As I laid my pink and yellow summer dress into my donate pile, I wondered to myself why it was all of a sudden so easy a choice. This dress I had kept with me for years as I moved from house to house within Colorado, and the bigger move to Chicago. I didn’t necessarily dislike it, but I never wore it. Yet, I had kept it since I was about 19 when I had worn it for the first time to a formal event. Now, as I decluttered to the extreme for my move to Ireland, I am focused on pulling together an expat minimalist wardrobe and I let it go without a second thought.

Often our closets are made up of clothes we have just to have. Perhaps we wonder if the rare occasion will arise that we might need it, or maybe we’re just not sure why we never wear it. The problem is, the clutter is likely adding to our “I have nothing to wear” feeling. Since starting my own clothing brand, and making an international move, I have narrowed my closet down to my favourites. I have my own ‘capsule’ wardrobe.

I put capsule into quotes because it’s a word we hear a lot and it might have different meanings to different people. The best minimalist, or capsule, wardrobe is one that works the very best for you. There is no true formula for it, but rather it’s a closet that comes together to serve your lifestyle and make getting dressed more enjoyable.

As an expat myself, I find that building my minimalist capsule wardrobe is one of the best things I did to prepare for my move abroad. When my husband and I were selling our items to prepare for the move, I narrowed down my closet to items that I absolutely loved and wore all the time. Since moving, I’ve been able to plan and find new items that fit into my closet to make something really cohesive and functional for my lifestyle.

Minimalist capsule wardrobe
Keeping it simple

Why a minimalist wardrobe

The answer to any of our closet pain points is never simply more. Being expats, we don’t have room in our lives for unworn clothing that wastes our closet space. Particularly when it comes to clothing, we need our pieces to last and to function for our lifestyle. It also makes it easier to pack for our nomadic adventures!

1. Dressing can be easier and more fun with a smaller, cohesive closet

Sometimes the issues of ‘What do I wear?’ come less from not having enough, but rather from not having a wardrobe that works well together. Having a minimalist wardrobe offers you more outfits because they’re interchangeable.

2. The answer is better, not more

When we invest in long term pieces of clothing, we have a reliable wardrobe that can last. We’re able to focus our money more on the things that matter most to us – experiences and loved ones.

3. Fashion overconsumption is a big problem

You may have heard the term ‘fast fashion’ before. This refers to the practice common to giant retailers who sell cheap clothing at a rapidly changing rate. The supply chains suffer (people making the clothing) and the practice pollutes the environment. Building a closet that you love, which will last you a long time, can be a great way to serve the world around you!

minimalist capsule wardrobe
Find your style

How to build a capsule wardrobe

1. Plan ahead of time

When you take an inventory of your own wardrobe, you can better see the holes you need to fill in order to make a cohesive wardrobe. Without taking the time to get a sense of your personal style and sort of ‘inventory’ your own wardrobe, it can be really hard to know what you’re missing. It’s even harder to then determine what you actually need when you’re shopping. Planning ahead helps you make more informed shopping decisions.

2. Get clear on your personal style

A capsule wardrobe is first and foremost should enhance your lifestyle! It is unique to you and what you do each day. It’s important, therefore, to create a capsule closet that fits your personal style. Often, we don’t actually know what our personal style is. A scattered wardrobe or those impulse buys come from a clear understanding of what colours, textures and styles are really you.

3. Learn more about the fabrics and fits you like

Similarly to understanding your personal style, take some time to think about why you like your favourite clothes. How do they fit? How do they feel on your skin? What makes your least favourite clothes, your least favourite? As you plan out your own capsule wardrobe, include clothing with the features of your most-loved garments.

4. Look for clothes to suit your lifestyle – travel, kids, activity

Even if the look and feel of your clothes rings true to you, it won’t matter if these clothes don’t fit your unique lifestyle. Clothing can be very aspirational, meaning we buy clothing that reminds us of who we hope to be. Building a capsule wardrobe is about celebrating who you already are and how you spend your day. As you plan, choose clothing that will serve your daily activities whether the primary need is comfort, movement, style or anything else.

5. Go slowly and find pieces you love

It can be easy to get excited about a capsule wardrobe or ditching fast fashion and then suddenly become overwhelmed. Long term pieces are an investment. It takes a while to choose a brand or a piece you really love. Take it slow and enjoy the journey! Clothing is a craft and these pieces should be savoured.

Here is a link to my downloadable closet inventory worksheet. It’s a useful tool if you are serious about revamping your wardrobe. It is linked to the sign up for the Opaline Hue’s newsletter but you can unsubscribe at any time.

expat minimalist wardrobe
Go slow and only chose pieces you love

Where to look

1. Shop the local country

Support small designers in your area. As expats, we have the privilege to experience a new culture and community. Living in Ireland, I get excited to search for Irish brands to support and lift up. Buying from the small business owners in your country is an awesome way to embed yourself into the community and buy fashion in a responsible way.

2. Check out ethical fashion directories

If you’re looking for ethical and sustainable brands, search for fashion directories on some blogs or publications. Often there will be independent websites who focus on conscious fashion with a list of brands in a certain category.

3. Shop your own closet

The best clothes you can wear are the ones you already have. Take a closet inventory and organize your clothes based on what you love to wear. One of my favourite closet inventory activities is to restyle the clothes I already have. Often if there is a piece that I don’t wear too much I find a new way to wear it that I didn’t think of before.

I love having a small, cohesive wardrobe. It’s so easy to get dressed each morning because all of my clothes go together and I’m always wearing one of my favourites. If you’re an expat, it’s a great way to invest in the country you reside as well as yourself. For more help, you can download the fillable ‘Closet Inventory Guide’ in order to get started on building a long-lasting, minimal wardrobe!


Madeline Neufeld is an American expat who is currently living and running a business in Ireland. 
You can find her brand Opaline Hue here. She is on social media as @opalinehue and you can find her Instagram here and Pinterest here.