How to Build a Minimalist Wardrobe

How to Build a Minimalist Wardrobe

Minimalism is more than a movement; it’s a lifestyle. The minimalist lifestyle is less about deprivation and more about exchanging excess for what you really need. Minimalism has become fashionable in a way that is beyond mere trendiness. Especially among those who are conscious of sustainability and slow fashion, minimalism is becoming increasingly the chosen approach to people’s life. This includes their wardrobes. If you have played with the idea of a minimalist wardrobe, then perhaps it’s time to give it a try and see if the minimalist approach to your clothes is right for you.

If you’re tired of a closet that feels less like a wardrobe and more like a black hole, cluttered with passé fashion trends, ghosts of the styles of countless seasons past, fast-fashion mistakes, long-forgotten pieces you never wear, and the same new sweater over and over again, then maybe it’s time to try a minimalist wardrobe.

What Is a Minimalist Wardrobe

A minimalist wardrobe strips your wardrobe down to the bare essentials. Rather than being stuffed and overflowing with clothing excess, it is focused instead on what is central to your style and what you need day to day and seasonally. Back to the bare essentials has been a constant theme this year in all areas of life, so perhaps your wardrobe could also use some reevaluation. The truth is, according to minimalist wardrobe devotees, we don’t need that much clothing to keep us feeling stylish, comfortable, and functional. When we are more intentional with the clothes we choose to keep in our closets, we are freer to appreciate what we already own. Keeping clothes that we really love and need — like your well-made cashmere turtleneck — rather than clothes we just like and think we may need to wear one day, inspires a sense of deep appreciation, interest, and simplicity to what we have. Minimalist wardrobes are flexible, meaning there is no limit to how much clothing you can have. The minimalism of it lies in focusing less on what we want and more on what we need, and also in valuing what we love rather than accumulating clothing we feel less passionate about.

The Benefits of a Minimalist Wardrobe

The minimalist wardrobe comes with a lot of benefits. Obviously, buying less clothing helps you save on money. A useful way to approach a minimalist wardrobe is to not only limit the number of pieces you have but also how much you’re allowed to buy. Maybe you’ll find you’ll have the extra savings to take that beach vacation next year, so don’t give away all your swimsuits just yet! 

A minimalist wardrobe also allows you to hone in on and develop your personal style. When you’re not rushing to buy every fashion trend, you’ll appreciate and better understand your style and what clothing items best define your unique look. Having a minimalist wardrobe also gives us the opportunity to cherish everything in our closets. When we have piles of clothes, it often means we enjoy them less. One of the most fulfilling benefits of the minimalist wardrobe is that we get to inspire more joy in our lives through really loving our wardrobe. 

Steps to Build a Minimalist Wardrobe

Various authorities on minimalist wardrobes offer different steps and definitions of how to build a minimalist wardrobe and what exactly that means. Read on for our own experience in successfully building a minimalist wardrobe. Out with the old, and in with the new!

Step 1: Take Stock of Your Inventory

This first step will likely be the hardest and most intimidating. After all, no one wants to willingly venture into the black hole that is your closet. Start by pulling everything out of your closet. Put your clothes somewhere temporarily where they are easy to sort. Then go through everything piece by piece and take stock of what you have. Chances are there’s a lot there to go through, so take your time sorting and putting pieces in appropriate piles. It is also helpful to organize by season. Putting summer dresses in a separate pile from other dresses will be helpful as you evaluate what you really need. Make as many piles as you need to help you get a proper inventory of your clothes.

As you are doing your initial inventory, it is good to already start making a pile to “give away.” If you have nicer items that are possibly more valuable, you can even consider trying to sell them at second-hand consignment shops or online. This initial purge will help you already feel lighter and more focused on the more central elements of your wardrobe. Additionally, giving away or donating clothes you don’t need or wear very often will help those who don’t have the things they need. This is good for everyone.

Step 2: Think About Your Daily Needs

Now it’s time to start thinking about your daily needs. Think about what you need to wear to work, at home, and while carrying out day-to-day activities. You may also have different needs for the work week versus the weekend. Think also about how your needs change with the seasons. Your work wardrobe probably changes through the seasons. For example, you may trade your sweater dress for a cotton dress come May. As you do another round of sorting through your clothes, make piles according to your needs and seasons. Move anything that you don’t need, doesn’t fit into your piles, or don’t love to the "give away" pile. 

Step 3: Define Your Style

As you are sorting your clothes, you may move to the mirror, holding a piece in front of you and asking yourself, “Is this me?” When you have so many clothes, sometimes your personal style can get diluted by the “kind of me” items we don’t need. The best way to chisel away the excess to access your true style is to keep sifting through your clothes and putting to the side those pieces that you don’t truly love or that don’t really fit your look. As you do this, you’ll likely learn more and more about what your personal style really is. You do have a style, whether you know it yet or not, and this is a great way to familiarize yourself with what you love and what you feel confident wearing.

Alternatively, think about the elements you already know that define your style. Perhaps you wear a lot of white, prefer black dresses over colorful prints, or love the boho-chic look. If you already know these things about yourself, then weed out the pieces that you don’t need or that don’t fit your style. Make both practical decisions and style-based decisions. 

Step 4: Think About Laundry

Minimalism is about making your life easier and more enjoyable. If you have to spend time and money dry cleaning or special washing certain items, then maybe they’re not for you. When we minimize our closets, we also minimize the time we spend tending to them. This includes shopping, dressing, organizing, and doing laundry. On the other hand, when thinking about laundry, you want to be sure that while you are doing your laundry or sending your clothes off to get cleaned, that you still have what you need on hand. Keeping several pairs of women’s jeans will give you a selection of jeans to cycle through, even if you’ve put your other jeans in the wash. 

Step 5: Build Out Your Capsule Collection

Now it’s time to start building your capsule collection. Start with the basics: jeans, underwear, basics like women’s long sleeve tops, tank tops, women's sweaters, dresses, and skirts. Build from the bottom up by slowly selecting a few items from each category and building from there until you feel like you’ve hit your capacity. Start with five of each item and go from there to see what feels best to you. If you have gotten rid of a lot of well-loved sweaters and are planning to buy new ones, then perhaps start your capsule sweater collection from scratch. When building your capsule collection, don’t forget seasonal needs, work clothes, and other important considerations. Choose items that will last, express your style, and meet your needs. Be sure these items are ones that you love and know you will wear. You’ll be left with a minimalist capsule wardrobe that reflects your needs and style. While it is ideal to not have to buy new things, you also may want to buy what you need to properly build your capsule collection for each section.

If switching to a minimalist wardrobe still feels intimidating, simply start by getting rid of the items you never wear or don’t use. See how you feel. The beauty of the minimalist wardrobe is you can start little by little to minimize your wardrobe and get down to the bare basics at a pace that feels good to you. Who knows, perhaps it will go well, and you’ll be happily flaunting a fashionable minimalist wardrobe in no time.


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