Choosing A Wardrobe Fit For the Tiny House Life

Tiny House Magazine

The world's only Digital Magazine dedicated to micro, tiny, small, and otherwise non-traditional housing.

July 22, 2015

Choosing A Wardrobe Fit For the Tiny House Life

Fashions fade, style is eternal.

~ Yves Saint Laurent

Years ago I would wonder why some of the world’s most successful people always seemed to be wearing the same thing. It was as if they either had a daily uniform or were just way too predictable. Whatever the case even today some of our most fascinating cultural icons don a daily uniform. Consider Mark Zuckerberg and his gray t-shirt and zip-up sweatshirt. Or what about designer Thom Browne who is never seen out of his cropped pants and no-socks uniform? Then there’s our own POTUS who seems to have cornered the market on navy blue, single-breasted suits.  And who could forget the late Steve Jobs who made history multiple times in a black, mock turtleneck? The point is, when you have a busy life or want to eliminate clutter and frivolous decision making or just want to keep things in perspective, wearing a well thought out wardrobe gives you one less thing to think about.

More simple is not more and for anyone who has had a closet the size of most American’s television screen or have chosen to live out of anything less than 4,000 cubic inches, it is all about choosing well and making conscious clothing decisions. In fact, style icon and actress Drew Barrymore recently wrote an article for the blog Refinery 29 in which she states, “But, the big problem is this: My closet keeps getting larger and larger with this unhealthy diet of shopping without clarity. What am I looking for, really, and why can’t I find it?”

Messy ClosetSo how does one go about choosing a wardrobe that is fit for the tiny house lifestyle? The steps are actually quite simple and have been posted in multiple places on the Internet over the past few years since Courtney Carver began Project 333 almost five years ago. They are:

1. Purge everything that doesn’t fit. Purge may mean throw away. It may mean take to Goodwill. It may mean to simply give to someone who is that size. Whatever the case, lose the “jeans that will fit if I just lose 5 pounds”, the “fat clothes”, the “skinny clothes”, and the “I just need to have the hem taken out a bit” pieces.

2. Purge everything that doesn’t flatter. Bye bye mom jeans. See you later Dockers elastic waste. And good riddance to anything that is overly baggy, saggy, or downright frumpy.

3. Purge everything not worn in the last year. Like Salami or Smoke Gouda, there is an expiration time to your wardrobe. If you haven’t worn something in twelve consecutive month it is time to give it the ‘ol heave ho!

4. Choose a base color. Do you wear more blacks than browns? Do you prefer khaki over everything? Use it then and make a neutral like black, brown, or khaki your foundation piece. Anything else needs to find itself a new home.

5. Choose accent colors. Be it a ties, a belt, a scarf, a turtleneck, or a pair of shoes, select a few shades and pieces that are flattering and complement your foundation color.

6. Pare down your shoes and purses. With a foundation color you no longer need the Baskin-Robbins shoe closet. Minimize to possible a pair of dress shoes, a casual shoe, a sneaker, and a sandal or flip-flop.

7. Accessorize. Take this to mean what compliments who you are. Chances are though that does not mean a 14k Gold, figaro link chain with a St. Nicholas medallion.


When we first began downsizing about six years ago I was ill-prepared. I still chose more cheap pieces than fewer, well made pieces. I almost had an entirely different wardrobe for each season. I quickly learned though that that wouldn’t cut it. And for someone who wear Birkenstocks all year round I had an insanely large sock collection. Within a year though I was able to avoid a jam-packed tiny closet, keep my style (and even enhance it), and maintain storage space where needed.  Just for an example I now have:



  • Underwear – 14 pairs. I prefer a brand like Exofficio that is odor resistant, moisture wicking, durable, lightweight, and quick drying. Easy to pack and great in all situations.
  • Socks – 7 footie socks (for sneakers) and 4 long/boot cut (2 should be wool for colder weather).
  • Sandals – Life rarely calls for more than a good pair of leather Birkenstocks.
  • Merrell hiking shoes – 1 pair.
  • Jeans – 2 pair and neither with holes, aged spots, or otherwise unsightly areas.
  • Khakis – 1 pair. I always recommend Bills Khakis as they are Made in the USA and can withstand the nomadic life. They are a bit pricey, yes, but you get what you pay for!
  • Shorts – 4 pair. I found a nice pair of cargo shorts that fit me well and are well suited for all occasions. I bought all four colors they were available in.
  • T-Shirts –  7 short sleeve and 2 long sleeve.
  • Button-Up Oxford – 1 Brooks Brothers that is really quite dapper and wrinkle-free.
  • Blazer – A well made blazer can be worn with any of the above pants, the above polo, or even a t-shirt and instantly gives you a more dressed up appearance. Take note of the LL Bean Men’s Classic Travel Blazer.
  • Casual Sweater – I only have one and it is an authentic Scottish zip-up made in Edinburgh.
  • Pajamas – Seriously? Men, don’t you just sleep in your boxers? You may consider a pair of basketball shorts but don’t get crazy!
  • Slippers – 1 pair.
  • Belts – 1 black dress and 1 brown casual (for jeans and khakis).
  • Coats — 1 Carhartt. I should buy a wind breaker of some sort but I typically prefer my sweater and a poncho if necessary.
  • Swimwear – 1 pair of trunks.
  • Active Wear – 1 pair of basketball shorts and 1 tanktop.


Join Our eMail List and download the Tiny House Directory

Simply enter your name and email below to learn more about tiny houses and stay up to date with the movement.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Melissa - July 22, 2015 Reply

I too am a person that could wear Birks year round. Alas, I would lose my toes to frostbite in the DC winters. But from April to November I am rarely seen in a shoe besides my Silver Arizonas (soft-footbed, naturally).

Erin - July 22, 2015 Reply

“Life rarely calls for more than a good pair of leather Birkenstocks.”

God, I wish.

Taunya - July 22, 2015 Reply

I would love to see this article done from the perspective of a woman. Too often we are expected (almost required in some professions) to have an extensive wardrobe for any occasion.

How would this look for a professional woman? I think it could be done, but there may need to be some gender consideration to it for work.

    Andrew M. Odom - July 22, 2015 Reply

    Hi Taunya. I am going to post a special follow up just for you. Look for it soon!

      Jean - July 25, 2015 Reply

      I was thinking the same thing. Notice all those examples above are men.

Beth - July 22, 2015 Reply

A couple of other questions to consider:

How often can you do laundry where your tiny house is? It’s good to have plenty of undies and socks, and they’re pretty easy to wash even by hand when needed, but…

Then, too, how much physical/outdoor work do you do — so, how many of your clothes can you wear more than once between washings? If you’re still working on your tiny house, and/or a homestead, better factor in more changes of clothes, and some “okay for dirty work” options.

As for making this work as a professional woman, the article’s going in a helpful direction. One or two foundation items in basic colors (and shoes to match), a couple of interchangeable blazers/sweaters/camisoles, and plenty of accessory items to add color and style, and change the look (from day to evening on a little black dress or black slacks, for instance).

Jewelry, scarves/shawls, belts, etc. are useful, fun, and space-saving. And you can store them in all sorts of ways, like using wall space to hang them and make them part of your decor.

Miranda - July 22, 2015 Reply

If I got rid of everything that didn’t flatter me, I’d have one pair of jeans left. I despise shopping for clothes, driving all over, trying things on in various sizes because even within the same brand clothes are different. I usually find something that is good enough, buy multiples, and avoid mirrors. Works most of the time, but if I want to look good I’m left with no options.

On the plus side, my wardrobe is small.

Johanna - July 22, 2015 Reply

I live in Sweden close to the arctic circle so I need clothes warm enough for our winter. Other than that I think I could adapt my wardrobe to a tiny house. Clothes that are well made, in solid color and made for layering is what I try to find then add scarves and jewellery after occasion.

It’s camping gear, skiing gear and winter clothes that is a problem. Just what I wear in outerwear a cold winter day takes about as much space as most of my indoor clothes.

Until I have solved that we (4 of us) will stay in our 900 SqFt apartment.

alice h - July 22, 2015 Reply

If you like to dress up, make costumes or have special occasion/seasonal clothes that only get trotted out once in a while that all require more storage than a basic wardrobe you can usually find lots of wasted space or less accessible space to tuck things. Space bags are fantastic to compress things in. If you use them for any compressible items like bedding, towels or out of season clothes you end up with lots more room for other stuff.

You can use cushion covers to store extra clothing and use as pillows.

It might also be possible to trade favours with a friend for storage space for your down parka, big winter boots or what have you in the off season, rather than getting rid of something you only need part time.

Matthew - July 22, 2015 Reply

Perfect if you are retired or a trust fund baby.

Linda - July 22, 2015 Reply

Here’s another good article about packable gear, which applies in this case as well:
Technomads have this figured out – basically living out of duffel bags with their constant travel.

Nancy @ Little Homestead in Boise - July 22, 2015 Reply

I agree for people working in offices or other settings “casual business” may be too casual. It’s good to downsize but unless your a millionaire, as are some of the people you mentioned, there are business dress codes to adhere to. I’ve found if I find something that’s well made and fits, I buy 2, and many times I go thrifting or shop used on eBay. I’m in the process of purging my closet as well. Unless you live in the tropics you also need seasonal clothes. I have heavy parkas, wool socks, polar fleece, wool sweaters. I store those in a spare closet and rotate them. I also have clothes just for gardening and house painting, etc. No point ripping up good clothes.

Brad - July 23, 2015 Reply

IMHO no tiny house wardrobe is complete without a hair shirt.

Tim - July 23, 2015 Reply

I have paired my wardrobe down by following a similar program. Doing so has helped me to buy quality over quantity. To ensure that my buying stays in check, every new purchase must replace an item I already own; item “in” = item “out”. I now spend a fraction of what I used to. Buying quality means my clothes last longer. I work in a professional office and wear a “uniform” of primarily black. It took some time for my routine to sink in, but it’s working for me just fine.

Cheryl - July 25, 2015 Reply

Soooooo I saw “HIS”. Did I miss “HER’S? Or was this a unisex closet?

Julie Tol-veman - July 26, 2015 Reply

latest url for ladies edition has an error message.

marie chonko - December 22, 2015 Reply

Where was the wardrobe for a woman?! I am a woman who needs to have not only a four season wardrobe but a professional, casual and an evening wardrobe. This is the only thing that gives me pause about how to live tiny. Any advice? I spent a whole two hours trying to list and re-list a shoe wardrobe. The professional shoes were easy but I still ended up with 4 pairs no matter what. Good Grief!

Leslie Vaughn - January 9, 2016 Reply

Just a thought: go to the Salvation Army thrift store quarterly rather than storing. Do a swap. You can change your foundation color, donate the shirts you’re tired of, change sizes if necessary. Works if you’re not emotionally attached to your clothes and are willing to take chances. 🙂

Mary C Charest - May 7, 2016 Reply

Please leave me and and all info about what men and women should have in their wardrobes contact ne at I am writing a book.

* LawLawLaw #38 – * Erik J. Heels - November 15, 2017 Reply

[…] * Choosing A Wardrobe Fit For the Tiny House Life (2015-07-23) I like tiny houses. And simple wardrobes. If you see me in jeans and a black mock turtleneck, then you’ll know why (cough, Steve Jobs, cough). […]

Leave a Reply:

Get the Tiny House Directory... join our weekly newsletter