I Spent Years Creating a Minimalist Wardrobe—Here's What Made the Cut
Creating a minimalist wardrobe is a process. A writer shares what made the cut after years of dwindling down the clothing in her closet.
Spending my twenties working in magazines in New York City made me think my closet needed to be jam-packed with as much clothing as possible. Years later, I'm the biggest outfit repeater I know—and proud of it. But this change wasn't intentional. It happened by accident.
The "trendy" items I had to have started collecting dust in the back of my closet. Instead, I found myself reaching for the same pieces on rotation—high-quality, timeless staples that looked good with everything. (And, TBH, made it really easy to dress myself in the morning.) I had started to create a minimalist wardrobe without even realizing it.
Old me got endorphins from adding new "stuff" to my collection. These days, resisting the urge to buy something from an admittedly convincing TikTok clothing haul is the ultimate feel-good move. I get way more joy out of finding something I know I'll cherish for years to come at a thrift store or grabbing an occasional new staple from a sustainable clothing brand than making an impulse buy I'll likely regret a year from now.
Plus, once you learn the facts about how wasteful the fashion industry is, avoiding unnecessary purchases becomes even easier. Clothing is responsible for 3% to 6.7% of global human-caused carbon emissions. In addition, 85% of textiles enter landfills every year, which is the equivalent of one garbage truck filled with clothes being dumped every second.
If you're considering a minimalist wardrobe, now is the perfect time to get started. And if you need a little inspiration, here are the essentials that made the cut in my own closet.
7 Minimalist Wardrobe Essentials
1. Vintage Jackets
When I have no idea what to wear, I throw on a pair of jeans, a tee, and whichever jacket I'm in the mood for—it never fails.
Enter vintage Levi's jean jackets of all kinds—particularly classic denim, black denim, and corduroy-collared. You also can't go wrong with vintage chore coats. Lastly, I'm a big fan of anything from the '70s—think shearling jackets and fringe.
2. Cozy Sweaters
I have a confession: Sweaters are my weakness. The top of my closet slowly but surely became a mountain of fluffy cotton over the years. Every time I didn't grab one carefully, I got buried in a (cozy) avalanche.
I still have a lot of work to do in this department, narrowing my sweaters down to the essentials. But hey—no one's perfect, right? At least I have my go-tos: Vintage knits, crewnecks, and anything oversized.
3. Simple Dresses
Every summer, I live in dresses of all styles. You'll find a handful of vintage linen maxis and denim dresses, nap dresses, and babydoll dresses in my closet made from sustainable materials or purchased secondhand.
4. Sustainable Jeans
After years of searching, I've finally landed on a few pairs of sustainable jeans I can't get enough of. Instead of having a dozen pairs like I used to (what's the point?), I now have these on repeat: Levi's straight-leg jeans, Oliver Logan's Aberdeen High Rise Jeans, and Re/Done's High Rise Stove Pipe Jeans.
5. Must-Have Basics
Ahhh, basics. We're talking plain tees in neutral hues, vintage band tees, ribbed tees—you name it. Then there's leggings and bike shorts—essentials for both workouts and WFH life, where all of my interactions are done via Zoom. The nice thing is you don't need too many basics—just a handful of favorites you can pair with everything else in your minimalist wardrobe.
6. Timeless Accessories
I've never been a big accessories person, which made keeping this category to a minimum super easy. What I do love, though, is a great handbag. There are two prime options I rotate on a regular basis: Cuyana's Double Loop Bag and Recycled Sling Bag. (Drool.) I also recently added Samara's Apple Leather Mini Crossbody to my wardrobe, and it's a keeper.
7. Comfy Footwear
Cutting down my footwear collection felt daunting—that is until I realized how many pairs of shoes I haven't worn in years. Namely, anything remotely uncomfortable (looking at you, high heels).
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