Minimalist van-dweller wardrobe part 2: women

Now that we’ve covered the minimalist van-dweller wardrobe for men, it’s time to focus on the ladies.

Traditional gender expectations are that women care deeply about beauty and fashion, their closets and make-up bags brimming with the latest must-haves. These ideas are changing, but still exist. My favorite example of this is Amy Schumer’s skit “Say Fine to the Shirt” — a parody of makeover shows and “Say Yes to the Dress.” When the gender roles are reversed, it’s easy to see how ridiculous it all is.



Wondering where I’m going with this?

Why This Matters for a Woman’s Van-Dweller Wardrobe

I think the hardest part of building a minimalist wardrobe is getting over the ingrained idea that more is better. By only owning a milk crate’s worth of clothes, you’re bucking the trend and sending a message. (Just like this newscaster, and this creative director.) If you’re thinking about living in a van, you probably have no problem bucking the trend anyway, right?

You can still be happy with how you look, too. As we discussed in the last post, the benefits of a minimalist wardrobe are:

  1. Less hassle and headache deciding what to wear everyday
  2. Only wearing things that you love
  3. Spending less money overall

Criteria for Tamara’s Van-Dweller Wardrobe

  • All-Season Layers: Enough t-shirts for warm weather locations, with lots of layers because I run cold
  • Activity-Appropriate: I hike, do yoga, and play tennis, but also enjoy a sit-down restaurant
  • Client Meeting Attire: My work requires the occasional face-to-face client meeting or presentation, so I need a couple dressy/business casual options
  • Easy-Care Fabrics: We spend a lot of time outdoors and wash in laundromats
  • Quantity: We try to last between 10-14 days before needing to do laundry

Tamara’s Minimalist Wardrobe at a Glance

Tamara Wardrobe 800

While these aren’t all the exact items, the colors and styles are very close to my actual wardrobe

Full Packing List / Item Descriptions

  • V-neck and crew-neck cotton t-shirts (7)
  • Cotton tank tops (3)
  • Long-sleeve base layers (2)
  • Cotton-blend cardigan
  • Long-sleeve flannel shirt
  • Long-sleeve chambray shirt
  • Quick-dry dress — suitable for hiking or over a bathing suit
  • Jeans
  • Ankle-length cotton pants
  • Cotton shorts
  • Quick-dry skirt — suitable for hiking or over a bathing suit
  • Convertible hiking pants — can be pants or capris
  • Yoga pants
  • Yoga/running capris
  • Quick-dry exercise shirt — for hiking too
  • Exercise shorts
  • Bathing suit
  • Sweatshirt
  • Cotton jacket
  • Rain jacket / windbreaker
  • Puffer jacket
  • Blazer* — in a color and fabric that works with jeans or business attire
  • Slacks*
  • Sleeveless shell blouse*
  • Black sheath dress*
  • Patent leather belt and earrings
  • Black flats
  • Black canvas shoes
  • Leather ankle boots
  • Tennis shoes
  • Hiking boots
  • Water shoes
  • Shower flip-flops
  • Baseball cap
  • Scarf
  • Bras (2)
  • Sports bras (2)
  • Underwear (16)
  • Socks (11)

*These items break the easy-care fabric rule above, but because they get minimal wear it’s not an issue. Plus, synthetic fabrics wrinkle less easily.

What I Do With My Work Attire & Things I Don’t Bring

Because I use the work attire so rarely, I pack the blazer, slacks, blouse, sheath dress, belt and earrings in space bags that I keep under the foot of the mattress in the van. When we first started traveling by van, I had a larger collection of work attire, but I found that I really didn’t need it.

Like Chris, I keep my rarely-used clothes that would be expensive to replace in a bin in our basement. That includes a suit, another blazer, dress shoes, a couple formal dresses, snow jacket and snow pants.

What Do You Think?

What would you add, subtract or replace? I have a feeling I could probably get rid of about a quarter of this and still be OK. Also, check out Chris’ wardrobe if you haven’t already.


  6 comments for “Minimalist van-dweller wardrobe part 2: women

  1. 2015-12-28 at 2:09 pm

    This is a great comprehensive list! Even though I’m not living in a van, it is helpful to think about what we really need. I think you have more socks than I do. (We don’t really know what those are in San Diego) 😉
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year you two!

    • Tamara & Chris
      2015-12-28 at 4:24 pm

      Thanks, Carolyn and Jon! 🙂 I wish we didn’t need socks — ah, warm weather…how we miss it.

  2. Zach W
    2016-01-07 at 7:10 am

    Hey guys, I just wanted to give a quick “thank you” for the awesome blogs! I have read all of “our leap year” as well as this blog and the podcast that you guested on, and I love the inspiration. It has definitely helped to re-ignite the travel bug for us. My wife and I (and our 1 year old daughter) just bought tickets for a trip to Costa Rica in a couple of months !

    • Tamara & Chris
      2016-01-07 at 7:15 am

      Hey Zach — What a kind and awesome thing to say! We’re so glad you guys are inspired and hope you have a great time in Costa Rica. We love, love, loved it there. So mellow and beautiful. Buen viaje!

  3. Kevin jensen
    2016-01-19 at 6:02 am

    have been looking for a great model-test case of how to set up a mobile life. Your system and planning is really terrific. The big 1500-2500-3500 van are just too bulky at this stage of our life to do either stealth camping, or just van and tent camping. You set up looks outstanding. Plus I kind of trust Honda technology to get it right for a long reliability (long time Toyota fan). Just have to find a Honda Odyssey with no issues and put a transmission cooler on it first thing.

    • Tamara & Chris
      2016-01-19 at 6:14 am

      Thanks, Kevin! We’re big believers in keeping it simple, especially when just starting out. And a minivan is definitely more stealth. Good luck finding your van and hitting the road! Let us know if we can help with anything.

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