Minimal style is chic, timeless, and the most sought-after style in the fashion world when the details are right
How to dress Minimal Classic
“Why are you so dressed up?” I look down at my outfit and say, “I’m not dressed up; I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt.”
“No, it’s not the same. You look really dressed up. Are you going somewhere?”
This is a conversation I have daily, even though I really wear jeans and a t-shirt or sweater three seasons a year, and then I swap my jeans for shorts. So why do they think I’m dressed for something special when the only place I’m going is to sports carpool? Because of my Minimal Classic Style.
You’ve seen this woman before. She is sophisticated, serious, effective, hard to get to know, and always looks dressed up with somewhere to go…even in jeans and a tee. Her minimal style reflects everything about her.
If you’ve been following along with the classic closet style series, first we covered How to Dress Classic Without Looking Dated. Next, we covered Edgy Classic, which is my style, then Cute Classic, Soft Classic, Sporty Classic, and this is the sixth installment.
I recommend you read all of the versions because sometimes wearing the wrong details is as big as wearing the right details. Take the Classic Style Twist quiz to learn your Twist.
What a minimal style says about you
A minimal classic woman is fuss-free. Your classic style is universally appealing, but not overly embellished, and your clothes are as tailored as your preferences. Because your look is timeless, you have pieces in your wardrobe from decades ago, but no one would guess it. As an analytical thinker, your wardrobe reflects your serious side. People often ask why you are so dressed up, even if you are in a t-shirt and jeans. Your love of order means having a compact, coordinated, minimalist style is valuable in your lifestyle. For you, a capsule wardrobe isn’t a new concept. It’s just what you do. Your keywords are clean and bold.
If you want your outfit to say minimal style, it’s the details that will tell the story. Look for quality fabrics and construction, solid colors, tailored lines, neutral colors, wardrobe staples, modest cuts, bold color, timeless pieces, monochromatic or high contrast color palette, and neutrals with pops of color.
That sounds a little boring, doesn’t it? The truth is, you don’t actually care, and sometimes boring is your favorite. For those who hear the siren call, they’d sum it up in two words: practically perfect. If you hear it too, keep reading, and I’ll show you how to make it perfect for you.
Classic details in your clothes
Quality fabrics and construction matter to you because you love to buy and keep items for years. As a perfectionist and a critical thinker, you will be uncomfortable in a top with stripes that don’t line up, crooked seams, or items that fall apart after a season. You are a precision person, and if your clothes don’t have precision as well, it sends the wrong message.
Not only do you value the time and expertise that goes into a job well done, and you recognize that in the clothes you buy, but you value your own time, and having to replace poor quality items on a regular basis is frustrating. This means you are more likely to choose investment pieces that will last for years, and that is one reason you have a minimal style. What others would call limited, you call efficient and high quality, and you are willing to pay full price for the perfect item.
Solid colors are easy to mix and match, provide a streamlined look, and can be repeated often without drawing attention to your selective wardrobe. Wearing solid colors also limits the stimulation in your environment. When you can’t control the chaos around you, you can control the chaos on your body and in your closet by wearing solid colors.
Tailored lines in your clothing are more than a preference; it’s a need. To pull off this look, FIT IS EVERYTHING; it’s your number one accessory. Otherwise, you’ll look and feel boring. Taking the time to go to the tailor and make each piece look like it was custom made for you is worth every penny.
Having to secure your clothes when you move distracts from your tasks. Once you put your clothes on, you don’t want to think about them again or have them draw your attention. Anything that interrupts your thoughts is too high maintenance. That’s also your definition of comfort, it doesn’t draw your attention.
Neutral colors are home base for you, especially black and navy, which feel perfect for any situation. But also white, denim, and for some of you, camel and cognac. No one loves an all-black look like a classic minimal style woman.
Most of your minimal style consists of what many would call foundational or staple pieces, like a white tee, dark wash jeans, pencil skirts, button-up blouses, blazer, denim jacket, trench coat, ballet flats, black purse, black jacket, black anything, really! When buying a basic item, especially an investment piece, you tend to avoid any trendy details that will date that item, and usually choose a neutral color.
If you’re anything like me you don’t care about the latest trends. You buy what flatters you, makes you feel stunning, and leaves you feeling confident. You know the difference between classic and fad clothing items.
You probably have items in your closet from last decade that are just as stylish now as then. And they are in impeccable condition because you chose a quality item, and you take excellent care of your belongings.
Your preference for modest cuts in clothing doesn’t really have to do with personal beliefs, but more in a tendency not to be flashy, and showing a lot of skin can feel flashy. If you do choose an item that shows more skin, you tend to pair it with items that offer more coverage or have a looser fit. If you wear a spaghetti strap tank with a low cut, you likely won’t pair it with a mini skirt because that would draw too much attention and make you feel uncomfortable.
When you do wear color, it’s BOLD and high contrast, and it tends to come in small doses as a pop of color like a bold lip, colorful bag or shoe, or maybe a cardigan or sweater paired with an otherwise neutral outfit.
If you did an inventory of your closet, your favorite pants are probably navy or black jeans or trousers with an excellent fit, comfortable but structured, easy to care for, and classic in style.
Most of your tops are tailored, structured, skim your body, but aren’t so tight you can see the outline of what you had for lunch. If it’s a tee it is a fairly substantial fabric that holds its shape. Nothing floppy, drapey, flimsy, or in any way sloppy looking, especially the collar.
Preferred jackets are usually blazers, classic leather jackets, trenches, or denim jackets.
Your favorite pattern is solids, but if you do choose an actual pattern, your top choices will be stripes, windowpane, or a large plaid with only two colors in it. If you are feeling really wild, you might go for a large houndstooth. You probably prefer small doses of pattern, aren’t likely to mix patterns, and may go longer periods of time wearing solids before you reach for another pattern.
Dressy clothes and formal looks are your favorite, but your casual look is always perceived as dressier because of your color palette, quality, structure and the tailored fit of your clothes.
The best fabrics will be natural fabrics that are structured and hold their shape. Their posture is as excellent as yours. Broadcloth cotton (not the really thin, light cottons), linen (though the wrinkles will make you batty. This one is a love/hate item), denim, chambray, wool, cashmere, Dupioni silk, leather. When you go for knits you love thicker, heavier versions like ponte´ knits because they are thick and structured.
You may not like layers because they feel fussy, excessive, and restrictive. Did your mom have to fight you to wear a coat as a kid? Do you shiver instead of adding a jacket? Does the idea of layering a sweater over another shirt feel smothering?
Minimal Style classic accessories
Simple accessories are your staples, if you accessorize at all. For some minimal style classic women, any accessories can feel fussy, but for those who do wear them, you are more likely to choose stud earrings, delicate chain necklaces, and probably no bracelets unless you can find one that stays put on your arm. Instead of a bracelet, you might like a shiny metal watch that is fitted to your wrist so it never moves.
Because the process of taking them on and off every day feels fussy, you prefer simple accessories you can sleep, shower, swim, and run in. If you are married, you may even favor a plain, thin wedding band. Diamond stud earrings, a delicate chain with a small pendant that has significant meaning, a plain anniversary band, and a watch are excellent everyday choices. The idea of a signature piece of jewelry is very appealing. Shiny metals, nothing dull, etched, hammered or dingy, are your favorites. You love sunglasses because they make you feel invisible and able to observe the world around you without having to acknowledge eye contact.
For purses you gravitate toward black, shiny leather with minimal embellishment, structured, holds its shape when empty, and stand on its own. A great bag is something you are often willing to invest in, if you can afford it, because it will go with everything, will always be stylish, and last forever.
Ideal shoes for you are ballet flats, pumps, sneakers, t-strap sandals, loafers, etc., but they will be simple in style, with little embellishment, often neutral, high quality, and nothing trendy about them like an extended toe box, a funky heel shape, or a weird vamp.
Makeup is simple and elegant. Truthfully you may not like makeup, but if you do, you may love a bold lip, or a nice neutral (often referred to as an MLBB – my lip but better – that enhances your natural lip). For everyday you will either prefer a natural, neutral look, or a bold look.
Hair styles need to be out of your face, fuss-free, smooth, sleek, and shiny. Even your ponytail is sleek and smooth, and you probably don’t do messy top knots. You like a defined hairstyle, usually a blunt cut somewhere on your head, like in the bangs or the length of your hair.
classic Minimal style brands
There are some brands that were made for you, and you tend to love the luxury brands because they represent what you are and what you value: timeless, quality, precise, bold, classic, stylish, exclusive. You can find those same qualities in less expensive brands as well. Ann Taylor, Clarks, Loft, Chanel, Banana Republic, Ralph Lauren, Chaps, White House Black Market, Burberry, Dana Buchman, New York & Company, The Limited, Sam Edelman, Sperry, French Connection, Lane Bryant, J. Crew, Talbots, Stuart Weitzman, Tommy Hilfiger, Vineyard Vines, J. Jill, Christopher and Banks, Boden, Charter Club, Liz Claiborne, Jones New York, La Coste, Coach, Worthington, Kendra Scott, Izod, Tiffany & Co., Sonoma, Louis Vuitton.
wait a second, where is the personality?
The minimal classic style wardrobe can come across as old, dated, frumpy, stodgy, and boring if you’re not careful. I wrote about how to dress classic without looking dated to share how to keep a classic look modern and updated.
If you feel mostly classic, but something is missing, I’ve written the other posts to share how to bring in a little something extra, Edgy Classic, which is my style, then Cute Classic, Soft Classic, Sporty Classic. However, some women really, truly prefer a purely classic wardrobe. It feels absolutely perfect for them. And if you like adding elements of these other Classic Style Twists, but at your core truly minimal classic, this post is about how to find that foundation because, without it, the rest of it will feel like too much.
it's all about balance
We just covered a lot of options for wearing a Minimal Style Classic Wardrobe. If you want to add a little something more, it may be the tiniest detail. It might be a neat structured bow on your ballet flat or your purse, and that is all the cute your classic wants. It might be a triangle stud earring, and that is all the edginess you need to show.
The trick is to pick and choose one or two small and simple details to add in, and it might only feel right on certain days. If it feels false, costumey, or silly at all, you’ve gone too far with the extra details and you can take it off and see if you feel relief. You might be happiest in strict Minimal Style Classic, and that’s perfect for you. But be aware that you might want a little something else sometimes.
Only you will know the perfect balance. Do you feel too silly? Do you feel too aggressive? Is the drape distracting? Would you rather read a book than go on a hike? Start with one extra detail in your outfit and see if you want more. Some women feel better in more, some can only take so much, and some don’t want or need any at all. It’s very personal. What you need can also vary from day to day.
Let's see it all in action
I think the biggest misconception about a Minimal Classic Wardrobe is that it’s boring. In fact, most women in the world aspire to it. It’s what the French style aesthetic is all about and what most couture fashion houses design. The fashion industry has built it as the standard. Style icons like Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Onassis, Coco Chanel, Grace Kelly, Amal Clooney, and Victoria Beckham all represent that classic wardrobe aesthetic.
For this one, I specifically chose outfits made of only neutral basics, and mostly solids, and I’m going to explain why the outfits are so stunning, despite their lack of color, pattern (mostly), pomp, and circumstance. It boils down to the smallest details.
Outfit #1: A white tee, black jeans, black accessories. Sounds like it could be zzzzzzz, and yet she looks so casually stylish and sophisticated. Why? First, the fit of her clothes is impeccable.
Second, she has on four simple accessories, 2 thin bracelets, a belt, and a bag. All of them are very simple on their own, and two of them are very functional, but they add dimension to her outfit without being too fussy. The black bag is simple in color and design, but it’s also shiny, and it matches the sheen of her loafers, which have a tassel detail. Finally, she has that sweater casually draped around her shoulders, which is a layer, but still functional, and not getting in her way. Photo credit.
Outfit #2: She is wearing white, black and dark denim as her neutrals. The oversized menswear shirt is crisp and structured. She has accessorized with a simple black crossbody bag, earrings, and loafers with metal detail. Her turned-up cuff is also acting as a point of interest. Even though the shirt looks like she borrowed it from her boyfriend, I guarantee it’s a woman’s shirt and it was designed to fit a woman perfectly while suggesting it came from a man’s closet. Photo credit.
Outfit #3: Another black and white outfit. She accessorized with sunglasses, a purse with a chain strap, and a jacket tossed over her shoulder. Despite being the same color, her patent loafers add contrast with her pants. The texture of the sweater, the red lip, and the patent loafers add additional dimension, and the fit is spot on. Photo credit.
Outfit #4: She has 4 neutrals: white, navy, denim, and cognac. There is a subtle pattern in her tortoise sunglasses. Her accessories include sunglasses, stud earrings, two delicate bracelets, a belt, and a bag to make this outfit stand out. She has also neatly rolled her jacket sleeves. The destroyed jeans are an edgy classic detail, but even if that weren’t there, the outfit still has plenty going on to make this an otherwise perfect classic outfit. Photo credit.
Outfit #5: Black and white go more office-appropriate with white trousers, a black top, coat, and heels, but if you swap in jeans and flats, this outfit would be a perfect casual outfit. Her only accessories are the sunglasses and purse. She has the jacket layer, the contrast between her shoes and pant color, and the hardware on her bag adding an extra dimension. Photo credit.
Outfit #6: A basic white tee and dark wash jeans get a dose of interesting from the cognac flats, a simple medallion necklace and wedding band, sunglasses, and a hat. Photo credit.
Outfit #7: This is the most complex outfit I chose. She has layered a striped button-up under a white textured sweater. She has on four chunky bracelets and a watch paired with rolled sleeves. Her shiny black bag is structured, and let’s assume it is the same as her shoes, which we can’t see. All of this interest is balanced by simple black pants and a tailored fit. Add a pair of sunglasses, and she has an outstanding classic outfit. Photo credit.
Outfit #8: Black and tan are the only colors in this outfit (though I desperately want to Photoshop those stripes to be white). She has her striped top, trench coat as a layer, sunglasses, zipper pocket details, and bag to bring interest to her black pixie pants and ballet flats. Photo credit.
Outfit #9: Black and dark denim are the only colors in this outfit. It looks like she is wearing a black turtleneck (probably) sweater paired with dark wash jeans. She has cuffed the pants, which adds interest. The gold buttons and the coat also add flavor. The sheen of her black Chelsea boots contrasts with the color of the cuff, and she finishes the outfit with the requisite sunglasses. Photo credit.
Do these minimal classic outfits bore you or inspire you? Are you dying to spice them up or put them on?
What's not minimal classic?
As important as it is to add the classic elements you want, it’s equally important to avoid certain elements if you DON’T want that Edgy Classic, Cute Classic, Soft Classic, or Sporty Classic look. Learning about all of them will help you avoid the details that will take away from your minimal classic look.
In the Stunning Style Classic Wardrobe Guide, everything is strictly classic, but in the shopping portal links, I provide as many style options as I can find for Edgy, Cute, Sporty and Soft options for many of the items so you can customize the wardrobe to your personal style.
If you look dressed up for something special, even in jeans and a tee, you might be Minimal Classic. If it feels practically perfect and you want to refine and perfect your minimal style, take the Classic Style Twist quiz above, and then read about the different Twists here to learn how to make classic style your signature style.
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