How to Shop for a Formal Event | Formal Wear for the Minimalist

Formal wear can be difficult, especially in a minimalist wardrobe. Formal clothing is often unique and valuable, and many of us feel we cannot justify wearing it under regular daily circumstances. If you are a minimalist, it can be difficult to justify owning an item that barely gets any wear.

There are many options when it comes to formal wear for the minimalist. Consider hiring, borrowing from a friend or buying second hand and then donating or reselling the items.

If you want to own something formal of your own, keep reading. This is how I did it

I have always been a person who struggles with formal and occasional wear. I have rarely felt like I have had an adequate or appropriate wardrobe for fancy situations. The main reason for this is probably the fact that I default to a fairly casual style, and I despise wearing uncomfortable clothing. Most of the formal shoes and dresses I have bought in the past have not been comfortable, and have not reflected my authentic style.

During my initial wardrobe declutters, I got rid of all clothing that could be considered remotely formal, because none of those items genuinely reflected my style.

When I bought the one proper formal item I now own, I had a very specific list of criteria which the item had to fit into. The main challenge was finding a dress that would suit a number of occasions and could be used for years to come.

Below is what I wanted from my dress to ensure it was as versatile as possible.

  • It couldn’t be white as I might need to wear it to a wedding.
  • It couldn’t be black because I’m petite and black makes me disappear.
  • It needed to have a low neckline and emphasise the waist to flatter my shape.
  • It couldn’t have flared or voluminous sleeves because I wanted to be able to wear it under a jacket.
  • It couldn’t be too bright in colour. I dislike too much colour and I’d end up getting rid of it.
  • It couldn’t be too revealing for both reasons of weather practicality.

The dress I ended up with is the perfect formal dress for me. It has an adjustable tie in case I lose or gain weight, comes in neutral mint colour, and suits my aesthetic. The dress is by Lacausa. As I bought this item well over a year ago now, the item is no longer available.


Below are tips for selecting your own minimalist formal wear.

  1. Establish the range of events you want to wear the item to, and write a list of attributes that will suit a variety of these events.
  2. Find neutral coloured items that can be utilised in a variety of ways.
  3. Avoid tight fitting items that will become useless if you if you lose or gain weight.
  4. Avoid glitter, sparkles and other embellishments, instead favouring luxe fabrics such as silk, velvet and leather. If you feel lacklustre, it is a lot smarter to invest in flashy jewellery that can make your outfit look more dramatic.
  5. Find items that can be worn in different seasons. Make sure you have at least one neat coat or jacket that will work with the item in case you need to wear it in cooler weather.


I have created a Shopping for Formal Wear to aid you in your own formal wear shopping adventures. You can find it and others at the ‘resources’ link on my home page.

Below is my video about shopping for formal wear.

Check out my YouTube channel for new videos about minimalism every week. Follow me on Instagram, where I record my minimalist outfits. Check me out on Facebook for resources and updates. I also have a Patreon account, where I post additional content weekly. Patreon subscribers receive a number of benefits, including additional weekly content, early access, and discount in the Small Wardrobe shop.



  1. Very useful advice – thanks! I still have a black satin strapless dress from my youth which I seldom wear, because its style means it’s only suitable for the most formal of occasions. Something in-between would be useful – I’ll have to make a list!

    Liked by 1 person

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