An Affordable Capsule Wardrobe That Doesn’t Skimp on Quality
Breaking news: You can fill your closet without totally emptying your wallet. Yes, creating an affordable capsule wardrobe will require some planning.
But in this glorious guide, you’ll learn how to create one, find affordable capsule brands to shop, and see an example capsule made of pieces that are all $150 or less.
Can a capsule really be functional, flattering, and financially feasible? Keep reading to find out.
How I Build an Affordable Capsule Wardrobe That Lasts
I often hear the terms affordable and cheap used interchangeably.
However, I’ve learned that what makes a garment affordable is not only the price but also the amount of wear you get out of it.
Say it with me: Affordable clothing does NOT equal cheap clothing.
Here’s my tip: Durability is essential, especially when building a budget capsule wardrobe. After all, you’ll be wearing these items over and over. In the long run, buying very low-priced items will cost more than purchasing well-made items with a higher initial cost.
This is because cheap clothing won’t hold up against frequent wear in the way that higher-quality clothing will.
Below, I’ll walk you through a capsule wardrobe that is affordable and high quality. Here’s to saving money and looking good while doing it!
Note: This post may contain affiliate links meaning I earn a small commission when you shop the links, at no cost to you.
Table of Contents
A 13-Piece Affordable Capsule Wardrobe
Affordable Capsule Outfit Ideas
Affordable Capsule Wardrobe Essentials Under $100
How Much Does it Cost to Build a Capsule Wardrobe
How to Build an Affordable Capsule Wardrobe
Budget-Friendly Brands to Shop
A Chic & Affordable 13-Piece Capsule Wardrobe
Keep shirts in neutral colors and classic silhouettes so they can mix and match easily with your existing wardrobes. These five tops cover your bases from work to play.
Button Down Shirt: $40
Racerback Tank Top: $38
White T-Shirt: $30
Silk Halter Blouse: $60
Long Sleeve Bodysuit: $45
These four bottoms will get you through soooo many occasions. Take the linen shorts for example. This pair can be easily dressed up with the silk blouse and mules or down with a t-shirt and sneakers.
High-Waisted Jeans: $75
Linen Pleated Shorts: $40
Silk Midi Skirt: $60
Relaxed Trousers: $70
Where would we be without our one-and-done wardrobe pieces? I opted for simple and chic dresses in two different lengths. If you prefer patterns in your capsule wardrobe, dresses are an easy place to work them in.
Tencel Tank Dress : $40
We know that shoes can make or break an outfit. Reach for tried and true styles like fresh white sneakers and classy mules. They give off an effortlessly stylish vibe that makes you look expensive.
Heeled Mules: $60
Comfy Sneakers: $70
Budget Capsule Wardrobe Outfit Ideas
The pieces above can be mixed and matched to create over 40 different outfits. Here are some affordable capsule wardrobe outfit ideas for inspiration.
Affordable Capsule Wardrobe Essentials Under $100
So you’re building a wardrobe on a budget. No worries. These pieces pack a one-two punch of versatility and style. Of course, we can’t sacrifice quality on our quest for a budget capsule. These styles are built to last, can be dressed up or down easily, and all come in under $100.
Versatile Tank Dress
Flattering Tank Top
Chic Linen Trousers
How Much Does it Cost to Build a Capsule Wardrobe?
Because there are so many ways to configure a capsule wardrobe, the cost greatly varies. If you’re building a capsule wardrobe completely from scratch, it can cost from $500-$1500. But if you are working with existing items, you can build a functional and chic capsule for under $500.
Considering that women spend an average of $150-$400 on clothing per month, a capsule wardrobe is a great tool for fashion lovers on a budget.
I’ll provide multiple capsule wardrobe cost examples later on. For now, take a look at the factors at play below!
Factors that influence the cost include:
- The size of the capsule wardrobe: a small 10-item wardrobe will cost less than a full 35-piece capsule closet.
- Your wardrobe starting point: Are you starting from scratch or building the capsule with existing pieces in your closet?
- How frequently you update your wardrobe: Consider how often you’ll refresh the wardrobe. Seasonally? Twice a year?
- Which brands you shop: choosing the right capsule wardrobe brands is essential when creating a wardrobe on a budget.
- What kind of clothing you need: If you need a highly professional capsule, you may want to set a higher budget than you would for a casual one.
- How well you maintain your capsule wardrobe: The better you maintain your clothing, the more wear you’ll get out of each piece.
To build a capsule wardrobe on a budget, work with clothing you already own and shop secondhand (and sales, of course). I’ll cover more ways to save on clothes below. But first, let’s discuss how to get the most out of your capsule wardrobe.
How to Build an Affordable Capsule Wardrobe
Attention, babes on a budget: your affordable capsule wardrobe guide has arrived. Follow these steps to build a versatile wardrobe you (and your bank account) can get behind.
1. Align Your Wardrobe with Your Lifestyle
Put down the phone and step away from the Pinterest boards. An all too common mistake is letting beautiful photos and cookie-cutter checklists influence your capsule choices.
Instead, start by taking stock of your lifestyle. What activities do you repeat throughout the week? What settings are you always finding yourself in? The clothes you choose should suit these needs.
TLDR: Assess your daily activities to determine what clothing items should make up the bulk of your closet.
2. Set a Clothing Budget
Yes, it’s the task we all love to hate-budgeting. But any capsule queen knows that planning is key for sartorial success. And financial planning is part of the equation. Much like personal style, each person’s financial situation is unique.
Some financial planning experts suggest spending 5% of your monthly income on clothing. This can be a helpful starting point that you can adjust as needed. Remember that you can spread out your wardrobe purchases rather than buying all at once.
TLDR: Determine what percent of your income you will spend on building your capsule closet.
3. Consider Cost Per Wear
As you build an affordable capsule wardrobe, utilize the cost-per-wear framework. Cost per wear is a helpful metric that helps you determine if you’ll get your money’s worth out of a piece. To calculate cost per wear, take the cost of the item and divide it by the number of times you wear it over one year.
For example, a $250 leather tote bag that you’ll use 156 times a year (3 times a week) comes out to a $1.60 cost per wear. A $100 floral statement top that you wear to 3 events in the year comes out to a $33 cost per wear.
Cost Per Wear = Cost of Garment / # Times You’ll Wear It
Yours truly thrift shopping. I found this neutral vintage purse for under $30.
4. Separate Clothing Needs vs Wants
You determined what you need out of your closet (thank you, step one). Now, it’s time to split your clothing list into want items and need items. Signs that an item is a need rather than a want:
- It pops up as a recurring need. For example, three times this month you’ve wished you had a black blazer to complete different looks.
- It would play well with other items in your closet. The piece would complement many of your current clothing items.
- It would serve a purpose for repeated activities. This piece is now you would wear often, not leave hanging in the closet.
TLDR: To avoid buying garments that you won’t wear, clearly define your wants and needs.
5. Shop Slowly
Wine tastings. Scenic hikes. Some things are just better when done slowly. Building a capsule wardrobe on a budget is no exception. This extra time allows you to analyze what outfits and styles you’re loving and wearing consistently. Did you hear that? It’s your wallet celebrating you making more intentional clothing purchases.
TLDR: There’s no need to rush into buying new clothing. Use what you have at the start and build over time.
6. Visit Secondhand Stores
You didn’t think we’d come all this way and forget about thrifting, did you? With a list of clothing needs in hand, head to your local thrift stores to scan the racks. Look for quality fabrics and well-constructed items to add to your closet. Thrift shopping for a capsule wardrobe is a sustainable way to find hidden gems. So bust out those reusable tote bags and get thrifting.
TLDR: Browse local second-hand shops for wardrobe staples.
7. Maintain Your Closet
Once you’ve curated your wardrobe staples and supporting garments, ensure their longevity. You want to start off with the best quality items you can afford. Then, take the extra step to keep them looking fresh so you can wear them for years to come. Items that can help you maintain your wardrobe include:
- Fabric shaver: Sometimes called a depiller or a defuzzer, this godsend of a device makes sweaters and jackets look new again.
- Mesh laundry bag: These laundry heroes protect your delicates in the wash so they last longer.
- Sturdy hangers: Low-quality hangers can stretch and damage your capsule clothing. Swap them out for a rubberized or velvet set.
TLDR: Take care of your clothing items and they’ll take care of you.
Affordable Capsule Wardrobe Brands To Shop
If you followed the steps above (yes, even the portion on budgeting), then it’s time to shop for your wardrobe staples. You can also browse this list of quality capsule brands for versatile wardrobe staples. Say hello to a world of stellar outfit combinations.
- Quince: A trove of quality fabrics like cashmere and silk.
- Everlane: A stellar store for quality essentials made ethically.
- Amazon Fashion: A stockpile of affordable fashion finds from casual to dressy.
- H&M: A great spot to shop for affordable designer collaborations.
- Kotn: A certified B-Corporation that creates timeless wardrobe essentials, made ethically.
- ABLE: A source of stylish sustainable women’s clothing in fabrics like TENCEL and organic cotton.
- Uniqlo: A go-to for simple, comfortable clothing that’s meant to be lived in.
- Madewell: A dazzling denim provider for jeans built to last.
- Nordstrom: A one-stop shop for loads of wallet-friendly clothing items.
- Pact: A sustainable choice offering organic cotton basics at an affordable price point.
Ways a Capsule Wardrobe Saves You Money
- You’ll avoid frequent shopping: With a capsule wardrobe, you don’t need to constantly shop for new clothes to fill gaps in your wardrobe. After I created a capsule, I noticed myself spending way less on clothing. It makes sense! The essentials are already in my closet.
- You’ll do more with less: It’s time to get creative. With a capsule, you take a more sustainable and mindful approach to getting dressed. How many ways can you style that top? What different combos can you create with those staple pants?
- You’ll replace the clothing subscription: I’m a fan of clothing subscriptions and have not let this one go myself. But if you’re looking to cut back on clothing spend, a capsule wardrobe costs less than a subscription. It allows you to invest in versatile, quality pieces that can be worn for years. So, in the long run, it’s a smart wallet-friendly move.
Capsule Wardrobe on a Budget FAQs
Is a Capsule Wardrobe Expensive?
No, a capsule wardrobe doesn’t have to be pricey. Follow these three principles to keep it budget-friendly:
- Start with what you already own. A sustainable and affordable way to build your capsule is to work with the basics that you already wear and love. From there, you can identify wardrobe gaps and shop to fill them in.
- Prioritize versatile, high-quality pieces. By focusing on quality pieces that you can wear in many ways, you’ll have a lower cost per wear.
- Plan your closet. Assess your lifestyle and personal preferences to get clarity on what you actually need in your wardrobe.
Remember that a capsule wardrobe saves you money in the long run by reducing the need to routinely buy new clothing.
What’s the Best Way to Create an Affordable Capsule Wardrobe?
Here’s a seven-step wardrobe-building process that won’t break the bank:
- Align Your Wardrobe with Your Lifestyle: Determine what clothing items should make up the bulk of your closet by assessing your daily activities.
- Set a Clothing Budget: Determine what percent of your income you will spend on building your capsule closet.
- Consider Cost Per Wear: When buying new clothing, look beyond sticker price to consider how often you’ll wear each item.
- Define Clothing Needs vs Wants: To avoid buying garments that you won’t wear, clearly define your wants and needs.
- Shop Slowly: Use what you have at the start and build over time to be more intentional about clothing purchases.
- Shop Secondhand: Browse local second-hand shops for wardrobe staples.
- Maintain Your Closet: Take care of your clothing items by using fabric shavers, mesh laundry bags, and sturdy hangers to ensure their longevity.