What is a Minimalist Wardrobe?

The Minimalist Wardrobe

Always personal, never based on a certain number or style.

A simple wardrobe by an open window
Illustration by Hannah Beasley

You’ve seen the picture perfect wardrobes on Instagram. Many times there’s a neat little clothes rack, with only a few items of clothing hanging, perfectly spaced and aligned. Usually the color scheme is all neutral.

In fact, you can see several examples on our own Instagram page, @theminimalistwardrobe. These photos get people excited about simplifying their wardrobe, which is what we’re all about.

Sometimes something essential is missing from these wardrobes, such as pants. Other times something like sandals are the only type of shoes to be seen.

Maybe minimalists never wear pants and have an irrational love for sandals — to the point of getting rid of all other footwear. Makes winters hard, but perhaps it’s all worth it for the sake of getting on board the minimalist movement?

Truth is that the appearance of a wardrobe doesn’t tell if it’s minimalist or not. How a wardrobe looks like, how big it is in absolute numbers, or how neatly it’s organized has nothing to do with the minimalist wardrobe philosophy.

There’s only one rule to qualify a wardrobe as minimalist: no excess clothing.

Include Only What You Need and Wear

A minimalist wardrobe should only contain clothes you need and wear regularly. It really is that simple.

Some clothes — such as your winter coat — might not get worn as often as others, which is to be expected. Just as long as it has a clear purpose in your life, it can be included in a minimalist wardrobe.

What doesn’t belong are the slightly broken pair of sweatpants you never wear, because you have two better pairs available. Neither does the band tee you’ve mentally outgrown, nor the chunky sweater you actually like, but never end up wearing since it’s so itchy.

Are you catching on? Include what you wear and enjoy, and get rid of what you don’t.

Keep in mind that your wardrobe should never limit your life. If your active lifestyle requires a large wardrobe, then so be it. Just be mindful of what you really need.

The Usual Characteristics of a Minimalist Wardrobe

Versatile clothes are key to keeping your wardrobe small but functional. You want to start thinking more about complete outfits than single garments. A pair of perfectly fitting chinos doesn’t do you any good if they can’t be worn with any of your shirts or sweaters.

You’d be surprised by how many outfits you can put together from as little as 20 items of clothing — as long as you take the time to think about the combinations.

In addition to versatility, focus on choosing well, favoring high quality, and actively caring for your clothes. This allows you to feel good in all your outfits, while at the same time saving money. Essentially you’re maximizing the value of your wardrobe.

Going minimalist with your wardrobe is enough to significantly reduce the negative impact clothes can have on the environment. That said, many choose to further lessen the impact by opting for second hand or sustainably made clothes.

This is something we warmly recommend for everyone. Fortunately we’re seeing more and more options for responsible fashion all the time.

Anyone Can Have a Minimalist Wardrobe

Remember the only rule of minimalist wardrobes? That’s right: no excess clothes.

This means that absolutely anyone can have a minimalist wardrobe. A working mom with an active social life probably needs a good amount of clothes. Her wardrobe can still be minimalist, as long as it doesn’t contain unnecessary clothing.

There are no magic numbers to hit, or color schemes to follow. It’s all about finding the wardrobe that allows you to live your best life.