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Principles of a Practical and Functional Minimalist Wardrobe

As requested, I have been asked to do a less stylish version of a minimalist’s wardrobe!

I had originally posted about creating a minimalist wardrobe for men and women here but received an email from Michelle saying the following:

I’ve only posted relevant excerpts:

I need some help with figuring out my wardrobe. I know you have a post on minimalist wardrobe for women before, but it’s not that applicable to me because I don’t dress up that much, so I don’t need that many pairs of shoes.

So… instead I followed the men’s version of minimalist wardrobe (because it’s much simpler to wear) and wear the female version of it.

Can you do a post on a practical minimalist wardrobe?

If you know what I mean… by practical, I mean putting function over fashion first… but with a splash of fashion if possible?

This is where I interjected and asked what her lifestyle was like, she replied:

I normally just wear whatever I want because my company doesn’t have a dress code.

I work in the science field, not business, so they are always lenient about it. Once in a while, I would have to dress up for interviews or formal events, but that’s like 1-2 times out of the whole year.


I was just thinking about reducing my wardrobe as much as possible.

I’m not too picky about looking FABULOUS, but I would like to look put together like the French. So simple and effortless, which is my inspiration:

  • I don’t want to think much about putting something on.
  • I also like to have multitasking and practical pieces.
  • I take care of my things, but I don’t want my things to own me. So I look into something that’s more durable, but don’t look so crappy.

Big task ahead for me, no?!

I’m up for it.

Here’s what I am suggesting for a practical, functional French-inspired, simple, effortless minimalist wardrobe for women like Michelle.




BIG FAT ASSUMPTIONS:

  • Covering all 4 seasons and all-purpose weather to a reasonable extent*
  • Not covering basics like underwear and bras
  • Not covering footwear; this is a personal for everyone. I don’t really like wearing trainers / sneakers for instance.
  • Not covering gym or specialty wear because not everyone goes to the gym (*raises hand*)

*By reasonable I mean that I have at least 2 winter coats in a minimalist wardrobe if you live in Canada but I will only list one in the wardrobe and let you decide how nasty the weather is there.

One really nice medium-weight wool one to wear during Autumn and light Winter, and a puffy goose down parka for those super cold chilly Winter days.

If I were suggesting a wardrobe for Seattle or Vancouver, I’d suggest adding a raincoat as a mandatory item.

Or if you lived somewhere super warm ALL THE TIME I’d forgo all coats and concentrate on pieces for hot weather.

SHORT NOTES ON COLOURS

Some items look best in certain colours

For instance, I’d never suggest buying a burgundy or blood red leather jacket if that is the only leather jacket you will buy.

I’d steer you towards black, grey or even navy blue just to be sure that you will buy something versatile for your wardrobe.

Please DO NOT pick the same colour for all your items

It might be tempting and easy to end up with an all-black ensemble so that everything “matches”, but contrast in colour is also important.

Mix up black with navy, add a pop of white or a deep cobalt blue in other pieces that are less expensive like t-shirts or blouses (versus winter coats), and try to have a neutral colour palette that is cohesive and makes sense but isn’t too monotone or too varied so that nothing ever goes together or matches.

1. ONE (1) AUTUMN / WINTER COAT

Oh the possibilities!

Being in Canada, I have … a ton of coats.

I love coats because Autumn and Winter are kind of my favourite seasons to bust out coats to stay warm and I do it as often as possible. I have a heavy-duty parka for super cold days and wool coats in varying thicknesses and styles (from light to medium-weight).

For the perfect coat (assuming you do not live somewhere very chilly), I’d suggest a light-to-medium weight wool coat. If you can swing cashmere & wool or camel hair & wool, even better. Those are lightweight coats that still pack a punch in keeping you warm.

http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=110411936

Here are a few winter coat styles (and the reason why I have so many coats):

  1. Belted wrap coat
  2. Double-breasted trench
  3. Peacoat
  4. Oversized
  5. Simple button-up coat (with or without buttons showing)
  6. Unconventional — Poncho or ones with faux fur collars

Basically you have the whole pick of the pack depending on personal taste. If you really just want an all-purpose Autumn/Winter coat, I have a penchant for coats that go to at least the knee, with double-breasted buttons and a belt.

The reason for this is because coats to the knee keep your butt warm, and with a buttoned / belted coat, you can either choose to just wrap it around yourself and belt it, or button it up and remove the belt, or do both.

Colours you might want to pick for this wonderfully universal coat:

  • Navy or a deep dark blue
  • Khaki / Army Green
  • Any shade of camel or tan
  • A Tweed of some sort
  • Any shade of grey
  • Black… if you must. I am not really a fan of black coats because EVERYONE wears black but I understand this
  • White / Ivory if you’re really looking for something cool and chic, drive a car or take cabs all the time & are a neat person who loves to visit the dry cleaners and pay dry cleaning bills




2. ONE – TWO (1-2) SPRING AND SUMMER COATS

Personally as I consider that I might need a formal and a casual coat, I’d probably make this two, but to be truly minimalist, I’d concede to at least one.

(Some summers can get pretty cool at night.)

Now you have two options here — either a leather or jersey biker-style jacket or a trench coat would work.

Both of them are very chic, cool and effortless but the only difference between them is one is more rugged / casual (leather jacket) and the other is more formal / polished (trench coat).

The leather jacket of course would not double as easily for rainwear either, so my preference would be to buy a trench coat first so you can wear it outside when it rains AND on any sunny day that comes your way.

(Umm… I am of course speaking of a real trench coat by the way, with waterproof or water-resistant fabric.)

However if you bought something in a cotton or a jersey that looked like a biker-style jacket, it would do fine in rain… with an umbrella.

Minimalist-Practical-Functional-Wardrobe-Spring-Summer-Coats

Styles you might want to consider:

  • Trench coats (medium, long, short)
  • Safari-style jackets
  • Wraps
  • Single-breasted coats (single button)
  • Double-breasted coats
  • Zipped coats
  • Bomber jackets

Colours you might want to consider:

    • Burgundy
    • Navy or a deep dark blue
    • Khaki / Army Green
    • Any shade of camel or tan
    • A Tweed of some sort
    • Any shade of grey
    • Black… if you must

 

3. ONE (1) BLAZER

Every woman needs this in their wardrobe because it is the easiest way to make an outfit look put together even if you are not.


Throw it on over a blouse, add a fabulous statement necklace, put on some trousers, heels or flats and you’re already in business-casual wear.

Or wear it over a t-shirt with some jeans, sneakers and roll up the sleeves.

The possibilities for this magnificent blazer are endless which is probably why I am so keen to hunt down various styles in neutral colours to make the most of this piece.

Minimalist-Practical-Functional-Wardrobe-Blazers

Blazer fabrics — the what and why:

Assuming you are anything like me and avoid polyester / rayon blazers because they can look cheap and flimsy and make you sweat, here are some natural fabrics for blazers to consider:

  • Linen or Linen Blends — it wrinkles but looks very effortless and keeps you cool especially in summer
  • Wool — Kind of too warm to wear for summer but is a good Autumn / Winter substitute for a coat as well
  • Ponte Jersey — my favourite fabric pick of all! Okay so it isn’t always 100% cotton but it is easy to wear & wash

As for the blazer style, you can’t go wrong with a single-button or 3-button blazer.

Please avoid double-breasted blazers because I think they look old and dated.. whereas a single-button blazer is so simple, you can’t go wrong with it even after decades of wearing it.

Colours you might want to consider for a blazer:

  • Navy or a deep dark blue
  • Tweed of some sort
  • Any shade of grey
  • Black… if you must. Again I am not a fan of black but I understand how important it can be for some people.
  • Pinstriped blazers in navy or black — these also look very nice
  • White / Ivory if you’re really looking for something cool and chic to brighten up your otherwise dour looking wardrobe of greys, blacks and navy blues — they’re not as high-maintenance as you might think

Other considerations:

A blazer also has a little more leeway in terms of styling and flair — it doesn’t have to be boring if you find a blazer with subtle details.

You could always go for a black blazer with a nice white trim (also called “tipped”), or something with a little flare at the bottom, ruffles or something that is different about the coat rather than your standard-issue blazer.

4. 1 (ONE) DARK RINSE BOOTCUT JEANS

Again.. a staple!

Minimalist-Practical-Functional-Wardrobe-Jeans

My favourite all-purpose jean for all body types is this:

  • Mid-rise (at least 8″) — I personally prefer high-rise because I have no real hips to speak of
  • Dark rinse
  • No weird washes or strange whiskering anywhere
  • Medium-sized pockets for the back
  • Bootcut

ReadHow to shop for the perfect pair of jeans for any body type




5. TWO (2) ALL-PURPOSE  BLOUSES

Striped, dressier or not as dressy you need something that isn’t a t-shirt and doesn’t look like one.

I like the idea of a long-sleeved blouse as well as a short or sleeveless one, so that you have at least two options.

Usually a collar on the top helps with this to make it look less t-shirt-y, but really, as long as it isn’t a t-shirt, it’s fine.

You can choose whatever style you like for this.

http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=110414403

Any colour, any style, ANYTHING really. As long as it’s something you could wear all the time and not get sick of it.

I’d suggest a striped long-sleeved (3/4 length sleeve) shirt for something more casual if you aren’t the dressy-up type. This can be worn underneath that blazer I mentioned or by itself with some jeans.

At the very least, I’d personally choose something colourful or with a pattern, or in a good bright colour so that it breaks up your otherwise neutral wardrobe.

I’d also pick something that would look good under your current choices for a coats and blazers (some blouses have odd sleeves that bunch up when you stuff your arms into a blazer and it looks horrid), but also something you can wear without a blazer and not feel too naked (no spaghetti straps or low-cut tops in this case!)

You kind of can’t go wrong with a sleeveless blouse of some sort, that way you are sure that it will layer nicely underneath a blazer.

Even if something looks TOO dressy on its own (in your eyes), mentally wear it with some jeans, add sneakers, tie your hair back in a ponytail and watch it change from “this is too fancy” to “this looks put together”. Trust me on this.

6. TWO (2) SIMPLE T-SHIRTS

No brainer. Everyone needs a simple cotton t-shirt.

White has to definitely be one of the colours in my opinion, and the other, perhaps in a navy blue or burgundy.

http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=110414812

Plenty of styles to choose from as well as colours!

  • V-Neck
  • Boat-Neck
  • Cowl-Neck
  • Scoop-Neck

I personally prefer the v-neck style. It elongates your body, makes your neck look longer and .. well seems to suit everyone’s body type, even oddly-shaped inverted triangles such as myself.

In this case, I’d opt for a white v-neck t-shirt because you are unlikely to buy white anywhere else in your wardrobe and it will add a nice freshness to your overall look. Plus it’s easy to style.




7. ONE (1) CASHMERE SWEATER

Everyone also needs a sweater if you live in colder climates. This is a nice insulating layer, and I am obviously a big fan of cashmere.

http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=110415048

Colours?

Same as all the others above, although I’d beg of you to pick a colour that is other than black or navy if you have chosen both in the above coat and blazer selections.

  • Camel / Tan
  • Navy / Dark Blue (or a brighter cobalt blue that is intense but still dark)
  • White / Ivory
  • Any shade of grey
  • Black

8. 1 (ONE) PAIR OF TROUSERS

Anything that’s not a jean so that you can wear it to more formal events, or something slightly dressier than a jeans-are-fine event, if that makes sense, maybe meeting the parents for the first time, or something where you feel nervous and need to look a little more than casual.

http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=110415219

I like straight-legged or bootcut ponte jersey trousers for this.

They’re easy to wash, wear and travel with.. and look like dress pants without being dress pants (they feel like yoga pants when you wear them but not as tight or revealing).

In a trouser, I like the following colours / patterns:

  • Herringbone
  • Tweed
  • Any shade of grey
  • Navy
  • Black

Stay away from lighter-coloured pants because you are sure to get them dirty unless someone is constantly following you around with a clean towel for you to sit on.

I break this rule by wearing white or ivory pants in summer or winter white wool pants in winter, but this is because I am a slave to style.

😉




9. ONE (1) DRESS FOR ALL OCCASIONS

You really can’t go wrong with a sheath or a wrap dress that is knee-length (and therefore, appropriate for all occasions).

Everyone looks good in one, even oddly-shaped bodies like mine (inverted triangles).

Just watch out for the collar / styling to suit your body type.

For instance, as an inverted triangle I go for v-necks, and anything that is NOT a boat neck (it elongates my shoulders and makes me look even wider up top).

I also look for ruching or some sort of nipped in waist to give me some definition and a slightly flared bottom that isn’t hip hugging so that my shoulders look more balanced.

http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=110415819

Colours to choose from:

  • Navy Blue
  • Grey
  • Black / Black & White * (See note below)

A navy or dark grey dress (wrap dress perhaps) wouldn’t be such a bad idea. They’re easy to wash, wear, pack, and you can wear it to a funeral, a wedding or any occasion in between because it isn’t black.

You can always wear a navy or a dark grey dress to a wedding of any season and make it look appropriate with your jewellery, by adding a nice bright belt, and wearing pretty shoes (bright, fun, colourful) and not as somber.

*If you must choose black because you hate navy AND grey (really?.. both colours?) then think about the style of the dress (not a simple black sheath with NOTHING on it), or a black and white dress in a simple pattern so that you can wear it to both a funeral and a wedding.

I know this is very odd but things happen and you do not want to be caught off guard and have to run to the nearest department store to buy some hideous polyester piece of crap.

10. ONE (1) SUMMER ITEM OF YOUR CHOICE

Shorts, a skirt, summer dress, cropped trousers whatever floats your boat.

Minimalist-Practical-Functional-Wardrobe-All-Purpose-Summer-Choice-Item-Skirt-Short-Skort-Dress

I personally hate wearing shorts, so I’d probably opt for a skirt or cropped trousers during the summer.

Pick something you won’t get sick of easily (maybe for you it’s the cut, or the colour.. or both!)

I would personally choose a dress in this case.

A summer dress that I could pull a sweater or a top over and use it as a skirt AND a dress. Double-duty!




MINIMALIST WARDROBE SETS

Now for the good stuff, bringing it all together!

THE CASUAL MINIMALIST WARDROBE SET

Here’s what I can wager would look good for a casual, practical, functional minimalist wardrobe:

http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=110503143

TOTAL COMBINATIONS = 91 OUTFITS

(I think I did the math right. I left out wearing the winter coat & any combination with the shorts for instance — that just looks dumb)

http://www.polyvore.com/minimalist_set_combinations/set?id=110503887

HOW THE COMBINATIONS WORK

In case you’re confused, each number in the box means that the box itself contains 2 full outfits.

The arrows, show that if you combine jackets or blazers with said outfits, you add an additional number of full outfits.

WAIT, AREN’T YOU EXAGGERATING A LITTLE?

Okay so maybe it’s cheating a little to pull a winter or spring coat over each outfit and call it a “new ensemble”, but technically it is a new look!! You’re layering.

ONLY A FEW COMBINATIONS ARE TRULY SILLY

The only time I think it would look silly is wearing a winter coat with shorts or a skirt or something equally as odd, so I left out THAT combination.

I mean really?

THE THING ABOUT SEPARATES IS BEING ABLE TO PAIR IT MULTIPLE TIMES

You can see with the skort (skirt + short), I made it work with 3 tops and 3 blazers, along with throwing a leather jacket over top the black long-sleeved top and cashmere cardigan only (not the white blazer, that looks silly), and making it a warmer outfit for an Autumn or Spring night.

Of course I really hate wearing shorts, even skorts, but this is something that could work.




BOLDER COLOURS HERE AND THERE MAKE SENSE BUT NOT EVERYWHERE

The problem with having bold colours in single pieces is that they have to work in the overall scheme of the wardrobe, or else they became wardrobe orphans or very picky pieces that can’t be worn in multiple outfits.

I could have gone with a black blazer, or a navy pair of Audrey Hepburn-style ankle pants, or a short or skirt that was NOT in a bright cobalt blue but I chose to go with different colours and tones because otherwise the entire wardrobe would end up too drab and neutral.

Having one pop of colour here and there (within reason), makes sense if you consider the other items in the wardrobe being able to be paired with it.

For instance, putting a burgundy t-shirt with that cobalt blue skort and the khaki green ankle pants (my initial pairing) looked really dumb as a colour combination (or really awkward / hard to wear), so I switched out the burgundy t-shirt for a grey one so it would work better:

http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=110505133

THE MORE FORMAL PIECES ARE ACTUALLY QUITE CASUAL

As for the pieces like the black and white dress (your all-purpose dress), and the leather jacket, I made them casual in terms of the fabric.

The dress is a jersey and not something like a silk or anything equally as stiff, and it looks nice on its own but also with lots of different jackets over top.

Pairing a white blazer with the dress for instance, makes it look fresh and interesting, and could be worn to a more casual interview if you felt like you needed a jacket. Many people would opt to get a black blazer instead of a white one but a black blazer is (for me) very close to the black leather jacket I had already chosen for the set, so I wanted something different in terms of colour.

Speaking of the leather jacket, the cut is not too casual but the fabric itself (leather) makes it look casual, yet the cut is slightly more formal (no zippers, clean, minimalist straight lines), which pairs well with everything in that wardrobe.

————————————————————————————————————

THE SLIGHTLY DRESSIER MINIMALIST WARDROBE SET

http://www.polyvore.com/minimalist_set/set?id=110465392

I know Michelle requested “not too fancy”, but I can’t make a combination set without showing you something that I’d be more inclined to wear.

TOTAL COMBINATIONS = 76

(At least.. I think I did the math right.)

http://www.polyvore.com/minimalist_set_combos/set?id=110466512

76 TOTAL OUTFITS

ONE EXTRA, WELL-CHOSEN ITEM IN YOUR WARDROBE CAN MEAN 2-8 NEW OUTFITS

Anyway, the idea of the set above is to show you that by choosing colours that go together (generally), you can add a blouse or a top and immediately multiply what you can wear by a few outfits.

HOW CAN A DRESS HAVE A TOP OVER IT AND BE CONSIDERED NEW OUTFITS?

For the dresses it might seem odd that I added that long-sleeved striped top in there, but if you wear that over any of the two dresses, it looks like a new dress:


Minimalist-Functional-Practical-Wardrobe-Set-1-Dressier-Combinations-Dresses-and-Tops

 

You might think that looser bottom looks a bit odd with the tighter fit of the dresses but if you add a nice belt, it hides all of that.

Or add that navy blazer, camel cashmere wrap sweater, or any of the two jackets over that and you have another 4 – 8 more outfits, something like this:

http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=110501601

PICK VERSATILE, SIMPLE PIECES THAT CAN DO DOUBLE-DUTY

The key is to pick non-fussy pieces, and by that I mean you can’t pick a really odd looking blouse that requires a certain kind of bottom to go with it to look good, because it limits the multiple-usage of your minimalist wardrobe.

A pair of pants, or a blouse that is really finicky and specific will not be versatile enough to go over your entire wardrobe.




LAST WORDS:

Now you’re probably asking: But .. do you follow all of these rules!?

Yes and no. No if you count items and the variety I have in my wardrobe, and Yes if you consider that I do look at what the piece will bring to my overall wardrobe.

If I see something amazing, but it looks too unique to be worn unless it’s with SPECIFIC pieces (that I may or may not have), I reluctantly put it back.

I like items that are different, but I also like knowing that if I buy a formal silk (vintage) dress, I can throw a sweater over it, turn it into a skirt, add a belt or a leather jacket and make it something casual.

Ultimately the key to a minimalist wardrobe is making sure that EACH and EVERY piece you buy is considered for its inherent value, and then how it will integrate in the rest of your wardrobe.

Consider EVERYTHING you buy with a scrutinizing, sharp eye.

…otherwise you will end up with a mish mash of random but cool pieces that don’t go together AT ALL because you’re totally missing the base of a basic, neutral wardrobe to make the pieces work.

The trick is to have a 90% balance of neutral, classic pieces and 10% interesting or unique pieces that can easily go from one outfit to another.

..and therein lies the work. You have to make a list, come up with a combination that works for you and your lifestyle and stick to it!

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have paid my $600K home in cash (my half was $300K), my $180K casr in cash, worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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57 Comments

  1. Jennifer Snuffleupagus

    Girl, you are no joke.
    This is the most definitive list – with photos detailing everything as well.
    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?

    http://nynomads.com/2017/05/the-minimalist-wardrobe/
    Living sustainably on $100/week in NYC

    Reply
  2. Anika

    That’s all nice, but everybody should consider how often they do laundry.
    I do twice a week… So, I need like 2 T shirts a day during summer, that would mean having about 10-15 neutral T shirts in the closet and 3-4 summer pants/bermudas to not get a panic attack every morning, and to have calm mind about having enough clean clothes to wear for the job or going for a walk 😉
    Basically, I have extended minimalist wardrobe, those “expendable” elements are multiplied a few times with sticking to similar models and neutral colors – T shirts, shirts, summer pants, winter short skirts.
    Making something like season uniform look, and just multiplying elements that get dirty quickest and need change more frequently.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Oh good point about summer and needing more. I guess I never think about it because I have so many clothes it doesn’t matter 🙂

      Your point about expendable items (e.g. coats don’t get washed daily), is a good point as well.

      I do laundry once a week but with a toddler, I do it twice. That said, I should update this post to take into account weather.

      Reply
    2. Minimalist Teacher

      I definitely agree. This is a great start for a wardrobe, but may not have quite enough in it to truly function as far as having enough clean things. For example, I have a job as a teacher where I need to wear dress pants or a skirt daily. A single pair of trousers wouldn’t cut it. I also live in a colder climate, so a single sweater is unrealistic, even with the 2 blouses included. To wear the same pair of trousers and sweater basically every day in January would be a little to minimal. I’d worry in summer with a single pair of shorts too. It’s not that I won’t re-wear a pair of shorts or a skirt, but not 7 days a week all summer, especially where I do laundry at a laundromat.

      Reply
  3. Kady

    This is one of the best and most useful articles on building a capsule wardrobe I’ve seen so far. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      You’re welcome, I am glad it helped.

      Reply
    2. Hillccs

      Agreed!

      Reply
  4. Rebecca Marrs

    What an amazing article! I have read many, many minimalist wardrobe articles and have felt stuck – until now! *Claps hands* This has made me even more excited about slowing shifting to this lifestyle. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. sherry@savespendsplurge.com

      I’m so pleased to hear that!! Stay tuned for my upcoming ebook 🙂

      Reply
  5. Alexis

    I *really* liked this post! Thank your posting such a realistic minimalist wardrobe. Very helpful.

    Reply
  6. Cherryl

    This is a good approach to a minimalist wardrobe. I’ve been working on paring mine down for awhile, and finally got to a point where my entire wardrobe was able to fit into a carry-on bag for a month long trip, crossing several climate zones. Going from Missouri, to Seattle, to Alaska, then down through So-Cal and then across the southern US to get back home.

    My “secret” was layers, and leaving the bulky coat at home. Most of the fabrics were made of Merino wool, which is lightweight, breathable, and odorless–meaning that I could go longer between launderings if necessary. An outfit for me, on a cold & wet hiking day consisted of Merino wool leggings underneath my travel pants, two pair of socks, two long-sleeve tees, and an attractive overshirt (worn like a jacket), plus a thigh-length, waterproof windbreaker with hood. The Merino wool shed water well, and didn’t stay damp long. The travel pants looked so nice that they could go into any establishment. The overshirt was more like a jacket, and dressed things up even more. Anytime I was overheated, I could lose the layers. That’s sort of my everyday “uniform”, with various colors to choose from. But, my two pair of ponte pants are black. My ankle boots and trainers are black. My purse is black. The only color I need is in my tops, jewelry, scarves, and nail polish. I just don’t like having to think about my wardrobe all that much.

    Reply
    1. sherry@savespendsplurge.com

      I wish I was more like that — not thinking about my wardrobe so much. I love coats, scarves, and mixing and matching. The variety and the outfits I create are what make me really happy when it all comes together. Sounds frivolous but it is a hobby.. dressing up 🙂

      Reply
  7. Valentine

    This is a great primer on planning out a minimalist wardrobe! I like your classy sense of style and would love to emulate it. I like to think that I dress like this regularly, but in fact I only look polished 50% of the time at the office, and on my personal time I just look like a slob all of the time because I don’t know how to dress myself casual but nicely.

    I’m on a weight loss journey and as my clothes wear out or become too big, I want to replace them in a strategic way that will give me a classy/sophisticated, functional, minimalist wardrobe. I’ve been lost until now (literally thinking that I’d have to hire someone to get it done right), but seeing how you did this makes me think I could plan one out now and then build it out as I go.

    Thanks for what you’ve put together here! Your time spent blogging has the power to improve the lives of strangers… not something I say about most blogs.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Thank you so much. What a sweet comment to read on a Thursday 🙂

      As for a weight loss journey tip, I would COMPLETELY recommend a wrap dress. My dresses have seen me through early months of pregnancy to my daily yoga days.

      You do not need to hire anyone. Give it a shot first and then see how it goes before hiring someone.

      I think if you consider that you can swap out your sweatpants for instance for some comfortable premium denim jeans, they are just as comfortable and more chic. It is just as easy to throw on a T-shirt as it is to throw on a nicer t-shirt or blouse.

      Thank you!

      Reply
  8. eridanis

    I just don’t understand. I try, but I don’t get it. Ok, so 1 (wrap?!) sweater? And 1 long sleeved shirt? Where I live it gets really cold, often for days at a time, and I know it’s the same for others do as well. 1 sweater + 1 layer-able shirt doesn’t cut it. And for different reasons, same for jeans and trousers…1 pair each….just no. And you say you have more & could do laundry once a month. And I get that this is for someone else, but I don’t see how she will manage. So….. how many of each item do you really have? What’s really realistic ? I’m not [ trying to be] snarky, I just honestly can’t figure out how this works.

    I am retired, so my clothes are versions of casual. And I’m never going to wear a girly blouse or dress/ skirt again in my life if I can help it, so that’s a thing, but I know I can pare down.

    Still, when I see blogs like this, I tend to abandon hope. I am doing well to try to have less than 9 of each thing. My goal is 3 – 5, but 1? Not possible.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I’m not a minimalist when it comes to my wardrobe, but people ask me what my bare minimum is, and that’s what it is.

      I own more than 1 item in each area, and it’s all up to you to decide what you want to wear or not, but people who want to wear as little as possible, don’t have multiples of the same thing and honestly wear the same thing over and over again.

      Reply
    2. Minimalist Teacher

      I agree. Minimalism is great, but this wardrobe would leave one doing laundry quite often and getting some strange looks at the office.

      Reply
  9. Bmarie

    So…. how often do you have to do laundry?

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Frankly, a whole month can go by. I own a lot of clothes. 🙂

      Reply
  10. V

    Great post! i LOVE LOVE your style. Except the bootcut jeans 😉 Do you live in Toronto and can you come help me organize my clothes? lol I too need to dress up for work (bank) and like good quality clothes. Somehow getting dressed everyday is such a struggle! I love the idea of a functional minimalist wardrobe.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I moved to Montreal, sorry 🙂

      For working at the bank, why not just wear suits? They’re pretty easy.

      Reply
  11. sunbystar

    Very helpful! I am still struggling for getting rid of the clothes. I am using about 30/70, but when I am doing the wardribe re-arrangement, never know what to declutter.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Ditto! I’m trying my best to declutter as well.

      Reply
  12. Alicia

    I am in a very similar situation as the woman who messaged you – science, can be lax, needs to be able to dress up from time to time. This is awesome! I actually have a wardrobe similar to these pieces buried within my pit of a closet. I am working on paring it down to a properly functioning one. This is a great guide, thanks!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      You’re welcome! 😀

      Reply
  13. Tania

    When I buy things now I always try to think of 3 or 4 different ways to wear it. I also stick to charcoal, black, white and army for the most part.

    I do the layering over a dress a lot. Eileen Fisher’s youtube channel also has a ton of great videos on layering and a minimalist wardrobe. The clothes aren’t cheap but less dressy/simple. Your reader may find those helpful for her lifestyle.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Tania: I love wearing white but know that I sit in dirty subway trains so it always turns a light grey if I don’t keep up on it.

      Good clothing is not cheap but I like layering pieces to make it look different.

      Reply
  14. SarahN

    I think I follow (instinctively, rather than thinking about it) these rules. I have a black wool coat (since 2006) and honestly, I’m cool with black! I’ve had other ‘out there’ coats, but it makes me less willing to part with it (ie when I warm up!), as it’s such a statement piece.

    I bought a Navy trench more than a year ago, despite being a ‘cheap’ store one, I love the styling to bits, and the navy is versatile too. I was hoping to snap a grey wool coat in the same Europe trip, but only Bennetton had grey, and I like a formal style in coats, not slouchy.

    I have a black and a grey cashmere pullover/sweater, though the V neck is too high for my liking, when I’m in true cold places (US/Europe) I am thankful. In any case, an extensive scarf wardrobe helps even with a minimalist clothing wardrobe – gives that ‘jolt’ of colour.

    I have countless long sleeved tees, as I still sweat in winter, so they get a wash after a wear, likewise with a tank under each in winter. For summer, it’s WAY too hot in true summer in Australia to wear a blazer. Maybe come march, a cardigan might work, if it’s cotton.

    Anyhow, i love these posts, and I’m glad you don’t add sources (or I don’t notice them) otherwise, I’d be buying heaps! You have a great eye for style

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @SarahN: I do like the look of a navy trench coat, and a dark green one too but I don’t want to start having different colours of something just because I think it looks nice, when they all just look the same.. I want something different in each piece I buy.

      I don’t add sources because I am too lazy. It’s a lot of work with each piece I feature, but if anyone is interested in specific pieces I’ve featured, you can click on the image and go to Polyvore to see where I created them from 🙂

      Reply
  15. cosmogirl2100

    Lovely post and great timing! I am someone who doesn’t really like shopping for clothes, but I have to replace a bunch of stuff that no longer fits, so will be keeping this in mind 🙂

    Reply
  16. AdinaJ

    I aspire so very much to be a minimalist by this definition … But I can’t! I would be bored to tears with this closet in about 2 weeks. I totally respect and understand that others would passionately disagree with me, but I need more variety. More colour. More patterns. I’m such a terrible minimalist!

    My goal is to have a well curated (ugh, that word) wardobe where all the pieces work well together and present a cohesive image. Just more pieces, though.

    Having done my version of a serious purge, I’ve come to appreciate the functionality of having “capsule” wardrobes for each season. I initially tried to keep them to about 30-40 items (not including shoes, etc) but I started feeling constricted, so I doubled the number. I know that sounds like a lot, but I really hate wearing the same things/outfits over and over. Having the capsule, though, really helped me hone in on my personal aesthetic, closet holes, and what I need to get rid off/not buy anymore.

    I do love reading posts like this though … and pining over my inability to be a minimalist 😉

    Reply
    1. AdinaJ

      @AdinaJ: edited to add – there is a lot of overlap between my “capsules” – lest you think I have the closet of Imelda Marcos 😉

      Reply
      1. save. spend. splurge.

        @AdinaJ: Uh huh 😛 And how many shoes / bags do you own exactly? 🙂

        Reply
    2. save. spend. splurge.

      @AdinaJ: Oddly enough, you and me both can’t be style minimalists. I can be a minimalist everywhere else but in clothing.

      I myself have reached a point where everything goes together and looks great, so I technically do not need anything else except for 2-3 pairs of basic shoes missing from my final shoe wardrobe. Otherwise for clothing I am pining for a black leather jacket but could live without it 🙂

      Reply
  17. alana

    sorry, long post. So excited I guess i missed the bits on skirts my first time through, i now see them

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @alana: No worries 🙂 Any skirt style works. I don’t like very tight short things, and my body type doesn’t either, so I go for flared skirts, then maybe something like a pencil skirt would do as well for me.

      Reply
  18. Erin @ Red Debted Stepchild

    Pinning this my dear! As a minimalist with a minimal wardrobe, I love it :). Unfortunately both my spring jacket AND only blazer were stolen out of my baggage when the airport lost it :/. I will definitely re-buy the blazer if I ever get reimbursed and will eventually get a new jacket as well.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Erin @ Red Debted Stepchild: WHAT?

      Why would someone steal someone else’s clothes that were lost!?!? That is just wrong and unethical on so many levels, especially if you are like me and you spent time hunting down the perfect jacket.

      Reply
  19. alana

    This post is perfectly timed, just this week I was flipping through your archives checking out wardrobe posts since I’m looking to build a whole new assemble. I really like the wardrobe looks you regularly put together, but they always seem so polished and a bit more dressy than is practical for me. Like Michelle, I also work in science and as long as you come to work clean, nobody really cares what you wear (which has been great for keeping costs low). However, I will be moving from the tropics to Canada soon for a career change to the business field. So excited, now I actually get a chance to indulge my more “dressy” side as I build a whole new wardrobe from scratch. I only plan to buy one coat so learning what fabrics,styles, etc work best in the temperature region is good to know. We all know you like dresses and I happen to love sheath dresses and skirts. Skirts were ,missing from this guide however, any particular ( practical) recommendations?

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @alana: I’m glad it’s helping you out 🙂

      I know I am a dressier person so this was a challenge … haha

      Reply
  20. Sara

    Dislikes navy and grey? *raises hand* Navy and grey are the stuff parochial school uniforms are made of. I just can’t bear to buy myself dress clothes in those colors…so, black wins.

    Have you heard of project 333? The idea is 33 items of clothing for three months as a minimalist challenge. I’ve started doing a modified version myself – I excluded my winter coat/snow boots/gloves (I believe the woman behind the idea is from somewhere more temperate) and I’ve also excluded accessories from my 33 items. While it isn’t something I want to stick with for three months, choosing 33 items with that ideal in mind helped me rid myself of lots of stuff that I’m not actually wearing because I don’t love it.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Sara: *LAUGH*!! Okay, proven wrong 🙂

      I really dislike black, so to each their own.

      I did hear of project 333 but I tried going through my wardrobe to do something similar and gave up. I am too fickle…

      There was a girl from a blog called afterDRK who did 5 pieces in a minimalist wardrobe. I almost cried seeing how little she had because I’d go nuts.

      Reply
      1. MelD

        @save. spend. splurge.: I had an epiphany this week when I realised that nobody used to wear black when I was growing up, except little old widowed ladies in the village in Germany where my dad came from!! It simply wasn’t a fashion colour in the 60s/70s and certainly young people were discouraged from wearing it – I suppose it still had wartime connotations with mourning etc.
        Nowadays even small children wear black, teens live in it, it’s standard for business etc. A bit depressing, really – no wonder I keep trying to leave it behind!!

        Reply
        1. save. spend. splurge.

          @MelD: I’m of the same mindset. Black is necessary for some pieces, and nice in small doses — leather jackets, perhaps a pair of pants, or in boots but not as an entire outfit like some Wicked Witch of NYC.

          Reply
  21. MelD

    Wow, that was very thorough! Covers all bases, though. Thanks for all that work.

    For those who are a bit dazed about this and wardrobes in general, do note that many catalogues do the work for you each season with double-page spreads of mix/match outfits, usually 6-8 items that will carry you through a week at a time easily and generally have a very average clothing budget in mind – you don’t have to worry about fashion or anything other than if the colour combinations appeal to you (as long as it’s not 3 items in a hugely memorable print!), buy the suggested items and have fun combining the limited options, anything from 6-15 outfits are easily combined. Takes the pressure off… Doing this twice gives you a year’s worth of good season-covering clothes in a budget range where the items will probably last for a good 3-4 years, at least. A simple and pretty sustainable investment, I think.
    (Heine/Helline is particularly good at this with all its collections, but others do it, too, and I’m sure it’s no different in the US/Canada!)

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @MelD: Oh yes, good point. I do look at catalogues to get ideas and I may not necessarily buy the entire outfit presented but it gives me a good base.

      I will check out Heine/Helline. I have never heard of them!

      Reply
      1. MelD

        @save. spend. splurge.: You might need to try helline.fr, as I’m not sure there’s an English language site.

        Reply
  22. Marie @ 4HWD

    Wooooow!!! I’m so amazed by all of these! I usually bought simple T-shirt especially the V neck style and pair it with jeans.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Marie @ 4HWD: Well it depends on what you want to do with your wardrobe or not 🙂 I’m the kind of person who likes fashion, style, etc.. but it is not everyone’s priority.

      Reply
  23. Cassie

    I’m seriously printing this off and going through my closet in the morning. Her situation mirrors mine exactly and this is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Cassie: Excellent! You’re welcome 😀

      Reply
  24. Midori

    Wow… you even did clothes math. :O *clap clap clap* Very useful! Thanks! 🙂

    (I like your dressier minimalist set!)

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Midori: I’m a dressier person so that would be the set I’d choose if I had to 🙂

      Reply
      1. Midori

        @save. spend. splurge.: “As for the blazer style, you can’t go wrong with a single-button or 3-button blazer.”

        What about 2 buttons?

        Reply

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