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4 Tips for Having a Minimalist Wardrobe


I’m the least likely candidate to be giving fashion tips, but ever since I posted the video of my minimalist summer wardrobe, I’ve gotten question after question after question about my wardrobe. So, in an effort to answer a few of those questions, today I’m sharing four tips for having a minimalist wardrobe.

1. Only Own What You Wear

Are you wearing everything you own on a regular basis? If not, why are you hanging onto it? It’s just taking up space in your closet and cluttering your life.

Don’t know what to keep and what to get rid of? Try the one-year wardrobe project that J.D. from Get Rich Slowly did. Personally, I think you could probably accelerate it to three or six months, if you want to get a move on your clutter more quickly.

2. Mix and Match

Never buy something that can only be worn with one item you own. If possible, only buy items that can be worn with just about every other item in your closet.

Jessica shows her Mix and Match wardrobe here. Good Housekeeping shows some basic Mix and Match wardrobe pieces here.

3. Know Your Colors

About ten years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of color palettes. Up until that time, I just wore whatever I found at the thrift store or got off the sale rack. I didn’t really feel great in many of the items, but they were inexpensive, so that’s what mattered–or so I thought.

But after discovering what my color palette is and switching to only wearing clothes that are my color, I’ll never go back. Wearing your colors instantly makes you look more youthful and energetic. Plus, I find that shopping is so much more efficient because I can scan the racks for my colors, instead of having to look through each and every item.

You can take a free color analysis here (I’m not sure how accurate it is since it’s online, but it might be fun to do.) Also, you might consider checking out a copy of Color Me Beautiful from the library.

4. Accessorize

A few accessories can make a big difference and can spruce up a small wardrobe in amazing ways. For instance, if you only have six tops, but you have three scarves and two necklaces that match with almost all of those tops, you just extended your wardrobe possibilities quite a bit. Best of all, most accessories can be very inexpensive. You can even make your own.

In the cooler weather, scarves are my favorite. The whole figuring out how to wear them used to scare me–especially because I’m no fashionista and can never seem to pull off the cute looks others do. Jen from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, generous friend that she is, bought me a scarf and taught me how to tie it. After wearing it a few times, I was sold. I went out and bought a few more scarves and I’m now rarely seen without a scarf in winter!

Watch Jen’s video here on how to tie a scarf. You can also check out her post here. Also, Tip Junkie has a post on 12 Trendy Ways to Wear a Scarf.

Having a minimalist wardrobe will not only save you quite a bit of money (the less you shop, the less you spend!), but they will also help to simplify your life. I know I might be weird, but I find that it is so easy to get dressed in the morning when you only have a few options to choose from. In fact, I’d rather have a few items that I love and feel great in, than a closet full of clothes that I don’t really like, don’t fit that well, and haven’t been worn in a number of months.

photo credit

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  • Amy says:

    These are great tips! One day, I will go through my closet and purge. I have so many sizes of clothing in there, but really almost nothing I wear. I have been pregnant or nursing for the last ten years and my size is always in fluxuation, but some things I have not worn in three babies!

    Anyway, I love the cardigan in the picture, and gray is one of my colors. That whole outfit is very “me”, I think. Any idea where it came from?

  • mariah says:

    I would be willing to answer any questions on wardrobe challenges, etc. I have a lot of useful tips on my blog and an e-mail address to contact me with questions. This is my line of work as a Personal Stylist.

    • Lyla says:

      I struggle with having to have separate wardrobes at this point in my life- keeping maternity clothes, currently nursing, and then my clothes that are neither. I don’t know what to keep or get rid of or buy in this transitional phase of life!

      • Jessie says:

        I’m in the same phase of life, so I understand! I think each wardrobe can be it’s own capsule. I don’t buy things that are very trendy since it can be years between wearing them. It would be wasteful to buy and then re-buy clothes each time you went through a pregnancy/ postpartum phase. I just wish that I had thought about this with my first 🙂

    • Meredith says:

      Hi Mariah!
      I’m so glad you posted your comment, any tips on how to find a stylist in my area? I live in Indianapolis, Indiana. Thanks in advance!

  • Diana says:

    Thanks for the tips. I’m having trouble with wardrobes for my children. My tween daughter wants to be fashionable on a budget and we’re having difficulties finding pieces to mix and match. Any ideas?

    • Lindsey says:

      I have a tween fashionista and a budget, too! Before we shop, we take inventory of what she has. Then, we decide what she needs to complete a few outfits (this shirt and this shirt would both look good with a black maxi skirt- and you could wear these accessories!) so , we start with a list of what is needed to maximize what she already has. I let her go through her clothes and get rid of stuff that doesn’t fit or she doesn’t like. I don’t help, because we argue. We always add basics to the list (skinny jeans, solid color t shirts and long sleeve shirts) and then accessorize with stuff we find on clearance (scarves, cardigans, etc). Also, if she falls in love with a particular piece, she has to tell me at least 2 or 3 other items she can wear it with, or she has to use her own money to buy it!

  • Meredith says:

    Oh, thank you so much for How to tie a scarf links. I admit I have about 10 in a drawer and I have never worn one afraid to tie it!

  • Nicole Z. says:

    Johnlyn- I am with you! I used to buy all kinds of shoes for my size 10 feet that were on sale. I didn’t love them and they weren’t that comfortable. Since the birth of my first child three years ago, I have purged all of those shoes and have been adding the slightly expensive, super comfortable Clark’s brand shoes to my wardrobe. I usually buy a pair or two the morning of Black Friday when they have the best deals. I could live in them and I know that they will last me for a long time!

    The funniest part of all this is that my husband was the one that told me to “invest” in better shoes. LOL! He was like “your shoes should not be uncomfortable. You are on your feet all day. Some things are worth it.”

  • Great post with great ideas! I agree that it’s definitely easier and nicer having a simple wardrobe.

  • Jeannine says:

    I make all of my own clothing. I use good quality fabrics to start out with so they are long lasting. I use wash and wear poly-cottons so I do not have to iron them either. Another tip to making clothing last is to hang dry. It saves the clothing and keeps your electricity bill down.

    I wear one basic pattern but with different fabrics.

    I also think that when we buy or make clothing we should think about glorifying the Lord.

  • Maegen says:

    One thing my sister taught me (after decades of sloppy dressing on my part), is to try stuff on.

    I hate dressing rooms, but having one pair of black pants and one pair of cute jeans that fit well and flatter my body is worth way more than half a dozen ill flattering looks from the clearance rack.
    She’s also converted me to T.J. Maxx. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could get really trend-on things there for not all that much more than I was paying at the thrift store.

  • Susan says:

    I love the cardigan in the picture! Does anyone know where it is from?

  • Mandi says:

    i LOVE the outfit in the picture also…would like to know what brand the pieces are or where to find them.

  • Andrea says:

    Here is the source of the image shown in this post:

    On the right side of the Polyvore page, there are details about the items.

  • Becky says:

    One tip for cleaning out closets-turn all of your hangers backwards. When you wear something, turn it around. At the end of a set period (3 months, 6 months, etc.), you’ll know for sure which items you aren’t wearing.

  • Jerilyn says:

    It’s also good to shop for body types. I read a book that helped me see that rounded necks only exacerbated my sloping-shoulder-t-rex-arm syndrome. Wow- I knew I looked like that but I never realized I could manipulate it. I now wear v-neck or some other shirts that create angles. And it’s easier to shop- I don’t bother looking at certain styles.

    I didn’t see p.j.’s on the list though 😉 okay, that’s just me! I don’t have a huge wardrobe. A lot of my clothes are clothes that I only wear really for a season- pregnancy & after pregnancy. I have one pair of jeans that I wear everyday in winter. And after this next baby, I’ll probably purchase another color- kakhi or black for nicer occasions, or just to mix things up. Now I don’t work outside of the home so I can’t say what I would do then, but I think the biggest thing is just not caring. Who cares if you wore that shirt yesterday or the day before? Not me! I have enough clothes for a change everyday for the kids but I wear the same thing a couple times a week and just do laundry once a week. My husband wears a uniform for work, so it’s easy to keep it simple.

  • Amy f;) says:

    My weight fluctuates a ton…I still can’t really figure out if it is hormones or water retention or what? I’m trying to be extra consistent with excercise and what I eat to see if that helps.
    I ended up with 3 different sizes of clothes (plus I’ve been pregnant three times in the last six years;) for each season. I have totes in the garage for the size I am not currently at (mostly keeping favorites or clothes I need for special occassions). Right now though, there are two sizes/seasons in my closet because I’m still losing baby weight and just got back from a trip to a different climate and it is a diaster!
    One of my goals for the week is to tackle thecloset and this post and the link to JD’s post are just the encouragement I need to simplify. And enjoy it!

  • A person after my own heart. I just don’t understand why people would have clothes that they don’t wear. Mix and Match or BUST!;0)

    ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

  • P.S. Accessories are key! I’ve even been known to wear my kid’s Justice bracelets. . . .Shhhh! You would think it would be the other way around.LOL

  • Heather says:

    I loved this post, and i looooove polyvore as well. I just spent the last hour making outfits out of some older clothing and accessories that are still amazing, and am really pleased with what a came up with. I am a fashionista who loves to shop and am trying to curb my habits, so this was a nice exercise for me. Love the scarf tip as well!

  • Anna says:

    Owning only what you wear is so freeing. Since we moved halfway around the world I had to really pair down my clothes (and my husbands, and two boys) to only what I thought we’d truly use. That was the only way we could move her by airplane without paying any extra baggage fees and have things besides clothes we need/want. It is a really good principal to apply to toys, books, and kitchen items as well. We have truly found that we can exist quite happily with a lot less stuff around. Rarely do we miss stuff we chose to leave behind, and have only had a few small things mailed to us.

    I know the moving method won’t work for everyone, but packing stuff away for a while to see if you really need it is a similar concept.

  • Stacy says:

    I have to say I love Pinterest for the Style section as much as for the crafting. Plenty of the pins there aren’t anything that I would ever wear but I have seen some great and practical ideas. Most recently after seeing many outfits featuring cardigans I decided that a few nice-looking ones in basic colors could replace the shapeless zip-up jackets I wear when it turns cool (I live in Phoenix so it never really gets cold). 2 days later I found a beautiful cream-colored cardigan at Goodwill for $3 and put one shapeless jacket in the probably-going-to-Goodwill pile. I’m now on the lookout for a black or brown cardigan.

  • I recently went through all of my clothes and got rid of anything that does not fit right now.

    After 4 kids, even though I’ve lost the pregnancy weight, my body shape is a bit different. I was tired of looking at clothes in my closet that “might fit me someday.” It was very freeing to donate them and only hold on to the items that are useful to me and make me feel good about myself right now.

    I am a minimalist in so many other areas of my life, so it only makes sense to carry that over into my wardrobe choices.

    I follow the same method for my kiddos. They each have 7 shirts, 3 or 4 pants, 2 shorts, and 2 sweatshirts.

    Bonus: I can’t get too far behind on laundry, or we wouldn’t have anything to wear. Good motivation to keep on top of things !

  • Katie says:

    First of all, THANK YOU for introducing me to Jen’s blog. I bought boots at a thrift store because of her, and they make this SAHM feel so much more put together.

    Secondly, do you think it’s more economical (in terms of time and money) to hang on to clothes that don’t fit when you are in the process of losing/gaining weight? I’ve been pregnant three times in the last years, and gained and lost 50-60 lbs each time. (!) It’s a lot of clothes to hang on to, but I hate not having clothes that fit and it’s hard to find the time to find good deals on clothes when I reach a new size. I’ve always heard that it’s best to only have clothes that fit, but I know that this size really is temporary for me. Thoughts?

    • Crystal says:

      Can you have a tub in storage for clothes that don’t fit, but that you love and plan to wear again? That way, they aren’t in the closet, but they are readily accessible when you need them again.

    • Andrea says:

      If you really love the clothes and they are in good condition, I would keep them, especially if you have successfully got back to your pre-pregnancy size in the past!

      If your closet it crowded, can you store some of the things in a tote under the bed? I have a box of maternity/postpartum clothes stored with the newborn baby stuff in my son’s closet.

  • Candice says:

    One of my best friends has a really good wardrobe approach.

    First, she pared down her wardrobe to a size that fits her personal & professional needs. Not a tiny wardrobe, but certainly not big.

    Next, anytime she buys a new article of clothing she forces herself to retire (donate) an existing article in her wardrobe. This really helps her to evaluate whether or not she is willing to part with a piece of clothing in order to get something new. If she has X number of shirts that she’s really fond of, why would she get a new one.

    This is also a really good practice because it ensures that you won’t have to constantly expand the storage space for clothing because the total size of your wardrobe remains relatively constant.

  • Amber Cullum says:

    I love that you shared these tips. I am know fashionista, but one thing I have done at the beginning of each season is make a rule to wear everything in my closet once, before wearing something a second. I get rid of what I won’t wear.

    It has worked, but I still need to get rid of a lot of clothes, because I just don’t want that much stuff anymore.

    I will put a few of these tips into action immediately, so thank you.

  • You’re a woman after my own heart, Crystal. 🙂 I’ve been following principles similar to these for years. Well, except “knowing your”colors. I’ll have to read up on that one. And, I don’t wear much jewelry – but love my scarves!

  • Angie says:

    I’m a little late, but I have to share that this article got me interested in the Color Me Beautiful system. The idea is nothing new to me: I grew up in 80’s suburbia when many of my Mom’s friends were “getting their colors done.” Being frugal, my Mom thought spending money to “get your colors done” was frivolous. However, I’m not against spending money on something if there is value there. Perhaps there is value in knowing your colors if that helps you know what to avoid when shopping.

    I tried to figure out my colors myself through online research, but that has proven difficult, and I doubt borrowing the book from the library will help. Originally there were 4 seasons (Winter, Spring… etc.). Now there are 12 seasons (3 Winters, 3 Springs… etc.).

    Someone with obvious dark or light coloring should be able to figure out their own “season” but I cannot. All I know for sure is that I’m definately NOT one of the winters. I have very pale skin (always the lightest foundation in most makeup brands) with freckles. I say my eyes are green; my Mom insists they are hazel. My hair is what really throws it off. I have medium brown hair with both blond and red highlights. I think I am one of the springs, but the celebrity examples of springs on color analysis sites all have blonde hair. However, I read on one site that most springs naturally have brown hair and dye it blonde. I know many people with my coloring go blonde, but I can’t be bothered to touch up roots and therefore I go au natural.

    I have also considered if the presense of some red in my hair and green in my eyes makes me one of the lighter autumns (soft autumn or warm autumn, but definately NOT a deep autumn). One site says the presense of freckles indicates I’m probably a “warm” season (warm spring or warm autumn) but I look at those colors, and I’m not convinced. I have narrowed it down to like 5 of the 12 seasons, which really doesn’t narrow things down : )

    Anyway, I have this turquise cardigan and I have been told that color looks good on me so I’m going to use that as a starting point, since I can’t really afford to “have my colors done” at the moment. I admit, while as a kid, the idea seemed silly, if I had the money, I would definately have my colors done now.

  • El says:

    Crystal, where did you purchase the beautiful gray open front cardigan and aqua earrings and scarf that you have pictured with your ‘4 Tips for Having a Minimalist Wardrobe’?

  • Jennifer says:

    I just did the color analysis. They picked colors for me that I love! I’m horrible at fashion sense, but I think it gives me a step in the right direction.

  • Heidi says:

    Thank you so much for this article! I really love the tip about knowing what colors look good on you, so you only buy those colors. It has helped me avoid colors that aren’t as flattering on me. It has also helped me rethink how many clothes I really need.

  • K Ann Guinn says:

    I agree with all of your points, and am working towards a more minimalist wardrobe. My clothing color choices changed dramatically (for the better), once I was “draped” by someone using the Color Me Beautiful system. My husband and I often realize that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time, as we’ve heard, so I’m working on paring down. We have older closets that are quite small, so this is especially important. I love my scarves, too!

  • Girl, you are no joke.
    This is a great, definitive list.
    OMG you are a true workhorse and researcher.

    I just wrote about my forced minimalist wardrobe, as some that lives apartment less, moving from one petsit to the next in NYC. Do I live up to your hopes?
    Living sustainably on $100/week in NYC

  • Kathy says:

    I just did the free color analysis you linked to. It was helpful!

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