Like my kitchen, I’ve been slowly paring down my wardrobe since the beginning of adulthood to make the everyday more doable. In the early days, my drawers could barely close and created daily frustration. I kept a lot around because, variety is the spice of life. At least that’s what they say. And yet, I always grabbed for the same pair of jeans, the ones that fit like a glove, and the same t-shirt that washed and wore well. I was wearing a uniform, though it took me awhile to realize it. But once I did, I slowly started getting rid of the excess. From there, I started buying my clothes like I buy pantry staples, in bulk—2 of the same favorite camisole, 2 of the same pair of jeans, 2 of the same favorite t-shirt, and 10 of the same pair (and color) of underwear.
But why, Melissa? You’re stripping the joy out of it. Actually, I feel like I’m injecting my life with more joy. Life is plenty complicated on its own. If I can simplify the things within my control, like my wardrobe or kitchen, then I have more mental bandwidth to handle the out-of-my-control daily chaos. I should mention, shopping is one of my least favorite activities. I suffer from decision paralysis, buyers remorse, and a hard-to-clothe body. If you too fall in that camp, I’ll break down my loose formula for creating a minimalist wardrobe below.
A couple things worth noting first. As with all things minimalism, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Use my approach as one of many examples, as a rough template. If you choose to do this with your wardrobe, treat it as a lifestyle change rather than a fad. To do so, give yourself time to create it. Years, even. My wardrobe is a very slow collection of the good stuff. I’ll link to similar things I own and love below. Be warned, people might notice that you wear similar outfits. Use it as a conversation starter. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. And finally, only buy in multiples after you know the purchase is a good one, after you’ve worn and washed and been real honest about the item.
How to Create a Winter Minimalist Wardrobe
• List the occasions you need clothes for: everyday, work, working out, special occasions, lounging?
• Consider how often you do laundry: once a week, twice a week, every other week?
• Consider the weather: sub-zero vs. chilly temps?
• Pay attention to the style of clothes you prefer, the color palette, and what looks best on your body.
• With this information, create a rough template for your wardrobe needs. Every template will look different.
• Then place a giveaway box or bag in your closet for 3 months. This will allow you to slowly pare down and rescue an item if needed. Slow, thoughtful decision-making tends to be more trustworthy than rash decision-making in my closet.
• When you shop, shop with a purpose, for a very specific item. In other words, shop your list, not the store. If uncertain, leave the tags on for a couple days or a week after bringing it home to make sure the item is a keeper. A good decision now will still be a good decision a week later.
My Winter Minimalist Wardrobe Template
Color palette: black, white, chambray, and grey + a pop of plaid
2 pairs of blue jeans (low-rise)
1 other pair of jeans (white jeans)
2 long-sleeved tees, same color (like so)
2 white camisoles, 1 black (love these long camis for maternity or not)
2-3 different cozy open-front sweaters (cozy neutral or pop of pattern)
1 vest (like so)
2 chambray button-downs or popovers (like so)
1 patterned popover (like this one)
1 scarf/wrap (pop of plaid)
10 pairs of underwear, same color
1 black winter dress
2 workout shirts
2 pairs of yoga pants (so pricey but love the size varieties)
Everyday low winter boots (favorite boot)
Tall, extra warm winter boots (favorite boot)
Flats (my favorite durable flat)
Closed-toed shoes (this is my task for the winter)
Hi! Just happened on your website! I would love to know your underwear recommendation if it’s not TMI. I’m in the market for new and would love suggestions of brand/style? Thanks!
Hi Vanessa! I’m still buying the VS Retro Floral Lace-Waist Hiphugger Panty.
I loved this post last winter and would love if you did a spring summer post soon!
I will totally do that! Thanks for writing and suggesting!
Do you have a similar post for other seasons? Would love to read about spring/summer wardrobes
I don’t yet, but will plan on doing one for summer/spring!
That would be awesome!
Love this! Am wondering where you found the open front sweater shown in the top left of the template? Thanks!
Great advice! I’ve also been trying to pare down my wardrobe. One downside I’ve noticed is more “wear and tear” on my staple pieces. Do you have any care/laundry tips for keeping your capsule items looking good? Thanks!
That’s a great question. I do wear some of my clothes out, but I consider it a good problem. They’ve served their purpose. In general, I wear things several times before washing, as long as they aren’t dirty. For whites, I wash separately on hot and rarely dry the whites, hanging dry instead. It helps to keep them whiter. For colors, I wash on cold. Depending on the item, I either dry on medium or low heat or hang dry. I’ve found the beauty of having less clothes I knowing how to best care for each item. I used to ruin so many things in the wash. Hopefully this is helpful!
Yes, thanks Melissa!
This was the best article on a paired down wardrobe. I just loved it! I mostly do this but keep hanging on to things I don’t wear, because I think I’m going to be too “boring”, if I don’t!lol
I’ve been looking for a low winter boot and was excited to see what you reccomended, but I couldn’t get that particular link to work(all the others did). Would you mind checking it. Thanks!
Link is updated! Thanks for the heads up. And I’m so glad you liked it! I feel you about the too boring part. I hung on to extra stuff for so long for fear of being too boring, even though I was wearing a uniform without realizing. It’s so weird the messages that are ingrained into our heads.
I did this about 18 months ago… I bought the most amazing Ponte Pants and a Chambray and it has become my “uniform”. Just added the the leopard print Rothy because they truley are a wonderful flat… the only item I need is a pair of denim; which still eludes me after 18 months!
I love this and am definitely moving in this direction myself. One thing I’d add to your list that might cover the closed toe shoe gap… Sven shearling clogs. I just went to the outlet in Chisago City and picked up the most gorgeous pair of Sven and No. 6 clogs. I think the most they charge is $125 vs the $350+ in other stores. No socks needed, they look chic, are very comfortable and they work with your wardrobe. 🙂
Hi Mellisa, I’m looking for a good book to read on minimalism, any suggestions for ones that have inspired you?
What about outerwear? Do you have a formula for jackets/vests/parkas/trench coats?
I relate so well to ALL of this! Thank you for sharing what has worked for you. I’ve been pairing down my wardrobe for the past few months and I’m so excited to get to a place I feel peaceful with. I live in Michigan so it also helps me to get ideas from others who share the same climates. So glad others asked about the underwear because that was going to be my question too, haha!
I aspire towards a minimalist wardrobe but am always thwarted! Love my Rothy’s though – there are great because you can machine wash! You can get $20 off on your first pair! http://share.rothys.com/x/uWbrMD
Have you incorporated any ethical/sustainability made designers into your “formula”? There are so many out there. Next time you’re looking for a new shirt consider giving Tradlands a look! And Pact makes amazing undies and socks. ?
I’m glad you mentioned this! I have such a hard time finding clothes that fit well, I go to the handful of places that I’ve had decent luck at in the past. However, this is on my list of things to try to start integrating. I do it with food; it’s time that it spills over into my wardrobe too. Thanks for the recommendations. Taking notes!
I wanted to buy from sustainable brands too. One year that was my goal. I fiound most of the brands were greared to women my daughters age-early 30’s. (The way they fit) I ended up spending quite a bit of money and gave most of it to my daughter. My idea of sustainable is something I’ll wear with ease, comfort and will last a while. Eight years ago I bought an Old Navy sleeveless Jean dress for the summer, it’s still going strong and I always get compliments on it. That’s sustainable in my view. I’ll still keep an open mind but I need clothes that will serve me well.
Love this! Any recommendations for a black winter dress? So many dresses out there are not very cold-weather friendly.
I am so with you on this, however I need a little tweaking! Right now Im on the hunt for a good sweatshirt, I had a gooder from Aritzia, and sadly they don’t make it anymore. Do you have a favourite?
This is the post I have been waiting for!! I’m an aspiring minimalist in a house full of people who aren’t (in an ok way) and I’ve been working on a capsule wardrobe for years. Thank you for sharing your method and insight.
Love your choices! Enjoyed this post very much.
Such great advice! Everything can interchange and I love that!
Absolutely love this. Weird question but…favorite underwear?
I can’t believe I’m sharing this with this internet! Ha! I’ve been wearing this style
for years. I only buy them when they go on sale! I used to buy lots of different colors, because it just felt right, but I’ve simplified it down to one color and it’s just one less thing to think about.
In regard to finding a closed toe shoe, I love my Dansko clogs! I have a similar pair from Keen but OMG my feet feel great and I can wear them for hours. I live in Buffalo and brought them to Iceland didn’t need to worry about water or comfort.
I’m on the hunt for comfortable underwear, do you mind sharing the ones you love??
I’ve been wearing this style
for years. I only buy them when they go on sale! I used to buy lots of different colors, because it just felt right, but I’ve simplified it down to one color.
Thank you!! I’ll check them out! You must have 1 pair of nude ones for those white pants!!! ?
Thankfully my white jeans are super thick, so you can’t see through!
So darling! Love your style!
I’ve been thinking about getting both your everyday & tall/warm winter boots. If you don’t mind doing a quick review how are they in terms of warmth? And how’s the heaviness if you’re wearing them out and about and have to keep them on for several hours at a time?
Absolutely! I bought the tall/warm boots first, a couple years after my last pair bit the dust. They are bulky and somewhat heavy but very warm! I use them to go sledding, take winter hikes, when the temp is super cold, and the snow high. Still, I needed something more for the everyday that I could slip on and off and that would do well in 1-2 inches of snow, so I bought the everyday boots and wear them everyday in the winter. They aren’t lined so I wear cozy wool socks with them. They slide on and off easily and they are so very light. Let me know if you have other questions!
Thanks so much!
Thanks for the inspiration… I’m currently paring down my kitchen supplies and this was so timely. Regarding your hunt for closed-toed shoes, I recommend checking out Keen! I have a pair of their mary-janes and have been surprised at how versatile they’ve been — you can pair with a variety of outfit styles but they still have nice grippy soles and a little toe protection.
So smart! I like your note on taking your time and slowly gather things to give away