26 Ultimate Minimalist Wardrobe Essentials and Checklist

Everyday dressing has taken on a new meaning once I started to incorporate my minimalist wardrobe essentials. I no longer dreaded the daily task of deciding what to wear and instead embraced the simplicity that is a minimalist capsule wardrobe style of dressing. 

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minimalist wardrobe checklist

The first step when deciding to incorporate a capsule wardrobe into your personal style is taking inventory of your current closet situation. While capsule wardrobes do embrace a minimal wardrobe approach, how strict or relaxed you want to be depends on you. 

Capsule wardrobes tend to have fewer clothes and embrace high-quality pieces instead of fast fashion choices. 

The way I see it, you can definitely incorporate a minimalist wardrobe without fully forgoing all your trendy items. 

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing items that are versatile, timeless, and can be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits.

The concept is to have a smaller, more intentional wardrobe made up of high-quality pieces that you love and that fit well, rather than a closet full of clothes you rarely wear.

Typically, a capsule wardrobe consists of around 30 to 40 items, including tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear, and shoes, chosen to suit your personal style, lifestyle, and climate.

The idea is to simplify your wardrobe, reduce decision fatigue, and promote sustainable fashion by focusing on quality over quantity.

Benefits of a Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe

Save Time

Decision fatigue is real! I’ve spent way too long staring at my closet trying to think up outfit ideas for the day. The best thing about a minimalist closet is you can rest assured that most of the versatile pieces in your closet will all pair well together.

And because it takes you less time to get dressed in the mornings, you have more time to do other things like eat a balanced breakfast, visit with the kids before heading to work, or have more time to commute so you’re not stressing out about being late. 

Save Money

By focusing on quality over quantity, you save money knowing your clothing items will last past that initial wash.

Let’s face it, while fast fashion items may look good in-store, one spin in the washing machine and it loses its shape and may start to unravel.

Chances are that cute shirt will not hold up for next season. Instead, focusing on purchasing high-quality pieces will allow you to continuously wear that item for years to come.  

Less Clutter

Embracing a minimalist wardrobe means less clothing and less space that you need to store your essential pieces. If you’ve ever been overwhelmed when stepping into your closet, it’s time to consider a more minimalist wardrobe approach. 

Better for the Environment

Minimizing the environmental impact of fashion is a key feature of a capsule wardrobe.

Because it encourages people to buy less, the result is fewer clothing items being discarded and ending up in landfills across the globe. Adopting a capsule wardrobe approach to dressing is a great way to be more sustainable. 

Minimalist Wardrobe Essentials Checklist

During our capsule wardrobe checklist edit, we took into consideration items that are easily accessible and can be worn in different ways.

We wanted to include timeless pieces but also incorporated some seasonal items that you may need as the weather changes.   

minimalist wardrobe checklist

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  1. Layering tanks
  2. simple t-shirt 
  3. Knit, silk, or linen tanks
  4. Short-sleeve tops 
  5. Long-sleeve tops or blouses
  6. Elevated sweatshirt
  7. Everyday sweaters
  8. Neutral trousers
  9. Classic jeans
  10. Staple shorts
  11. Little Black Dress
  12. Basic skirt
  13. Denim jacket
  14. Trench coat or light jacket
  15. Long wool coat
  16. Neutral sneaker
  17. Nude heels
  18. Neutral flats
  19. Ankle boots
  20. Knee-high boots
  21. Strappy flat sandals
  22. Leather handbag
  23. Cross-body bag
  24. Straw bag
  25. Neutral belts
  26. Timeless jewelry

layering tanks

Layering tanks are going to be your go-to basics year-round. They can be worn by themselves or underneath cardigans, sweaters, and blazers.

Look for fitted styles that will not add bulk to your outfit.

BANANA REPUBLIC FACTORY | Ribbed Racer Tank

Knit, Silk, or Linen Tanks

For an elevated style find, look for tanks in knitted materials, silk, and linen. These help add contrast to an outfit and can also elevate your look.

Silk, in particular, is great for warm weather outfits and also adds a level of sophistication to an outfit.

Simple T-shirt

A simple t-shirt is going to go the distance as one of your top minimalist wardrobe essentials. They can be worn in so many ways and look sleek and classic.

Pair a solid white tee with your favorite pair of jeans. Or style a striped t-shirt with black shorts for a Parisian vibe and aesthetic.

Short-Sleeve Tops

Short sleeve tops are a great alternative to more conservative shirts, especially for the workplace. They cover the shoulders but have less fabric than wearing a button-down shirt.

They also make for a more structured and elevated clothing item than wearing a simple white t-shirt.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

Statement shoulders are a great way to add interest to an outfit and it also helps even out body proportions.

Long Sleeve Tops and Blouses

Long sleeves tops and blouses are essential if you’re looking to dress up an outfit. They work specifically well as workwear but can also be dressed down.

Just roll up your sleeves and button the first 2-3 top buttons to instantly dress down your button-down shirts.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

The biggest issue when purchasing a long sleeve button-down shirt is making sure the seams align with your body type. Whether you have narrow or broad shoulders, look for shirts where the seam aligns with the side of your shoulder.

You will also want to get a size that allows you to freely move around and hug yourself. This will ensure a more comfortable fit.

Elevated Sweaters

Elevated sweaters are a great alternative to blazers when you want to dress up an outfit. For that time of year when you need a little more warmth but not enough where you’ll need a blazer or coat.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

Try to find sweaters made of durable materials. Think cotton, cashmere, alpaca, or merino wool.

Everyday Sweaters

Everyday sweaters are great for, you guessed it, everyday wear. These pair well with casual outfits and more elevated outfits. They can also double was your top, without any layering tanks or tees underneath.

Basic Blazers

Great-fitting blazers are minimal wardrobe essentials you’ll be able to wear year after year. Stay clear of trendy styles like cropped blazers or those with 3/4 sleeves.

Aim to have at least two pairs — one black and one light neutral color. Cotton is a great material to wear year-round. If you have the budget and love wearing blazers, you may think about adding a wool blazer for the colder months and a linen blazer for the warmer months.

SEZANE PARIS | Christie Jacket

& OTHER STORIES | Oversized Blazer

Neutral Trousers

Trousers are a great alternative to jeans, especially if your personal style leans more casual. They work well both in the workplace and as a weekend outfit idea.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

Aim for straight-leg or wide-leg trousers as they offer more versatility to your wardrobe.

Also, be mindful of the fit. You shouldn’t be dragging excess fabric behind you. If you find a fit that you love but it’s too long, take it to a tailor to get it fitted to your body.

Classic Jeans

Classis jeans are another classic wardrobe item that you’ll get so much wear from. Aim for at least one dark-wash denim style for occasions when you need to dress up your look.

Lighter denim is a great staple for the warmer months. If you enjoy wearing open-toe shoes or sandals, look for a cropped style to highlight your footwear.

Classic Shorts

Shorts are another warm-weather staple piece that you should get multiple uses from year after year. To get the most out of your wardrobe items. look for classic styles and silhouettes.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

Stay clear of trendy styles with holes, frays, and embroidery. Look for shorts that have a good leg opening and are not fitted around your thighs.

An A-line silhouette will work well with so many outfit ideas and create more of a timeless look.

SEZANE PARIS | Niels Shorts

Little Black Dress

A little black dress is a perfect addition, especially if you don’t wear dresses often. When the occasion arises, you’ll be glad you had this item in your closet.

Look for styles that you can dress up or down to create versatility with your dress. You could also opt to buy one in linen or cotton for a more casual feel and a midi or maxi-length black dress for more formal events.

SEZANE PARIS | Léo Dress

Basic Skirt

Skirts are making a comeback! They look so chic either dressed up or down and are a nice alternative to shorts.The satin skirt was been included in many of my capsule wardrobes, so when I saw this satin min skirt, I had to include it here.

It’s elevated and chic but also pairs well with just a T-shirt and sandals.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

Look for A-line skirt styles as they flatter more body types. They are also less restricting than most mini skirts. You should also do a wear test before purchasing.

Do a sit test and make sure the skirt does not ride up or expose you.

Denim Jacket

The denim jacket has been a capsule wardrobe essential for years. It’s versatile and classic.

They pair well with black bottoms such as trousers or shorts. You can also layer on top of your little black dress for a little coverage or to dress down your look.

J. CREW FACTORY | Classic jean jacket

FAVORITE DAUGHTER | The Otto Boyfriend Jacket

Trench Coat

Trench coats are a great alternative to heavier coats or jackets. They are classic and timeless and the best part is that they are water resistant — perfect for the rainy season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

Stay clear of trendy styles and instead opt for classic length and colorway. Khaki or tan are classic styles and will allow you more styling options.

J. CREW | New Icon Trench

SEZANE PARIS | Scott Trench Coat

Long Wool Coat

A long wool coat is essential if you live in a colder climate. Wool is naturally insulating and also water resistant.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


Check the material tag before buying to ensure your coat is 100% wool. If the tag indicates a wool/polyester blend, you won’t know the exact wool content—it could be as low as 10%.

Footwear

Neutral Sneakers

Neutral sneakers are a great casual footwear choice for your wardrobe. They pair so well with so many outfit ideas. For the summer, pair them with denim shorts and skirts for a casual laid-back vibe.

You can even pair plain white sneakers with dresses if you want a more comfortable option instead of heels.

Nude Heels

Nude heels are perfect for an elevated outfit idea. They also make your legs appear longer and pair well with both solid and printed outfits.

Look for strappy heels that are minimal and basic for a more timeless look.

Neutral Flats

Neutral flats are a great choice for the warmer months. If you want to elevate the look, purchase a leather pair with minimal hardware.

Strappy sandals are also another option and add a little interest to an otherwise basic look.

Ankle Boots

Ankle boots are a great addition to your minimalist capsule wardrobe. They offer just the right amount of warmth when the temperature starts to drop in the fall.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

Make sure the boot shaft ends above your ankle bone. Anything lower can look dated and will look odd when styled with jeans or pants that hover around your ankle bone. You don’t want a sliver of skin showing.

Knee High Boots

Knee-high boots are a great alternative to heels during the colder months. They add sophistication and look so chic paired with midi skirts and dresses as well as shorter styles.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

If you are looking for a pair that you can wear for years to come, look for a pointed-toe boot with a kitten or lower heel. This style is versatile and classic. Not to mention, much easier to walk around in.

SCHUTZ SHOES | Dellia Up Leather Boot

STEVE MADDEN | Levan Taupe Suede

Handbags

Leather Handbag

DEMELLIER | The Large Tokyo

JENNI KAYNE | Crescent Shoulder Bag

Cross-Body Bag

DEMELLIER | The Vancouver

Straw or Rattan Bag

DEMELLIER | The Santorini

Accessories

Neutral Belts

Timeless Jewelry

Minimalist Wardrobe FAQs

Should I build a capsule wardrobe from scratch?  

You can build your capsule wardrobe from scratch but chances are you already own a few pieces. It’s also more economically savvy to build on from the items you already have and begin by filling in the gaps. 

How many clothes should be in a capsule wardrobe? 

Capsule wardrobes typically have between 30-50 pieces of clothing but may vary depending on where you live, your climate, and your lifestyle. 

Can a capsule wardrobe be trendy?

Capsule wardrobes, while minimal, can absolutely be trendy. They are also a great base for your outfits and can be accentuated with trendier items or accessories. 

What is the 333 method capsule wardrobe?

The 333 method encourages you to wear 33 items of clothing for the next 3 months. All clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear, and footwear contribute to your total count. The only exclusions are wedding bands, undergarments, sleepwear, indoor loungewear, and activewear.

What is the 5 4 3 2 1 capsule wardrobe? 

The 5 4 3 2 1 is a method for lightweight packing during travel. This includes 5 tops, 4 bottoms, 3 accessories (think hats, belts, sunglasses), 2 pairs of shoes (a nice pair and a practical pair), and 1 swimsuit. You could swap the swimsuit for another item that is more geared to the destination you are headed.

What is the rule of 5 capsule wardrobe? 

The rule of 5 in fashion means you can only purchase 5 new items a year — except undergarments and socks. This also includes shoes and handbags. You can, however, repair or alter your existing clothing. 

What is a 10 item capsule wardrobe?

A 10 item capsule wardrobe includes 10 pieces and follows a very minimalist approach. This would include 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of trousers, 1 blouse, 1 button-down shirt, 1 skirt, 1 dress, 2 sweaters and 1 blazer.

Do pajamas count in a capsule wardrobe? 

Pajamas and undergarments, including socks, do not count in a capsule wardrobe. 

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