10 minimalist wardrobe essentials to build your style base

A signature style made easy with these perfect, staple wardrobe essentials

minimalist clothing rack showing a selection of wardrobe essentials
(Image credit: Nina Vartanava / EyeEm / Getty images)

Building a collection of wardrobe essentials can create a stylish backbone to your everyday fashion looks.

Minimalist fashion never goes out of style so having staples like white shirts, simple jewelry and the best jeans in your wardrobe can help take the time out of getting ready in the mornings. These timeless looks are endlessly compatible with any other fashion trend, so you can pair your essentials with anything - mixing and matching patterns, colors and fit. Minimal essentials are staples that re-emerge and effortlessly transition through the seasons. Here are the pieces to look out for to build your capsule wardrobe.

Loading up on minimalist wardrobe essentials will not only declutter and halve your getting ready time, but is also a sustainable way to shop. Drop fast fashion trends, either invest in high-quality wardrobe essentials that will last or find pieces that are timeless and you can picture yourself wearing in years to come. You can incorporate thrifting into a collection of wardrobe essentials, as buying second-hand will often help you find well-made pieces for a fraction of the price you would buy new. Minimalist wardrobe essentials are not limiting in their choices, as you can still get creative with your outfits—it just offers a new way to view your wardrobe, as effortless and convenient.  

Minimalist wardrobe essentials to create any look

These 10 wardrobe essentials will help towards building up your capsule wardrobe, so that you're ready for any occasion.

1. White T-shirt

White t-shirts are one of the most underrated wardrobe essentials. Aim for oversized, a boxy shape that can be worn under jumpers, tucked into jeans or worn alone. A white t-shirt is perfect to layer, affordable and available virtually anywhere.

"A white t-shirt is the ultimate outfit building block and every wardrobe needs at least one," says w&h's Acting Deputy Fashion Editor Charlie Bell. "I tend to go for a fitted crewneck style as they are the easiest to layer and tuck in. Wear under a slip dress or dungarees for a 90s vibe or with your jeans and blazer for a casual take on tailoring.

"They also look great tucked into a printed midi skirt to give it a cool edge. It pays off to spend a bit more on your white tees as cheaper ones can get misshapen easily in the wash. Shops such as Arket, Cos and Selected Femme are good places to start. It's worth getting a couple so you always have one to hand when one is in the wash."

2. Classic jeans

A staple in everyone's wardrobe, find a fit that is flattering for you like mom, straight leg or skinny fit. Classic blue jeans can be paired with almost anything, dressed up and down and worn throughout the year. Aim for dark or mid blue, these colors will work with most colors and all seasons.

"If there is one thing you should have in your wardrobe, it's a pair of well-fitting jeans," advises w&h's Style Editor Joely Chilcott. "Denim can be dressed up or down, worn with a multitude of different style tops and work all year round no matter the season.

"The key is to find the perfect style and fit for you - and it may mean spending a little more to ensure you bag jeans that will last for years to come. As a starting point, try a pair of high-waist straight-leg jeans. They are a timeless style that are smart enough for dressier events but can easily be paired with a simple t-shirt and trainers for daywear. If you don't feel like this fit is quite right for you, then give mom shapes, skinny jeans, flares and wide-leg designs a go. It might take a bit of leg work, but we promise it will be worth it."

3. Chunky knit

An oversized chunky knit is a must, you’ll see a chunky knit over dresses and jeans all over your social media, they ooze sophistication and effortless cozy style. They’re perfect for layering and will add texture to your outfit. Play with oversized pieces, especially in knitwear it can be extremely flattering.

"The kind of throw-on-an-go piece that will never let you down, a chunky knit in a neutral tone like black, grey or beige will more than earn its keep in your wardrobe," says w&h's Deputy Fashion Editor Jessica Beech. "I like to buy mine slightly cropped, to make tucking into high-waisted skirts and trousers easy."

4. White button shirt

The white shirt is another one of those wardrobe essentials that you can dress up or down, have it tucked into your black trousers, with some gold chains around your neck for an elegant, clean look. Or have it loose over your jeans for 90’s chic style.

"Crisp and clean, the white shirt has the power to make even the shabbiest outfit suddenly feel put together," says Jessica. "Make yours form-fitting for work, or go over-sized for laid-back weekends. Just don’t forget to iron."

5. Smart trousers

A smart pair of treasures can be a godsend when you’re stuck for what to wear, as they can transition easily between casual to smart. A nice pair of fitting black trousers is really the key to a minimal wardrobe, they will always add a hit of sophistication to any outfit. They're also great if you're stuck on what to wear to an interview. Look for a pair of suit or cigarette style trousers. 

"Sometimes, just sometimes, your jeans just won’t do—even your black skinny ones," says Jessica. "For those occasions - think job interviews, work and fancy evening dos, a pair of high-waisted trousers are your best bet. Choose a tailored cut in a heavy (and importantly anti-crease) fabric for a premium look."

6. Turtleneck sweater

A turtleneck always brings an immediate elevation to an outfit, it’s an elegant piece that is great to layer in winter under a jumper or coat and perfect for transitional weather.

"Evoking a touch of Parisian class, a turtleneck sweater will always be a stylish addition to your wardrobe," says Jessica. "A failsafe layering piece, wear with everything from silky slip skirts to your favorite jeans. Lightweight or chunky knit, the choice is yours."

7. Flattering coat

A long, structured or oversized coat is a perfect addition to your minimalist wardrobe—but for the very best winter coats, make sure to invest in a good material like wool and aim for a flattering, classic silhouette. Good colors to gravitate toward are the classic, grey, black, cream or camel but don’t be afraid of a pop of color! A minimalist wardrobe doesn’t have to mean muted.

"A quality winter coat is a smart investment," says Jessica. "Choose a classic color and shape, and you could be wearing yours for years to come. My trusty woolen camel coat is on it’s 6th winter as we speak..."

8. Leather handbag

A small leather bag is quintessential for your minimal attire, aim for a good size that can be used for more than just a dinner date, pick a classic shape and hardy material that will last. Stick to something muted like black, white, cream, nude, grey or even maroon if you want something more classic. Or you can play around with color if you want something that will stand out from a monochrome outfit. There are also different types of leather that will make different fashionable statements. Pebbled leather makes for more of a classic look, while Saffiano has a more chic and sophisticated finish. Or go for a bit of fun with croc leather. You could even splash out and invest in one of the best designer bags if you're going to keep this as a wardrobe staple.

9. Gold and silver jewelry

Opt for simple plain gold or silver jewelry. You can go big or small but gravitate toward simple shapes, hammered jewelry, thick rings and hoops are perfect to pair with any outfit.

"It's easy to fall into the trend trap when it comes to accessories and buy statement pieces that will quickly fall out of favour," says Joely. "Instead, build up your jewellery collection with simple gold and silver pieces that stand the test of time.

"Simple huggies or stud earrings are guaranteed to add a touch of class to any outfit, while stacking rings can be worn together or separately and always feel contemporary. Layer simply chain necklaces and pendants over a simple t-shirt to add a luxe finish. Often classic jewellery can help you feel put together and more refined with minimal effort."

10. Little black dress

A little black dress is an iconic piece in any wardrobe, aim for an A-line style, or one with a square neck. The black dress is an effortless look and can be dressed up with jewelry or down with a jumper over the top.

"There is no item as timeless than a little black dress," says Charlie. "Simple and chic, you can always rely on an LBD if you're having a last-minute sartorial meltdown. They work for any occasion (except weddings) and once you've found a style and fit that works for your body shape, you will wear it for years to come.

"An LBD can be styled many different ways too so it looks different every time you wear it. Keep it pared-back with barely-there sandals and delicate jewellery or elevate it with colour popping accessories and a printed jacket."