6 Wardrobe "Rules" You Can Break and Still Be a Minimalist

Have you been wanting a simpler wardrobe that takes less space and makes the decision of what to wear easier?  Would you like to save money and time?  Maybe you're tired of competing and comparing, feeling awkward in your fashion mistakes, or wasting the pieces that sit at the back of your closet with the tags on.  Or maybe you just wish your closet looked clean and organized.

But a minimalist wardrobe has to be all black, white, and gray, right?  Maybe with the occasional dab of red....

And a minimalist wardrobe has to be just 33 pieces, right?  Including shoes and accessories?  I think that's something I read in a book....

A minimalist wardrobe won't work for you if you love fashion, right?  It should include only basic, "classic" pieces....

You know what?  You don't have to give up on the idea of dressing with more ease and enjoyment.  You can break the "rules" and still create a minimalist wardrobe.

minimalist wardrobe

6 "rules" you can bend to suit yourself

1.  Wear only neutral colors.

If you love color, you can still have a minimalist wardrobe.  After all, colorful clothes don't take more room in the closet than neutral clothes.

The truth is, most people don't look their best wearing all black or all beige.  Instead, choose one or two neutrals for pants and skirts, plus three or four different colors you like for everything else.  You can enjoy plenty of color every day by combining separate pieces into outfits.

2.  Every garment has to go with everything else.

You do want to be able to create a wide variety of outfits by mixing and matching different pieces.  But you don't have to worry about matching everything.  Your wardrobe will be adequately versatile if each piece goes with at least three other things you own.

3.  Stick to a specific number of items.

It's true your wardrobe isn't very minimalist if it's the size of the average American's (136 items, according to Statista).  But there's no "magic number" of clothes you have to stick with.

Of course, it's fun to experiment with a small number, such as traveling with a dozen items or wearing 33 pieces (including shoes and accessories) for three months.  The benefits include:

  • a clear boundary
  • a chance to hone your personal style
  • the simplicity and ease of fewer choices
  • the opportunity to be more creative with what you have
  • more time to get interested in other things besides your clothes
  • the realization that you already have enough

4.  Choose one outfit you wear every day.

I've written about wearing a uniform, and a lot of people have found that it makes life very simple while giving them the energy to be more productive in other areas.

Perhaps you'd enjoy designing a specific outfit (with multiple copies, naturally) that you wear for work, while giving yourself more options for leisure clothes.  Or you could stick with a leisure uniform such as jeans and a white tee shirt (adding a jacket as needed), but get more eclectic when you go out on the town.

Don't worry – you can still be a minimalist even if you don't wear a uniform!

5.  Limit accessories.

Some people seem more like collectors of accessories than wearers of them.  If you have mounds of jewelry and 80 pairs of shoes, I have to wonder if you're really using all of that.

However, that doesn't mean you have to limit yourself to one necklace and one pair of earrings unless you want to.  If you like jewelry and have pieces you wear regularly, by all means keep them and enjoy!  The same goes for belts, scarves, hats, handbags, and – yes – shoes.

A variety of accessories is also one way to introduce creativity and color to a simple uniform.

6.  Buy only the highest quality.

It's true that if you have a smaller wardrobe, you can stick with your current budget and purchase fewer pieces of better quality.

But if a minimalist wardrobe appeals to you as a way to save money, of course you should buy the brands you're used to.  According to Statista, the average American buys 32 pieces of clothing every year.  That's a lot, even if you get rid of some "old" things.  If you purchase fewer items, you'll save a lot of money.

Another way to improve the quality of your wardrobe is to buy nicer brands second-hand.  And if you enjoy vintage clothing, some pieces can be cheaper yet better-made than modern garments.

Extend the life of anything you buy by washing in cold water and minimizing dryer use.

Ready to try a minimalist wardrobe?

Now that you know the idea isn't as rigid and limiting as you might have believed, are you ready to give it a try?  So many benefits are waiting for you!  You can dress with more ease and enjoyment, even if you have to break a few rules along the way.

If you found this article helpful, you'll like my book, The Minimalist Wardrobe: Buy Less, Choose Well, and Feel Confident Every Day, available on Amazon.*

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.


  1. I have put a bunch of clothes in 'time out', but still feel like 'I don't have anything to wear' some days. I'm recognizing it's that I acquired clothes to 'dress for the job', and spent a lot of years not dressing for myself. I continue to do challenges - wear a button down all week, wear a work t-shirt all week, to try to refine my current closet. The office tends to be chilly so I'm still in 'wear sweaters all year round' deliberation too. I haven't missed most of the 'time out clothes' to be honest. Thanks for this article - we often need someone else to give that nudge over the line to take the next step(s).

  2. My pants are all black but my shirts and hoodies are mostly jewel tones. A teal shirt with a berry hoodie is not neutral.
    Linda Sand


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