that consists mainly of the staple pieces.  It doesn’t contain any “fast fashion” or the ever popular here today-gone tomorrow pieces, bright colors or patterns, or tons of accessories.  A minimalist wardrobe focuses on function and comfort rather than the latest styles. 

The benefits of a minimalist wardrobe include:

  • Reduced decision-making fatigue.
  • Increased efficiency in getting dressed.
  • Saving time and money.
  • A more sustainable approach to fashion.

It encourages mindful consumption, promotes personal style over trends, and cultivates a sense of contentment with a smaller selection of well-loved clothes.

A rack of minimalist clothes - Minimalist Wardrobe - Gone Minimal
A rack of minimalist clothes

How to Create a Minimalist Wardrobe

Like minimalism, there are no rules for how to create a minimalist wardrobe-only suggestions.  According to researcher Katia Vladimirova of Institute of Sociological Research, University of Geneva, a minimalist wardrobe is about eliminating clutter and reducing the garments bought and owned.  Here we’re going to discuss two methods for creating a minimalist wardrobe.

 Minimalist Wardrobe Checklist

One method is a minimalist wardrobe checklist.  It starts with making a list of the items you need for work, exercise, play, lounging, etc.  Plan for 4-5 days of work (business attire or uniforms), 3-4 days of lounge and exercise (sports attire, hobby-specific if needed), and undergarments and socks for every day.  Complete the checklist and donate or sell the rest-then marvel at all the space you’ve created!

The number of each article of clothing is up to you, and is based upon how much space you have as well as how often you’re willing to do laundry.

 Minimalist Wardrobe Essentials

Another way to create a minimalist wardrobe is through the essentials.  Your essentials may vary depending on the climate where you live.  The essentials are tops for work/play/lounge, bottoms for work/play/lounge, undergarments and socks, and any accessories you need like scarves and jackets for cold weather.  You’ll want to use neutral or similar colors so all pieces are easily coordinated with each other and avoid flashy or complex patterns. 

When building a minimalist wardrobe, there are several things to have in mind to do it efficiently.

  1. How minimalist do you want to go?
  2. How much closet (or storage) space do you have (or need)?
  3. Work requirements-what kind of attire do you need and how much?
  4. Exercise-is there special attire for your chosen activities?
  5. Environment-any special needs for weather in your area (i.e. jackets/coats, snow boots)?
A woman organizing a minimal wardrobe - Minimalist Wardrobe - Gone Minimal
A woman organizing a minimal wardrobe

The number of each article of clothing is up to you, and is based upon how much space you have as well as how often you’re willing to do laundry.  If you don’t need specific attire for work, that saves some space!  As for exercise attire, for example, if you’re a cyclist you’ll want proper shorts/pants and tops for that-which takes some space. 

 Men’s Minimalist Wardrobe

The men’s minimalist wardrobe is defined by work, environment, and lifestyle.  He will need work attire, exercise attire, and casual clothing for everything else.  The basics for a men’s minimalist wardrobe include:

  1. 7 pairs of underwear
  2. 2-3 undershirts (if needed)
  3. 4-5 short sleeved shirts
  4. 4-5 long sleeved shirts
  5. Business attire (as needed)
  6. Sweater or jacket
  7. Exercise clothing
  8. 2-3 pairs of shorts
  9. 2-3 pairs of pants
  10. Running or cross-training shoes
  11. Work appropriate shoes
  12. 7 pairs of socks

You can always keep on hand more or less of any items above-it’s all dependent upon your needs.  Don’t need a sweater?  Take it out!  Need more shorts?  Go ahead!

A minimalist closet - Minimalist Wardrobe - Gone Minimal
A minimalist closet

Women’s Minimalist Wardrobe

The women’s minimalist wardrobe is also defined by work, environment, and lifestyle.  She will need the same as the man in terms of work, exercise, and casual items.  The basics for a women’s minimalist wardrobe include:

  1. 7 pairs of underwear
  2. 3-4 bras
  3. 3-4 sports bras
  4. 4-5 short sleeved shirts
  5. 4-5 long sleeved shirts
  6. Business attire (as needed)
  7. Sweater or jacket
  8. A “little black dress”
  9. Exercise clothing
  10. 2-3 pairs of shorts
  11. 2-3 pairs of pants
  12. 1-2 skirts or dresses (as needed)
  13. Running or cross-training shoes
  14. Work-appropriate shoes
  15. 4-5 pairs of socks

Again these numbers and articles are flexible, get what you need for your everyday life.

Maternity Minimalist Wardrobe

A maternity minimalist wardrobe can be achieved in a couple different ways.  There are special needs for maternity wear, most importantly comfort and flexibility.  Maternity clothing does not come cheap, so consider visiting a consignment shop or thrift shop for some essentials.  You can also use tools that allow you to wear regular clothing like belly bands rather than spending the money on clothing you’ll only wear for a few months!

Minimalist Wardrobe Styles

 Japanese Minimalist Wardrobe

The Japanese minimalist wardrobe is all about balance between needs and wants.  It’s not just a functional wardrobe, but a complement of the environment, colors and fabrics, and pieces that coordinate with each other.  You can have a few fun pieces above and beyond that capsule wardrobe!

Two women in Japanese dresses - Minimalist Wardrobe - Gone Minimal
Two women in Japanese dresses

Extreme Minimalist Wardrobe

For an extreme minimalist wardrobe, consider a capsule wardrobe.  This is built of only the essentials and in the absolute minimum number of pieces for daily life. 

Minimalist Work Wardrobe

The minimalist work wardrobe is created with comfortable work clothes in mind.  There are just enough tops and bottoms to coordinate for everyday office wear and still have a different outfit for a week or two.  The minimalist work wardrobe is great for people working in retail, a casual office, or anywhere that doesn’t require a suit and tie.

French Minimalist Wardrobe

The French minimalist wardrobe is trendy, comfortable, and classy with coordinating separates in mostly neutral colors.  There are pieces that are for daily wear, some for work, and put together can be suited for both. 

A woman wearing a simple red French beret - Minimalist Wardrobe - Gone Minimal
A woman wearing a simple red French beret

Real-Life Minimalist Wardrobe

The real-life minimalist wardrobe is specific to you and your actual needs.  This can also be seen as part of the sustainability movement, as a minimalist wardrobe reduces overconsumption according to researchers Heike Derwanz and Verena Strebinger of Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenberg. It may be a capsule, or it may be just a little less than what the average person has in their closet.  There are coordinating pieces, classic pieces, casual and dressy, with accessories to pair as well.  It’s pieces you would actually wear!

Minimalist Seasonal Wardrobe

Besides the staple pieces that get you through the temperate months, there will be changes in season that require a few extra things.  Let’s look at minimalist wardrobes for summer and winter.

Minimalist Summer Wardrobe

For a minimalist summer wardrobe, there are a few essential pieces you’ll want to add to your closet.  A few tank tops or sleeveless shirts for those really hot days, shorts for everyday wear, a bathing suit (or two), and sandals are really all you need. 

Minimalist Winter Wardrobe

When it comes to the minimalist winter wardrobe, there’s a great deal of variation in what you might actually need.  If you live in a warm climate, you may not need to add anything.  But if you live somewhere that actually participates in winter, you’ll need a few additional articles of clothing.  A good warm coat, a scarf and gloves, a couple of sweaters, long johns or thermal underwear, and boots should help you get through those cold, snowy days.

This video outlines helpful tips to create a minimalist wardrobe that is as versatile and intentional as possible.

Related Insights

How many shirts does a minimalist own?

A minimalist will own just as many shirts as they need.  Enough for casual, exercise, and work-appropriate without having to do laundry more than once per week.  There’s no set number because everyone has different needs, but there’s generally no shirt that goes unused.

How many pieces are in a minimalist wardrobe?

Pieces in a minimalist wardrobe vary by gender, occupation, and lifestyle practices.  There will usually be more tops than bottoms, everything will coordinate with each other, and everything is durable and long-lasting.  You want to have enough pieces on hand for work, casual, and exercise and not have to do laundry more often than you’re willing!

How do you maintain a minimalist wardrobe?

A minimalist wardrobe is maintained by rotating out pieces that no longer fit or are worn out.  Everything should coordinate well and be comfortable as well as lifestyle appropriate, and what doesn’t fit your lifestyle can be sold or donated. 

The Most and Least Necessary Wardrobe Items According To Real People

I asked friends and family to list 3 items in their wardrobe that they should remove. Then list 3 items that are absolute necessities. Here is what they shared and what I learned from the poll, and the percentages of their responses.

Necessities Times Selected
Work shirts7%
Work bottoms7%
Running shoes10%
Work shoes6%
Non-necessities Times Selected
Old pants18%
Anything that doesn’t fit21%
High school jacket9%
High heels9%
Business items13%
What real people think are the most and least necessary wardrobe item

Other Resources:

A minimalist wardrobe can meet the needs of anyone in the day-to-day.  For work, play, exercise, and hanging out with family, there’s really no need for a closet overflowing with clothing you don’t actually wear.  Take the time to clear out that closet, make some donations, and reclaim your space-you’ll love using a minimalist wardrobe!

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