The Minimalist Wardrobe (aka The 10-Item Wardrobe)

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is how to create a minimalist wardrobe; and boy, do I love to answer it! I devoted an entire chapter of my book, The Joy of Less, to the topic; however, some readers have expressed the desire to see my tips in action.

Ask, and you shall receive –- in this post, I’ll illustrate some key strategies using items straight from my own closet.

(Men, don’t stop reading; although the clothes pictured are my own, the tips are gender-inclusive!)

What I’ve done is selected my core, or capsule wardrobe: ten items that can get me through the majority of my daily activities, in every season.

I didn’t include socks and unmentionables (we’ll take those as a given), or exercise/specialty wear (in other words, I don’t go hiking in my little black dress).

Furthermore, these items are particularly tailored to my urban, business-casual lifestyle, and work from office to dinner to weekend. If I were a construction worker or cabaret singer, my choices would be entirely different.

Okay, here we go — pictured below is my 10-Item Wardrobe:

Miss Minimalist's 10 Item Wardrobe

Miss Minimalist's 10-Item Wardrobe

First row: burgundy sleeveless top, plum ¾-sleeve top, slate blue long-sleeve top, black cardigan, black dress.

Second row: black skirt, black pants, black coat, black bag, black ballet shoes.

(Wow, you guys were right –- this is a lot more fun with photos!)

So what can you learn from my minimalist wardrobe? Here’s a brief overview of some of the techniques I elaborate upon in my book:

1. Choose a base color. Pick a neutral like black, brown, navy, or khaki for your “foundation” pieces (like pants, skirts, and suits). As you can see, mine is black –- it works with my skin tone, travels well, and hides stains brilliantly (important if you spend a lot of time on-the-go).

2. Choose accent colors. Select a handful of shades that flatter you, and complement your base. I’ve chosen burgundy, plum, and slate blue, but you have a world of pastels, earth tones, primaries, and jewel tones at your disposal.

3. Limit accessories to one color. My bag and shoes are both black; they go with each other, and everything in my closet. I love not needing footwear and handbags in multiple colors!

4. Dress in layers. I’m accustomed to a four-season climate, hence I’ve included everything from a sleeveless top to a winter coat. A cardigan is perfect for those temperatures in between. I find layers to offer much more versatility than heavy sweaters or season-specific clothes.

5. Mix and match. Needless to say, everything in your capsule wardrobe should go with everything else. You should be able to get dressed with your eyes closed, and still look fabulous!

6. Dress up and dress down. You’ll notice that there isn’t anything overly formal or casual about my ten items –- no sequins or sweatpants here. I can wear any of these tops, for example, to the grocery store or a cocktail party. The same goes for my bag, my shoes, and pretty much everything else.

7. Choose classic styles. Avoid anything that’s too trendy or dated, or that calls attention to the outfit rather than you. I stick to simple, timeless silhouettes: my pants are straight-leg, my skirt is A-line, and my dress is a classic shift.

8. Make sure it fits. When you have a minimalist wardrobe, no item can hang around waiting for you to diet into it -– everything should fit now. A little trick: choose forgiving fabrics with a little bit of stretch, to accommodate minor weight fluctuations.

9. Make sure it flatters. Be honest here –- you know in your heart whether or not you look good in skinny jeans, cropped tops, or muumuus. Stick to the items that complement your figure, and you’ll always feel confident in your clothes.

10. The feel-good test. When considering an outfit, question whether you’d feel comfortable being photographed, or running into your ex, while wearing it. Sure, that may sound a little shallow; but pride in your appearance goes a long way towards minimizing your closet.

Well, I hope you had as much fun reading this post as I had writing it! I’ll be exploring some of the specific items in-depth as part of my 100 Possessions series (I’ve already covered my black dress and black bag).

But for now, I’d love to hear about your capsule wardrobe: if you had to discard everything but ten essentials, what would they be?

162 comments to The Minimalist Wardrobe (aka The 10-Item Wardrobe)

  • Karen (Scotland)

    Oh, man, that made me laugh – “running into your ex”! Perfect way to decide if you should keep some clothing. My last “ex” was from when I was 16 (more than half a lifetime ago!) but I’d still hate him to see me looking bad.
    Shallow indeed but an effective way to look at it.
    Your wardrobe makes me jealous – I’m in post-baby intermediate clothing at the moment and have three boxes mocking me from above my wardrobe. I have until the end of 2011 and then they are o-u-t if I still don’t fit into them. Not exactly minimalist, but realistic for this stage in my life.
    Karen (Scotland)

  • I think another important tip about having a minimalist wardrobe is to treat our clothes well. Correct and moderate laundering can make a piece of clothing last years instead of months. That way we don’t have to constantly shop for replacements!

  • ns

    a purse is not part of a wardrobe unless you’re using it only as a fashion accessory. so really you have only 9 pieces. though technically 8. both shoes & purses are things we pretty much have to have. if i had my choice i wouldnt have a purse. thats not going to happen so its a necessity not a clothing item.

  • Thanks, Francine, for the specific details. Right now, I know I have too many clothes but am in between jobs (possibly careers, too) right now so not sure what I’d like to keep yet. But this is very helpful.

  • Fawn

    Francine, I want shopping details on your coat. That is, where can I get one like it?

    • miss minimalist

      I purchased the coat from REI two years ago (REI brand). I’d been looking for an all-weather winter coat with a nice, tailored shape for ages; it’s fleece-lined, so quite warm as well.

  • sami

    No jewelry, scarves or other accessories? Does anyone ever comment or give you looks?

  • Katy

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! I have been wondering about a breakdown in wardrobe since I started following the minimalist world. Now I really want to go home and clean out my closet! Guess it will have to wait until the end of the work day….

    Thank you again so very much for this post! So much good information…and the pictures help a ton! :)

  • eva

    Do you live in a mild climate? This is the thing that trips me up–I need specialized clothing to deal with the extreme weather in my area, in winter as cold as -15F/-20C and in summer it can be around 100F/30C. And it does precipitate. Not every day, but it means I need boots for snow and ice as well as rain and mud and sandals as well as heavy coats and sun hats. Shirts that work for one season are totally inappropriate for the next.

    Right now my 1-season wardrobe is about 25 items. But I need two separate wardrobes, and some things that work in between…maybe that’s just the way it is but it makes me crazy.

    But, I do like it here:)

    • miss minimalist

      Yes, I guess London would be considered mild compared to your climate! And I can’t wear heavy sweaters because the Tube is a sauna in the winter (as are the shops and office buildings).

      • eva

        Commercial artificial climate control sucks. Here, you basically have to half-undress when you enter a building, carry your extra clothes around as you shop, then re-dress before leaving–it’s funny to watch but a very normal routine for everyone.

        • Abby

          where do you live? when you say -15 – 100 degrees, do you mean the record low and record high, or do you experience these extremes both regularly?

          • eva

            I live in the northeast US. Probably more record–but once or twice a season isn’t so unusual, it makes the newspaper but it isn’t an unknown event. If that makes sense.

          • Jenny

            Lots of places have that much variation. We have that in Minneapolis (with windchills that regularly get to to -30/-40 range (but by that point it is just COLD! :)

  • kris

    Francine, thanks so much for sharing! Fun pictures and fantastic advice.

    As someone who’s retired, I find that my wardrobe needs generally fall into two categories: somewhat casual and extremely casual.

    My “somewhat casual” wardrobe couldn’t be simpler: Four items of clothing, all in a navy jersey knit, include a short-sleeve v-neck top, a long-sleeve v-neck top, a skirt, and a pair of pants. Either top works with either bottom. Also, a navy coat with zip-out liner.

    Rounding out this group are a small navy bag with shoulder strap, a pair of navy ballet flats, and several scarves.

    (Side note: when the navy tops and the navy pants become worn and faded, they work great as lounging-about clothes and pajamas!)

    My “extremely casual” wardrobe again features navy as the base color, but also includes khaki plus periwinkle blue and white as accent colors. The tops for this group of clothing consist of a navy cardigan, lots of short-sleeve t shirts in periwinkle blue, one t-shirt in white, and a button-front shirt with white, blue, and khaki stripes. The bottoms consist of a few pairs of pants in navy and a few more pairs in khaki. For summer I have shorts in both navy and khaki as well. (I could have t-shirts in more colors, but I really really like periwinkle blue!)

    Items of outerwear for my extremely casual clothes again are all in navy: a winter jacket with attached hood, a fleece jacket, and a gortex rain jacket, again with hood. (The gortex rain jacket layers well over the fleece.)

    With this second group of clothes, I wear blue Merrell jungle mocs in colder weather and blue Keen sandals in warmer weather. I carry a navy tote bag.

  • dianon

    i love clothing capsules!
    most of my items are multi-taskers. the trench coat or hooded jacket (no need for a hat!) with a zip out lining. a tank strap or oyster style watch does it all. ballet flats can go anywhere. add a black turtleneck or long sleeve v-neck and black pants. i can go anywhere, any time and i’m at my finest!

  • The Tiny Homestead

    This wardrobe seems impossibly small to me, but I thank you for sharing an option that my brain had never considered before! It’s all about awareness and exposure to new ideas, so I’m glad you’re out here blogging about less.

  • meg

    I have the same climate problems as Eva, so 15 pieces would be closer to my most minimalist wardrobe. Here we need two coats and at least one pair of boots and a second pair of pants at a minimum to wear while the first pair dries on the radiator after excavating the car from the snowbanks ;D And of course the heavy woolly turtleneck that comes in handy when the electric goes out and there’s no heat.

    Nonetheless, yours is an excellent wardrobe and I do in fact have similar pieces as part of mine.

  • Ali

    I would love to know the brand of each piece. I know that’s a lot to ask. I’m particularly interested in knowing where you bought the cardigan and black flats!

  • I did the express lane checkout and actually found myself comfortable at 20 pieces (again, not including accessories, t-shirts, or unmentionables). I use black as my base color, too: my alternate would be navy, because of my skin tone, but it is surprisingly hard to find navy basics that don’t look too much like uniform wear. My tops and dresses all have sleeves, because I am older and need coverage. My accent colors are blue, red, and purple, too, but more in the jewel-tone shades, again becuse of my skin tone. My basic ten pieces would be: Black dress, black skirt, black trousers, jeans, white blouse, blue blouse, lightweight red top, lightweight purple top, black cardigan, black v-neck sweater. The next 10 pieces expand on these color choices and offer texture or pattern variations.

  • Ali

    (I meant the winter coat, not the cardigan. Love the shape of that coat!)

  • I had a high profile corporate career that required me to look professional and well-dressed at all times. I accumulated quite a closetful of clothes (not nearly as bad as some!) but definitely not minimalist! I have gone thru my clothes twice now, and have removed more than 50%. As the weather warms, I will make a purge once again. I wasn’t sure if I was going back to an office or not, however it now seems unlikely, so I don’t need most of my business professional or casual clothes so I can cut back even more.
    I love seeing the pictures!
    Begin again, each and every day

  • Claire

    I assume you come from a milder climate than I do (since you have no winter boots or under-armor/leggings).

    I’m impressed that you have 1 pair of shoes – what do you do when they get wet? I had the most comfy flats that I wore a lot, and I eventually had to throw out because they smelled (and no amount of odor-eater or baking soda could help save them.)

    Still… 10 is pretty impressive :) I think I have at least 15 shirts (which is a little silly of me, since I know there are some I rarely wear.) I’m inspired to go through my wardrobe.

  • Michelle

    What a nice coincidence, your colors are the same as mine! However, I have more than ten items:) So, how do you accessorize to keep from getting bored and looking like you’re wearing the same thing over and over?

  • Love this post! The pictures do help – thanks :)! Gray is another great neutral color and flattering to most. I currently have 2 neutrals – black and gray – in my wardrobe, and a handful of colorful items. Thankfully, black and gray also work together – so there’s even more intermixability (ok I’m making up that word – but you know what I mean!). I’m participating in project 333 and will definitely be cleaning out my closet some more at the end of this month – this provides a great framework for me to work from.

  • Dora

    I also live in a more extreme climate, which would require more layering options (including something like a big bulky sweater on top of all layers there). But what really trips me up is laundry. Since most of the clothes there are nice-looking, how do you launder them? And how often, since there are not many? When I try to live with a few clothes, they end up not lasting very long because they are worn often and laundered often. Delicate fabrics are especially difficult. I suppose I was spoiled by my college years of jeans and sweatshirts–I loved having clothes I could beat up.

  • Mama T-Mag

    I live in Minnesota so, there are some 100+ days and many -30 days. Fortunatly my job title is “Mommy”. I’ve got 4 dark long sleave t-shirts, 3 short sleave t-shirts, 2 nicer looking sweatshirts, and 4 pairs of blue jeans. You put long underwear under them and they’re still blue jeans. And you know what goes with everything and any weather? Combat boots!

  • Love the post (and the coat)! I am in the process of decluttering myself and a severe downsizing of my closet is the next step. One I am a bit afraid of honestly.
    Recently I tried a sort of experiment during a week abroad, and having only a few items to wear was very convenient but at the same time, I must confess it… boring. I felt the need to change, if you know what I mean, and not because the clothes smelled (it was an home exchange and we had a washing machine available!) :) Any advice about that?

  • Celia

    You said that this is your “core or capsule wardrobe”. Can you explain a bit more what you mean by that? Does this mean that you have multiples of each of these pieces? Or is this really it – the entirety of items in your closet? Thanks!

  • Thanks for this post, it’s awesome! I recently took a big step towards downsizing my wardrobe (which I would take a wild guess and say it started out about “average” size and purpose or lack-thereof for an American woman). I decided to only keep/wear jeans, nice t-shirts, and cardigans during my work week and weekends. They are what I am comfortable in, what I look best in, and appropriate for everything I do. I kept a few dresses and skirts for special occasions, but I will probably continue to reduce those. I eliminated everything that didn’t fit; everything vintage, because it never really felt comfortable or appropriate; everything that required ironing, because I always put it off; and all shoes with heels, because I just don’t go there. I’m really pleased with it, and finding less frequent “I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR” moments!

  • Love this post! In general, you are so inspiring and motivating for me. I am at the beginning of my ‘minimalist’ journey and I try each day to rid myself of more layers of ‘junk’. Simplicity equals relaxation and joy for me!

    I think I would need a few more necessities in my wardrobe, however. I live in northeast Ohio where summers are very hot and humid and winters are very long and cold. Boots would be a necessity for winter, and sandals or flip flops would be a must for summer (although I would much prefer to go barefoot all the time!). A sundress for really hot sticky days is the only way to go. A sweater when it is very cold (even in the house) is also a must. What about tennis/gym/athletic shoes? Shorts and a t-shirt or tank for working out, going for a run, or working in the garden, for example? Or am I thinking of a whole other category outside of a basic wardrobe?

  • I think I can do this for my business-casual lifestyle, if it meansI get to keep:
    10 Sleeveless Tops.
    10 Tops with Sleeves.
    10 Long Sleeve Tops.
    10 assorted color Cardigans.
    10 Dresses not including the 10 black dresses.
    10 Skirts
    10 Pants
    I will also need
    10 pair of Blue Jeans
    10 pair of Shorts
    another 10 pair that is really nice
    10 pair of Shoes with matching bags
    oh and 10 pairs of Capri
    I can pare down I think I will make that commitment.
    LOVEnSTUFF Bunny

  • Mark

    I try and purchase wool and natural fabrics.The scary think about nylon and polyester fleeces is if you were in a fire the fabric would melt into your body.Scarry.

  • I love it, Francine. I am having trouble finding a base color though … my blond hair is rapidly going white so gray is no longer flattering. Black tops aren’t good for my coloring. I like brown or olive but then you have to be careful to “match” or get complementary shades of brown or olive. I love khaki too but it does show stains and again, with my blond-going-white hair, it is just not that complementary. I guess that leaves … navy?

    • Delores

      Expand your definition of base color. Maybe for you it’s a medium flattering shade of blue. As long as you don’t choose a fashion color that won’t be there next year, you can choose whatever color you love to wear and be seen in.

    • Karen T.

      Could you by any chance wear denim? Sounds like a great color for you, but I don’t know if jeans all the time would fit with your lifestyle. Slim, well-fitting (not too tight or too loose) jeans can look great on a lot of people.

      • Delores and Karen, thanks for your suggestions revolving around blue …

        I do love denim although, since I live in a hot climate, jeans are often pretty uncomfortable. I have one pair plus a jean skirt and jean shorts that I love. On the plus side, denim doesn’t show stains and holds up really well and just about anything goes with it. On the negative side, it is tough to hand wash when traveling!

  • Clarissa

    This is an excellent idea. I spent two years living in a foreign country moving frequently and was required to keep everything clothing-related restricted to one suitcase. It was surprisingly easy, and I did it with a capsule wardrobe much like the one listed above. There are a few things I’d like to point out to people who may have a hard time imagining reducing to such a small wardrobe. Here’s what I found worked:

    1. I actually had a capsule wardrobe of 18 items of clothing: 4 bottoms, 7 tops, 1 coat, shoes/purse (1/1), and scarves (4). This was because I was outdoors most of the day, and I needed clothing that kept up with all 4 seasons to be with me at all times. When one of my winter outfits got dirty, I needed something else I could wear that would keep me warm while the other outfit was in the wash. This was also because I didn’t have much time to do laundry, so my outfits needed to last a week before I could wash them and start over. Layers helped immensely.

    2. IT’S OKAY TO REPLACE OUTFITS. If you get sick and tired of something, get rid of it. If it’s gross chuck it or donate it as rags, and if it’s still nice then donate it. I got sick of outfits rapidly and found myself gradually replacing my wardrobe. I generally replaced tops every 6-9 months, and I replaced bottoms once a year. Just make sure that when you buy something new, it is there to replace something old, not add to your overall wardrobe. New clothing should still go with your current wardrobe, and look for fabrics that have good durability, a little give/stretch, and don’t need ironing (that’s my own personal rule).

    3. Scarves, belts, and accessories make outfits different. If you are tired of the same ol’ thing, then try adding a scarf, a new belt, or some other accessory to change things up. You shouldn’t need more than 1 or 2 of these accessories, really. I had 2 belts (one white one black) and 4 scarves. I could have done with 2-3 scarves, really. It kept me wearing clothing longer because I liked how it looked with the new fabrics. I didn’t get sick of my accessories because I started off with ones I absolutely LOVED and I didn’t wear them everyday.

    4. Coming home brought me back to boxes and boxes of clothing. After reading this article I’m inspired to throw most of it away (read: donate it). Some of the clothing has real nostalgic value, and I’m not ready to part with it, but it’s old and grungy, so I’m not about to wear it, either. I am now considering just cutting out the logos/designs I love of clothing I can’t wear and making a quilt or something out of it. Perhaps not as minimalist as throwing all of those clothes away, but it would save me a ton of space and it means I get a nice quilt to keep me warm at night–which lets me throw away blankets that have less nostalgic value. I love the idea of throwing away stuff; the home is packed right now.

    I’m not a minimalist (I’m a pack-rat who is wishing I wasn’t) but these tips might help anyone who is trying to just have less stuff/clothes.

    • Claire

      I put my old shirts from camp/skating competitions/etc in the scanner and scanned the logo. I also have lots of pictures of me wearing them.

  • biosail

    Fantastic post! Thank you!
    I have been slowly working on my wardrobe. When I started 5 years ago there was no information on the net to help me and I felt very alone in my mission. I also had the added trouble of dealing with athletic clothing for backpacking, climbing, skiing, running, and cycling in all sorts of weather. I’m happy to say after a few years I have all my outdoor clothing in one small bag that I can grab at a moments notice for a fun weekend in the mountains. Now thanks to Francine, I will also have some killer street cloths for when I run into an ex (or go out to dinner)!
    Thanks again!

  • Melanie

    Say, where did you get that great black coat? Love it!

  • Robin

    In college I had a roommate who loved clothes and shopping but was very careful about her wardrobe and followed many of the same principles. I would look at my bulging closet and have nothing to wear and she had many lovely options in maybe 10 inches. She inspired me to start thinking about what types of clothes I needed (casual, dressy, etc) and what styles I prefer (natural fibers, sturdy construction – i.e., plackets sewn down rather than lined with interfacing) and a base color. I still have way too many clothes (denial and laundry issues) but they match your thoughts of being able to dress with your eyes closed and still look good and being suitable for a wide range of occasions although I tend more to the casual end.
    When I first started trying to reduce my clothes I found I was very anxious about actually getting rid of anything. So I decided I wouldn’t but I would sort them into 3 categories so I could more easily see when I didn’t have any clean office appropriate clothes. The categories were Jammies, Target, and Everyday.
    Everyday were all the items that were in good shape, fit well, and worked for office or socializing. Those stayed in my closet.
    Target were clothes that didn’t make the Everyday cut but were in pretty good shape and fit fine. I called them Target because my criteria was that if I was shopping at Target and ran into someone I knew, I wouldn’t feel embarrassed.
    Jammies were everything else – torn, stained, too short, etc and I used them for, surprise, sleeping and lounging around the house (which by the way is how I keep my Everyday clothes in good shape and permits me to wear clothes multiple times before washing — how do you handle that?). Target and Jammies were kept in a drawer.
    Eventually I was able to eliminate most of the really bad Jammies and further streamlined my Everyday by moving comfortable but unflattering styles like crew-neck T-shirts to the Target drawer. So I have 3 black pairs of pants, 2 skirts – one black and one denim, 4 pairs of shoes – 1 pair of black sandals, 2 black and 1 taupe clog-style, 10 office shirts, black wool cardigan also worn as a light jacket, 1 winter coat, and 1 million other tops and 500,000 various bags. Hmm, I may have targeted my problem area!

  • miss minimalist

    To answer a few of your questions:

    1. These pieces are my “capsule wardrobe” — the necessities that get me through most of my activities. For practical purposes (like laundry!), I do have more than one skirt, dress, pair of pants, and shoes. To be honest, though, that’s more for convenience than necessity. I thought it’d be a fun minimalist exercise to determine how low I could *really* go (and still look halfway decent).

    2. I have two scarves and a few pieces of jewelry — but again, wouldn’t consider them necessities (except my wedding ring!).

    3. Re. brands: the red top and cardigan are Ann Taylor, the purple top is Nordstrom’s own label, the slate top is Rouge (purchased in Paris), the dress is J. Crew, the skirt was made by a tailor, the pants are Calvin Klein, the coat is REI, the bag was purchased on Etsy, and the shoes are Lucina (purchased in Rome). The slate top and bag are recent acquisitions, but everything else was purchased from 2 (coat and shoes) to 13 (dress) years ago.

    • Ahh. Thanks for clearing that up Francine. I was in panic at the idea of 10 items in “total” and was wondering how you managed with only one skirt and one pair of pants. I get it now. This is your “core” wardrobe.

      I’m at 36 pieces total (not including jewelry, but including jammies and work out clothes). I’m working my way down to 30 pieces total.

      I love it! Having gone from a closet with hundreds of items down to 36 has been liberating and life-changing. Thanks for sharing your choices! Very classic. Very perfect!

  • I’d definitely have two pair of shoes – even if they’re the same style and color. By alternating each day, you extend the life of them by giving them time to breathe. Allowing shoes to breathe also keeps the cushioning at a nice, comfortable level.

  • Wow, I don’t think that I could EVER get my wardrobe down to just 10 pieces. Maybe 20 or so… But some of my core pieces would be:

    a pair of jeans, a black pencil skirt, a white button down, a hand full of t shirts in jewel tones, a pair of black flats and a pair of black heels. I’d need a coat in there too, but I don’t know what eight or which color. But I could probably get away with these items if I worked an office career. As it is I work outside and have a few pairs of jeans, some khakis and enough t-shirts to get me through at least 10 days.

    one day!

  • LOVE this post. I visualize everything and naturally seeing photos of your wardrobe really helped me get it.

    What are your thoughts on wearing things more than once?

    My wardrobe revolves around layers and a daily uniform:
    * two black skirts
    * one dark denim pencil skirt
    * a cute patterned black/white skirt

    * a black tank dress to layer
    * an orange tank dress to layer

    * one pair of jeans (need to buy at least one more pair)

    * two white shirts/blouses
    * two black short sleeve tees
    * a sky blue cotton blouse

    * cardigans: one fuschia, one purple, and three black
    * three pullover sweaters (two black and one gray)

    All are accessorized with color: scarves in fuschia, gray, black, white, sky blue, and yellow/white, and bags in colors like orange, lime, red, black and floral.

    Sample outfits include: orange tank dress, black cardigan, black leggings with black mary janes (that one bring tons of compliments) / pencil skirt, white blouse, purple cardi / jeans, black tee, black cardi, pink scarf and black bag.

  • Zachary Zorbas

    Another important thing to remember when minimizing your wardrobe is that the number of items is not what’s important.

    An extremely low number is interesting and remarkable but for most people it’s not what matters. Make sure to have enough clothes so that your happy. Not too much and not too little. That’s what being minimalist is about. Balance.

    There can be an issue where you look the same all the time. In pictures, for instance, you’re very likely to have the same outfit on repeatedly. To some this will matter.

    Just some things to consider.

  • swynedig

    Thanks Francinr, very reassuring post!
    I am minimalist working mom, and here’s my list of clothes:
    1 black skirt
    2 black trousers
    1 grey trousers
    1 black suit jacket
    1 grey suit jacket
    1 white blouse
    3 colorful short sleeve tops
    2 black cardigans
    1 pair of jeans
    2 tight longsleeve tops
    3 short sleeve long tops that can be worn as summer dresses
    1 cardigan
    long black wintercoat
    3 scarves (winter, autumn/spring, summer)
    about 6 items of jewelleries
    light brown UGGS,
    black ballet shoes
    black Merrel Jungle Moc
    2 shorts
    2 summer skirts
    1 pair of light summer trousers
    5 short sleeve tops
    brown leather bag
    black leather bag
    MEI ‘Voyageur’ travel pack (light, durable, can be used as hand-luggage, can be turned into a backpack…best buy ever!)

  • I live a very casual lifestyle now so my core wardrobe is:
    3 pairs cotton slacks than can roll up into capris–black, navy, tan
    6 short-sleeve t-shirts in various colors with various necklines
    6 long-sleeve polos in various colors
    1 gray fleece jacket
    1 blue hooded windbreaker that can be worn over the fleece when it gets cold
    1 pair black Crocs that can be worn with wool socks when it gets cold
    several pairs of earrings that mix and match with the shirts

    For extras I have:
    1 pair black sandals for dressier occasions
    1 dark purple pant suit for dressier occasions
    1 lavender long sleeve shirt to wear with the purple pants for a change of pace
    1 full length reversible rain coat in black/burgundy
    1 dark green pullover fleece
    1 navy pullover sweatshirt
    2 swim suits
    2 pairs grey lightweight sweat pants for wearing over swim suits to the pool
    1 hooded lightweight sweatshirt jacket that matches the pants
    1 red visor for wearing with the purple clothes to Red Hat Society events or with my swim suit to outdoor pool aqua aerobics
    1 Tilley hat for when I need a brim to provide shade
    1 knit hat for winter
    1 pair Thinsulate-lined black leather gloves
    silk longies for wearing under anything else when it gets cold

    Plus, I still have some scarves, pins and necklaces I love but I haven’t worn in three years which I keep in case I ever move back into a less casual lifestyle. They don’t take up much room in the 35′ motorhome in which we live.

    I need to buy another pair of shoes since I recently discovered my dressy sandals are not good in cold weather.

    Oh, and I have one black microfiber purse/bag that converts quickly to a backpack style when the occasion requires.

  • I’ve been thinking about this post all day… wondering what I’d choose if I only had 10 items (not counting the obligatory Northeast US parka and snow boots). It’s really tough and I don’t even have that much clothing! Thanks for this post, and for getting my mind aworking.

  • Lolly

    This post is fantastic and got me thinking about how many would be enough for me and surprisingly not much.

    I only have 2 pairs of jeans I wear all the time, 2 long sleeved tops, some dresses, some tops and the rest is just clutter!

    I’ve already culled 40% of my wardrobe with two rounds. I think I need a 3rd round (and possibly 4th!) to really trim off the excess! The day I can fit all my clothes in my small Ikea wardrobe (which is the same one you have!) will be amazing. I think a 30 piece wardrobe would suit a large demographic and still fit in one wardrobe.

  • I love capsule wardrobes too. I’m probably strange in that I love both black and navy and I happen to think they look great together. So I have black basics like pants, shoes, a sweater, and a navy peacoat and long sleeve top. I wear pretty much any shade of blue. Then there is little purple and some red and a couple of white folk style blouse, long and short sleeves. I have one pair of jeans.

    I prefer my linen-cotton mix jersey pieces (tops, dresses, tunics, summer pants), they are very durable, wear and age well, comfy..

    I live in an extreme 4-season climate too, so I have 5 pairs of shoes (including party heels, gore-tex for rainy weather, summer sandals and 2 pairs winter boots. I probably could use a pair of nicer walking shoes… but meh.) and a woolly peacoat, gore-tex rain jacket, down parka and a very lightweight nice hooded trench. I only have one pair of gloves though.

    In the summer I can totally survive on 10-15 pieces like I did last summer!

  • heather

    Fantastic. I have to maintain a professional wardrobe- no business casual for me. I wear pant/skirt suits- I buy a good quality and they each come with a jacket, pants and skirt. I can got away with 4 suits in the beginning. Black, blue pinstripe, navy and black pinstripe. I wear silk undershells in red, black, navy, white. This got me through months of easy dressing for work and I look outstanding, I must say. Red, black, navy heels and one pair of black ballet flats, 1 pair black boots. I have added a pink scarf, simple pearls (steel grey and off white), a few chunky bracelets and a few simple earrings. I never feel like I am wearing the same thing. I have learned to buy high quality- all leather shoes, a well lined suit, a silk scarf.

    My everyday wardrobe, I add simple dark jeans, navy hunter boots, a pair of converse sneakers, 3 pairs of various flip flop sandals (it IS Texas) : ) 1 cashmere mix winter coat, 1 trench,1 leather, 1 jean coat, 2 fleece shirts, 3 simple t-shirts in black and 2 white and some workout gear. 3 pairs of sunglasses (this IS Texas) : ) Red bathing suit.2 cashmere sweaters. Red purse, red work bag, black purse. I do like change, so I do maintain a bit of stuff but I have learned that having everything intermix helps tremedously.

    Sounds like a lot but believe me, I have edited, edited, edited. : )

  • This is so great!! I am doing the 30 for 30 Challenge right now, which is 30 items of clothing. Being the fashion-loving-gal that I am, paring down to 10 items would be really tough for me. 30 is hard enough!! But your tips are so great…I think this is the next step for me. Great post!!!

  • deborah

    I love this post, also! And I’m moving in a month for a 3-month job in another country so this helps me plan. I’m not as stripped down as you, though I have worn mainly 1 thrifted dress and 1 thrifted pair of levis for the majority of the last year, with different t-shirts & cardigans, and I still get compliments on the dress. My work lets me dress is a very casual style.

    My 10-items would be:

    Levis (all cotton, button fly)
    1 long sleeve cream t-shirt
    1 long sleeve black t-shirt
    1 mustard cardigan
    1 grey cardigan
    1 mid-calf rayon sleeveless dress, black floral print
    1 coral maxi skirt
    1 knee length black skirt
    1 shorter cotton sleeveless dress pale yellow
    dansko clogs

  • Felipe

    What about Male clothing?

    • miss minimalist

      Ok, I’ll give this a shot, based on my husband’s wardrobe. For the record, he works in a business-casual office.

      If he had to whittle down to ten key pieces, I think they would be one pair dress pants, one pair dress/casual pants (like khakis), one pair jeans, two dress shirts, two t-shirts, one sweater, one pair dress shoes, one pair casual shoes.

      His t-shirts and sweaters are mainly Icebreaker merino wool (which travel incredibly well).

      I hope that helps. Keep in mind this is from my own unauthorized peek into his closet, and I may have overlooked one or two manly essentials. ;-)

  • twofashionistas

    It’s a good concept, but so boring. And the clothes you did pick look like bland sportswear. Where’s a good blouse or a pair of jeans? you can have a capsule wardrobe and not go over board with a few more pieces and still look stylish. This just looks like boring soccer mom or something. What about a blazer for interviews? and it’s a good layering piece for everyday looks. and only ballet flats? you may need pumps for dressed up days and a pair of boots etc. And if I only had 10 pieces to pick they would be pretty damn fabulous, you don’t have any prints or any style here. just bleh.

  • MelD

    I was interested in this (love capsule wardrobes!) but curious as to why you consider this suitable as a 4-season wardrobe. Even in England it gets warm in summer – ONE sleeveless top and all that black? I would die of heat! Again, I can only wear warm sweaters when I’m in England because that damp, windy winter cold is far worse than my home climate in Switzerland which is dry cold and often actually colder than the UK (despite perception!). Here our homes are so well insulated and heated that we simply can’t wear thick sweaters under our warm coats in winter, even skiwear is now so good that thin ones work under ski clothes.. In summer we can have weeks of hot temperatures and only airy, short, sleeveless etc are possible and then I need to wash more often – despite washing and deodorant Inusually need at least two tops each day… Just saying!!
    Love the concept, nevertheless – great for those whose climate alters little!

  • Caroline

    What we need is a post of all the great brands people have found that offer some of the best clothing options! Especially since I can’t use black as my base color (I really can’t – it does nothing for me as redhead with golden undertones), and it’s is the easiest choice for a minimalist wardrobe. This community has such good ideas and suggestions.

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