Less Is More: How to Build a Chic Minimalist Wardrobe in 4 Steps

Minimalist Wardrobe

Image: Getty

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. —Hans Hofmann

Have you ever wondered why some of the most successful people on the planet wear a daily uniform? Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has a thing for gray T-shirts, Vogue‘s Creative Director Grace Coddington favors black, President Obama gravitates toward blue or gray suits and Steve Jobs only wore black mock turtlenecks and blue jeans. The same goes for a number of well-known fashion designers: Karl Lagerfeld, Vera Wang, Michael Kors, Prabal Gurung, Thom Browne, Carolina Herrera and Alber Elbaz, to name a few. What gives? The answer is simple: When you’re making significant decisions all day long, it’s one less thing to think about.

Intrigued? You’re not the only one. Despite an influx of fast fashion retailers touting a “more is more” philosophy, minimalism is slowly catching on. Vivienne Westwood, for example, has been imploring people to “buy less — choose well.” So has Rick Owens, who told Details that working out is modern couture. “Buy less clothing and go to the gym instead,” he said. And just this March, Drew Barrymore penned an article about why she put her closet on a strict diet.

If you want to jump on the minimalism train and streamline your overflowing wardrobe, whether it’s because you want a daily uniform or you just want to downsize, we’re here to help. Below is a four-step process to help you simplify, simplify, simplify.


27 Bridesmaids

27 Dresses; Image: Giphy

Before you make any decisions, it’s a good idea to know what you have and what you need. Write down what you like about your wardrobe and what you don’t like, and then write down what your goals are for your wardrobe. Do you want to be able to transition from day to night easily? Do you want to cut your dry cleaning bill in half? This way you have a clear idea of the direction you want to go and what you already have in your closet that will help you get there.


A minimalist wardrobe doesn’t necessarily translate into a black, gray and white color scheme. There’s a big difference between a minimalist aesthetic and a minimalist lifestyle. If you like bold colors and zany patterns, then your wardrobe should include that. But first, it’s important to know your style. If you’re not quite sure, take a look in your closet. What fabrics and colors do you buy most often? What silhouettes make you feel the best? If you’re constantly saying, “I don’t have anything to wear,” ask yourself why. Is it because your clothes are weathered or do they not fit properly? 

Lisa Kudrow in Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion; Image: Giphy

Another great place to start defining your style is Pinterest. Create a style board and pin any fashion that you like. Don’t think too hard about it; just pin what makes you happy and then go back to look at the common threads. Are most of the looks classic or are they edgy? Do they look more uptown or downtown, casual or dressy? Once you define your style clearly, you’re going to want to stick to the script. Anything you currently own or will buy falls under this umbrella or it’s out of the running.


This is one of the most difficult processes to get through, especially if you’re one step away from starring in an episode of Hoarders. During this step, you’ll want to remove everything from your closet and make three piles; Yes, No and Needs Repairs. Get rid of any items that don’t fit, flatter or make you feel good. Likewise, toss anything that doesn’t fit your style schema, is in bad condition or you know you’ll never wear. Once you make the necessary repairs and alterations, add those items to the “Yes” pile and reorganize your closet with only those items. If you’re unsure about some pieces, box them up for a month or two and see if you change your mind. The rest can be discarded responsibly.

Andre Leon Talley GIF

André Leon Talley; Image: Celebuzz


Creating a minimalist wardrobe isn’t about buying a whole new wardrobe. It’s about conscious consumption. So, take a look at what’s now hanging in your closet to determine what you still need. Many minimalist wardrobes exist with 20 to 40 pieces of clothing, shoes and accessories, but there’s no precise script. Make a list of what you’re missing based on your lifestyle and what you wrote down in Step 1.

Start with a classic capsule: four pairs of shoes, two bags, two pairs of jeans, two pairs of trousers, two blazers, three dresses, two skirts, two T-shirts, three blouses, one button-down, two coats and three sweaters. Then build, rearrange or substitute as needed. For instance, if you live in a warm climate all year round, you won’t need two coats. Subtract those items and add in a swimsuit and cover-up. The one rule you’ll want to stick by is that almost everything should coordinate, so you can get the most wear out of your wardrobe. After all, you’re trying to upgrade your wardrobe by downsizing.

Before you run out to buy what’s on your list, prioritize and budget. Do you really need every piece on your list? If so, invest in pieces that are well-made, tailored, comfortable and stylish. If you buy what’s “fashionable,” it’ll be out of season in a few months. Style lasts forever and you’ll want your wardrobe to last you a long time.