How to Build a Minimalist Wardrobe to Streamline Your Closet (and Your Life)

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Minimalism has been having a moment for a few years now, taking over our makeup drawers and living room decor. But what does it mean to have a minimalist wardrobe? Basically, it’s all about simplicity. Think classic, streamlined silhouettes; a few neutral colors; and fewer pieces overall. OK cool, but why should you try it?

Why A Minimalist Wardrobe Is A Good Idea

You’ll Save Time Getting Ready In The Morning

A minimalist wardrobe is built around a neutral color palette (in easy shades like black, white, navy and camel). The fewer colors and prints you’re working with, the easier it is to throw an outfit together without much thought or pre-planning.

You’ll Save Money

One of the main tenets of minimalism in general is to have fewer things. Yup, that means you won’t have to rush to the store every time the seasons change to stock up on the latest trends. Instead, you’ll reach for the timeless pieces you know you can rely on year after year.

Your Wardrobe Will Take Up Way Less Space.

Sounds pretty fabulous (and practical), right? Here’s what you need to know to get started on your minimalist wardrobe journey.

minimalist wardrobe cleaning closet
Westend61/getty images

How To Build A Minimalist Wardrobe

1. Clean Out Your Closet

First things first: You need to purge your wardrobe. Take absolutely everything out of your closet and lay it on your bed. As you sift through, put items into one of three piles: “Keep,” “Toss” and “Donate.” Hold on to classic pieces that will never go out of style (more on those below) and get rid of anything that screams “trendy.” You know those outfits that you wear and think, “I could totally wear this again later this week and no one would notice”? Yeah, you should keep those.

2. Search For Minimalist Style Inspo

If you’re new to the minimalist fashion game, it can be tough to know where to start when it comes to rebuilding your wardrobe. That’s where Instagram comes into play. Seek out gals on the ‘Gram who are nailing the whole so-simple-it’s-cool thing. In addition to getting some serious outfit inspo, you’ll be able to look at the brands they’re tagging for a better idea of where to shop for minimalist staples. Here are a few of our favorite IG fashion stars:

Brittany Bathgate

This U.K.-based style blogger is basically the poster child for COS (the minimalist fashion haven you should be familiar with).

Lizzy Hadfield

On her blog, Shot from the Street, Hadfield documents her gorgeously simple outfits and swoon-worthy travels.

Sylvie Mus

This Copenhagen-based stylist’s work has been featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle, among plenty of other ultra-chic publications.

Jada Sezer

Sezer is a model, podcaster and mental health advocate whose mostly black, white and denim wardrobe is seriously inspirational.

minimalist wardrobe
Christian Vierig/getty images

3. Stock Up On The Essentials

Now that your feed is filled with minimalist influencers, you need to fill out your wardrobe. These 13 items will provide an excellent base.

1. White T-Shirt

V-neck or crew, slim fit or oversize, finding the right white tee can be tricky. But it’s always worth the hunt because this casual staple hardly ever looks sloppy. It pairs just as well with your favorite jeans as it does with a fancier skirt.

Shop T-shirts: H&M ($5); BP. ($12); Allsaints ($40)

2. Navy Blazer

If you think blazers are limited to the boardroom, think again. This structured layering piece is actually pretty versatile. Black might read a touch more corporate, but in navy, a tailored blazer says you mean business—but also have a keen sense of style.

Shop blazers: J.Crew ($99); Endless Rose ($120); Veronica Beard ($600)

3. A-Line Midi Skirt

Flattering and sophisticated, this silhouette is one that’ll get lots of wear, especially in any neutral hue. Go barelegged in the spring and summer and with tights in the winter and fall. Now you’ve got a no-fail alternative to a dress that’s easy and always looks put together.

Shop midi skirts: Halogen ($36); Cupcakes and Cashmere ($130); Scotch & Soda ($165)

4. Dark Wash Jeans

Pants that let us fake mile-long legs? Sign. Us. Up. Look for a darker wash that’s even more slimming and wear them with everything from sandals in the summer to heeled boots when the temps drop.

Shop jeans: Wit & Wisdom ($68); Joe's Jeans ($188); Mother ($228)

5. White Button-Down

A slightly loose button-down is relaxed, comfortable and super chic, and an easy way to create a borrowed-from-the-boys effect. Scrunch up the sleeves and undo the top few buttons to keep it from looking too stuffy.

Shop button-downs: Aware by Vero Moda ($65); Treasure & Bond ($69); Eileen Fisher ($138)

6. Camel Trench Coat

A polished addition to any outfit, the trench will never go out of style. Plus, it also works with pretty much any and all types of personal style.

Shop trench coats: Lauren Ralph Lauren ($140); Tamara Malas ($325); Nili Lotan ($995)

7. Cropped Black Trousers

These can take you from work to the weekend, but it all depends on how you style them. Also, keep fit in mind: You want them to be curve-skimming but not overly tight, and cropped just above the ankle.

Shop trousers: Wit & Wisdom ($68); Nic + Zoe ($128); Spanx ($138);

8. Silky Camisole

Whether peeking out from beneath a blazer or worn on its own, a silky camisole can read sweet (tucked into that A-line midi skirt), sexy (paired with a curve-hugging pencil skirt) or cool (with loose, relaxed trousers).

Shop camisoles: Superdown ($48); Cali Dreaming ($154); Frame ($195)

9. Denim Jacket

Contrary to what you might think, a jean jacket is a year-round staple. Draped over your shoulders with a breezy summer dress or layered under heavier coats when it’s colder, it’s relaxed but also utilitarian.

Shop denim jackets: Topshop ($80); Levi's ($98); BlankNYC ($101)

10. Striped Long-Sleeve Shirt

There’s a reason there are so many articles written about how to dress like a French girl: Those ladies are eternally chic. The easiest way to copy their effortless style? Snag a horizontal-striped shirt. It’s a très cool way to spice up your weekend jeans.

Shop striped shirts: Cotton Emporium ($29); Madewell ($32); Halogen ($39)

11. White Pants

We’ve never been one to follow fashion rules, especially the whole “don’t wear white after Labor Day” thing. Which explains why we love a straight-leg trouser in white, because it’s a little dressier and really rather versatile. Trust us when we say it looks extremely chic with a gray cashmere sweater.

Shop white pants: Foxcroft ($98); NYDJ ($119); Nonchalant ($350)

12. Little Black Dress

A total workhorse, this should be a dress you can wear a bunch of different ways for a ton of different occasions. On its own, the LBD is fairly plain and simple, so you can also get a lot of wear out of it without anyone noticing.

Shop LBDs: Row A ($60); Dress the Population ($178); Helmut Lang ($350)

13. Crewneck Sweater

Think of this as the cool-weather alternative to your plain white tee. Pair with jeans for an easy instant outfit or tuck it into that A-line skirt. It's perfect for layering because it does the trick in chilly offices and on deceptively breezy nights on the town.

Shop sweaters: Lulus ($52); Reformation ($148); Vince ($295)

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...