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:
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?