‘90s Minimalism Is the Perfect Fall Trend for Capsule Wardrobe Lovers

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It started with white tank tops. Suddenly they were everywhere—all over our TikTok and Instagram feeds, popping up on most-loved lists at retailers like Shopbop and Nordstrom and even making an appearance on the runway at Prada’s FW 22 show. Then followed other simple basics, like non-distressed, medium-wash, straight-leg jeans, mid-rise wide-leg trousers, button-downs that are neither too fitted nor oversized and jersey maxi skirts and tank dresses. On their own, each of these wardrobe staples seem like smart, if slightly boring, investment pieces. The unexpected twist is that folks are wearing them all together, with no statement earrings, bright pops of color or otherwise attention-grabbing details to break up the look. Some call it ‘90s minimalism, some the rise of the wardrobe basic—we, however, call it a super surprising sartorial twist we simply did not see coming.

90s minimalism fashion trend runway
Getty Images

After our Year of Tie-Dye and Sweatpants, we jumped straight into revenge dressing, sporting all the dressy, flashy, exciting pieces we hadn’t felt able to wear for so long. Bright colors, sequins, cut-out knitwear, backless dresses and more maximalist trends have reigned supreme for the past year or so, culminating in Barbiecore, an aesthetic literally pulled straight from the party clothes of a plastic toy doll. So it was kind of a shock to see sleek minimalist looks walking the runway at Bottega Veneta and Chloé. We’re talking simple basics—white tank tops, straight-leg leather pants, turtleneck sweaters, oversize button-up shirts—with no extraneous detailing by way of intricate seams, glittering hardware or exaggerated silhouettes. It appears we’re headed into a phase wherein wardrobe basics are taking their turn in the spotlight.

90s minimalism fashion trend street style
Getty Images

We have to admit, with all the wild swings trends have been making lately—Barbiecore, Delicore, Pam Anderson Chic, Coastal Grandmother—we simply didn’t see a return to basics coming. We would more readily have predicted the return of the extra-large tote bag or the rise of cargo pants (both of which are trending for fall ’22, as well). There are always a few more minimalist styles topping our wishlists, but this year is all about wearing them all together, with little other adornment. It’s the very opposite of maximalist revenge dressing and, in our opinion, a bit harder to pull off.

The tricky thing about wearing only very straightforward, classic silhouettes is that fabric and fit become infinitely more important. With a bold print or fun embellishment, the eye can be tricked into thinking a dress fits better or is more expensive that the reality. But when you strip an item down to its simplest form, any imperfections become harder to hide. That’s not to say you have to splurge on cashmere or silk or designer brands to pull off this specific type of minimalism, you just have to become a more discerning shopper when trying on clothes. Pay attention to the fit, not just when you’re standing still in front of your mirror, but when you’ve taken a few steps around your home or dressing room too. Does your white tank start to ride up or bunch? What about those trousers? Are they slouching in the knees or creasing after just three minutes of wear? When you can, splurge for more luxe natural fabrics like organic cotton, wool, silk or cashmere. They’re pricier, yes, but they’ll also last you way longer than cheaper items. Pieces with a bit of stretch often work better on a wider variety of bodies, but avoid anything with too high a spandex percentage or it may end up looking cheap.

When done well, ‘90s minimalism looks super posh, and can even serve as a chic base for those who simply can’t stop accessorizing with shoulder-grazing earrings or kitschy platform sandals. And once you have these items in your closet, you can essentially mix and match then in any combination you like, making getting dressed in the morning mush less of a to-do. To help you on your quest to achieve the ultimate trendy basics fall wardrobe, here are eight pieces worth adding to cart.

minimalist fashion basics jcrew

1. J.crew Classic-fit Crisp Cotton Poplin Shirt

This classic button-up is a fabulous Goldilocks fit—not too oversize, not too fitted—and even comes in Tall and Petite sizes for an even better look, no tweaks necessary. (And those embroidered monograms are totally optional, should you decide that’s not for you.)

Size range: 00 to 24, also Petite and Tall

minimalist fashion basics ayr

2. Ayr The Secret Sauce Jeans

AYR (which stands for All Year Round) is all about making wardrobe staples you can wear on repeat no matter where you’re headed or what time of year it is. These jeans are one of the brand’s absolute best-sellers because of their impeccable fit and classic mid-wash.

Size range: 24 to 24

minimalist fashion basics skims

3. Skims New Vintage Scoop-neck Tank

Introducing the ultimate white tank top. This SKIMS design stretches where it needs to, without pulling or bunching, and won’t show your bra through the comfy material.

Size range: XXS to 4X

minimalist fashion basics pari passu
Pari Passu

4. Pari Passu Celene Flare Pants

Pari Passu makes incredibly chic clothing for plus sizes, but our favorite thing about the brand is its proprietary sizing system, which takes into account more than just one waist measurement. Trust us, these will be the best fitting pants you’ve ever owned.

Size range: 12 to 24

minimalist fashion basics everlane

5. Everlane The Organic Cotton Box-cut Tee

Multiple PureWow editors named this style the absolute best white T-shirt they’ve ever owned. It’s that perfect mix between boxy and fitted, the organic cotton won’t shrink or warp in the wash and it only gets softer over time.

Size range: XXS to XXXL

minimalist fashion basics eileen fisher
Eileen Fisher

6. Eileen Fisher Stretch Jersey Knit Skirt

Be sure to pick up the matching shell top too, and style your look in much the same way as the model is here—with simple slides and a slicked back bun.

Size range: XXS to 3X

minimalist fashion basics mmlafleur

7. M.m.lafleur The Milo Jean

M.M.LaFleur bills this material as Better Than Denim, and we have to agree. It has a similar look and feel to true denim, but with more stretch (that won’t sag or gape over time). It also won’t wrinkle or crease, so you’ll look just as polished at your 7 p.m. dinner reservation as you did at that 7 a.m. team meeting.

Size range: 0 to 18

minimalist fashion basics kule

8. Kule The Modern Long Tee

A good classic stripe tee is a must-have, whether you want to emulate chic French women or simply want to introduce a pattern into the mix. (P.S. If you’re between sizes, we suggest going with the larger for a more comfortable fit.)

Size range: XS to XXL



Abby Hepworth is an RRCA-certified running coach who has worked in fashion for over 10 years. Want to know what shoes are in this season? She's got you. Need recommendations on...