Stop me if this sounds familiar: one of your favorite influencers posts a simple yet stunningly chic look on Instagram, assembling an effortless high-low outfit from pieces similar to those in your own wardrobe (e.g. a t- shirt). But if you try to replicate the same combination? It’s underwhelming at best, downright youthful at worst. In fact, the minimalist fashion trend has a bit of a Jackson Pollock effect — it seems easy enough to replicate, but getting the subtitles just right takes a certain amount of finesse.
Still, amazingly low-key style is impossible with little to no experience. Typically, it’s about “classic staples paired with less-anticipated pieces” and “contrasts within the look — a mix of feminine and masculine, fitted and loose, sporty and dressy,” says Fran Miller, founder of skincare brand F. MILLER.
Every minimalist-minded designer, stylist, and social media denizen I spoke to for this piece came back to the same overarching advice over and over again: Focus on quality and buy well-fitting pieces that you’ll wear for multiple seasons will. That said, finding those beautifully made and timeless silhouettes — and putting them together in a cool and interesting way — is absolutely a skill. Here I break down the experts’ most trusted tips on how to refine it.
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Just got one piece be expensive
You’ve probably heard some version of this idea before: it’s better to splurge on a bag, a piece of jewelry or a shoe – aka an accessory that you can combine with different types of looks. “It’s wiser to invest in this type of piece because you get a lot more wear and tear from it than, say, a designer top,” says influencer and product manager Claire Most (whose outfit above showcases this concept perfectly: Note the space -Gap clothes with more expensive Nikes).
Shaina Mote, founder of the eponymous clothing brand, argues that a single pair of quality pants is worth the price. “You’ll be surprised how well it can be paired with different tops for completely different looks throughout the season and how the shape can change from cool to warm weather,” she explains. “I also think napped, textured knits add extra interest and depth to an outfit.”
It goes without saying, but collecting investment objects requires money and time. To speed up the process, many minimalists love to buy expensive basics (second hand = lower prices) like pre-worn jeans, t-shirts and even dress shirts. However, you have to “have committed yourself to the hunt,” says Miller. Most’s tip number one? Don’t rush the process. “I know someone who found an Issey Miyake shirt at 3 Euro at a vintage store,” she says. “Honestly, take your time!”
However, the biggest benefit here is that a single outfit only needs one focus. This means you can show off your showpiece and keep everything else simple and pared down. Plus, a true minimalist will usually find a uniform that works and keep it on a regular rotation – a boon for tomorrows when you don’t have to bother inventing something new. “If I’m feeling particularly comfortable in an outfit, I’ll rotate it for a few days,” says Miller. So don’t worry that recreating the same basic look is bad — even influencers do it all the time.
Go high-low the right way
When it comes to finding more affordable pieces that complement your focus, the devil is in the details. Keep the colors neutral: white, black, grey, beige — or even olive, according to fashion stylist Emily DeSimone. “A good neutral color can elevate any brand,” she points out.
“Keep your layering pieces on the low end of your budget and then have a good one or two [i.e., more expensive] Accessories,” she adds, like a bag, a pair of sunglasses, or a pair of sneakers. “Also, layer your darker garments under your lighter layers: black tank top and bike shorts with a white button-down.” In her look above, DeSimone’s shoes are by Vagabond and her shorts are by Zara, with her top and sunglasses being the standout pieces by The Frankie Shop are.
Some excellent places to start shopping: Aritzia, Rumors, Lioness, The Line by K, and Djerf Avenue all have good, cheaper neutrals, according to Most. DeSimone adds Amazon, Abercrombie, and Girlfriend Collective to that list. “Don’t worry if you’re wearing Loewe sunglasses with an Amazon shield,” says DeSimone.
Play with shape and texture
If you find that your efforts still distort more Saturday morning errands than effortlessly chic, it’s probably because you need a little more drama. Rather than relying on look-at-me colors and patterns, consider an item with an unusual, slightly counterintuitive shape. For Mote, that means reaching for perfectly casual pants.
“For our best-selling pants, The Boy Trouser, I hoped to distill the essence of Giorgio Armani’s perfect ’90s ‘Dad’ pants in a shape that’s fresh, simple and flattering,” explains the designer. “My team and I achieved this by adding new proportions and fits, like a much more relaxed waistband than your average pant and a nice seamless back waistband that conforms to the body rather than being chunky and outdated.”
Kassia Davis, the founder of KADA, says that another key aspect of the exceptional minimalist style is “not-so-basic basics,” which are core pieces that feel elevated due to less-expected design details. In other words, don’t just fill your wardrobe with the same plain t-shirt in 10 different colors. Instead, opt for well-fitting, standout essentials. “[Go for something] It’s special enough to be a star in your outfit, and versatile enough to also be a supporting element in your look,” suggests Shilpa Shah, who co-founded her Cuyana label around these precise principles of easy and elegant wear Has. forever fashion. An oversized denim jacket, black dress, and mules are all foolproof choices here—and again, don’t have to be high-end, as long as the shape and fit are good.
Get a steamer and air dry your clothes
That might sound like a no-brainer, but DeSimone explains that no matter the price, crisp clothes always look expensive. More broadly, taking care of your clothes (including your less-expensive staples) is a good way to make the most of your entire wardrobe over the long term.
Most wash all their (non-dry clean) clothes on a delicates and let them air dry. She also uses a steam cleaner because it’s less likely to ruin her clothes: “I once burned a top with an iron because I got the setting wrong, so I’m kind of traumatized now,” she tells TZR. And a number of other experts are similarly recommending steamers for their portability and lightness – they pack small and you can quickly plug them in when your outfit just needs a touch-up.
If you’re out somewhere and want to take a picture there, especially if it’s warm, get the shoot out of the way before coffee/wine/dinner so the clothes look as spotless and sweat-free as possible.
Don’t make it too complicated
Once you know what looks and feels good, all that’s left to do is lather, rinse, and perfect your minimalist uniform. Most makes a plan of what to wear, and if she prepares her clothes well, it takes her a full two minutes to get dressed. But it can take a lot longer if she doesn’t like what worked in her head (so you don’t worry that two minutes feels like an impossible window to put an outfit together).
Miller puts comfort first: “You won’t see me in super high heels or flashy accessories,” she explains, which has been confirmed by many experts in this article. In fact, Most agrees that “being uncomfortable in my clothes takes a toll on my confidence and mood.”
Mote adds: “I need clothing that works in a rougher rural setting (think horses, gardening, etc.) but still transitions into an urban setting in a relevant way. Because of that, I’ve focused more on workwear.” So if your outfit looks polished but feels uncomfortable, you probably need items that both work and follow an aesthetic.
Ultimately, the key is to build a closet that you enjoy looking at each morning and “shop” over and over again – meaning you look through your existing clothes for new combinations that will freshen up your style without having to buy a ton of new items . Ideally, your basic basics won’t change much, but there are a few pieces that creatively push your boundaries. Minimalism can still be fun, Shah explains. “You can still be minimalist and celebrate colour, great detail and fashion trends.”