How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe You Actually Want to Wear
Learning how to build a capsule wardrobe is like unlocking the secret to effortlessly chic outfits. And I’m here to share the ten-step process with you.
Read on to create a timeless capsule wardrobe that’s custom-built for you and nobody else.
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What is a Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a thoughtfully curated collection of essential clothing items that perfectly align with your style and lifestyle. The closet features a limited but powerful selection of garments that can be mixed and matched effortlessly.
If you’ve heard of a capsule wardrobe before, that’s because the concept was developed back in the 70s by London-based boutique owner Susie Faux. Since then, the capsule has been embraced by the fashion-forward around the world.
Imagine having a closet that feels like your own personal fashion boutique, carefully curated with all your must-have clothing pieces. That’s the magic of a capsule wardrobe! By focusing on quality over quantity, a capsule wardrobe helps you declutter your closet and say goodbye to those “nothing to wear” moments. It’s all about choosing pieces that you absolutely love and that can be styled in countless ways. From classic basics to statement pieces, each item in your capsule serves a purpose and works harmoniously with the others.
Chic Capsule Wardrobe Example
- Off-the-shoulder top
- Puff Sleeve Top
- Black Bodysuit
- Striped Turtleneck
- White Button Down
- Wide Leg Trousers
- High Waisted Jeans
- Satin Midi Skirt
- Tank Dress
- Sweater Dress
- Buttoned Cardigan
- Striped Turtleneck
- Structured Trench Coat
- Lug-Sole Loafers
- Slip-on Heels
- Ankle Boots
- White Sneakers
- Versatile Earrings
Benefits of a Capsule Wardrobe
Why build a capsule wardrobe? You can read the whole list of capsule wardrobe benefits in this post or browse the highlights below:
- Time Benefits: Getting dressed becomes quicker and easier, and maintaining and organizing your wardrobe becomes more manageable.
- Style Benefits: Every item in your wardrobe looks good on you. A cohesive color palette and flattering pieces mean polished outfits, again and again.
- Sustainability Benefits: Reduce clothing waste by investing in timeless pieces and gravitating toward sustainable clothing practices.
- Money Benefits: Shop less often and enjoy a lower cost per wear. By investing in quality pieces, you’ll become a more intentional shopper.
- Mental Benefits: Avoid decision fatigue by streamlining your closet. You’ll actually enjoy getting dressed (and having a neater closet, of course).
How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe From Scratch
Here are ten steps to build a capsule wardrobe you’ll actually want to wear:
- Assess Your Personal Style and Lifestyle: Identify your fashion preferences, consider your daily activities, and understand your body type and color preferences.
- Sort Your Current Closet: Empty your wardrobe and separate items into keep, maybe, donate/sell, and seasonal categories.
- Select Your Core Capsule Wardrobe Essentials: Build a foundation of timeless basics, choose versatile and timeless items, and consider your climate and seasonal variations.
- Choose a Cohesive Color Scheme: Select a color palette that suits your style, incorporate patterns and textures effectively, and create a cohesive look.
- Find Clothing Gaps: Identify missing pieces that would enhance the versatility of your wardrobe and prioritize quality and longevity over trends.
- Shop Strategically: Plan ahead, create a shopping list, set a budget, and prioritize quality and sustainability.
- Create Versatile Outfits: Maximize outfit combinations, experiment with layering techniques, and incorporate statement pieces and accessories.
- Maintain Your Capsule Wardrobe: Follow garment care instructions, treat your clothes well, and periodically reassess your collection.
- Store and Rotate Seasonal Items: Organize your wardrobe by season and store off-season items separately for easy swapping.
- Refine Regularly: Periodically reassess your capsule wardrobe to ensure it aligns with your style, fits well, and meets your needs.
Assess Your Personal Style and Lifestyle
Assessing your personal style and lifestyle is the exciting first step in building a capsule wardrobe that truly suits your everyday needs. Let’s dive in and discover how to assess your style, identify your lifestyle requirements, and consider your body type and color preferences.
👉 Understanding your personal style:
- Start by pinpointing your fashion preferences. Think about the types of clothing that make you feel confident and express your personality.
- Pay attention to the common themes and elements in your existing wardrobe. What types of silhouettes, patterns, or fabrics do you gravitate towards?
👉 Aligning your capsule plan with your lifestyle:
- Next, consider your daily activities and what types of clothing would be most practical. A young professional will have a different closet than a stay-at-home mom. So consider what you need.
- Be sure to note any professional requirements such as dress codes that will also influence your attire.
👉 Considering your body type and color preferences:
- Understanding your body shape and proportions can guide you in choosing flattering silhouettes. Look for cuts and styles that enhance your best features and make you feel confident.
- You should also determine colors that complement your complexion. Place different colored garments near your face to find the ones that make you look vibrant.
Remember, building a capsule wardrobe is a process. The upfront work is well worth the simplicity and beauty it brings. Let’s move on to step two.
Sort Your Current Closet
Ready to tackle the next step in building your capsule wardrobe? Let’s sort through your current closet and make some impactful decisions.
👗 Empty your entire wardrobe and assess each item:
It’s time for a closet cleanse! Set aside a few hours to evaluate your wardrobe.
🔍 Ask yourself the following questions about each item:
- Do I love wearing this? Clothes should make you feel confident and excited to wear them.
- Does it fit well and flatter my body? Fit is everything! Consider how each item drapes on your body and enhances your features.
- Does it align with my personal style? Your wardrobe should reflect your unique style and personality.
- Is it versatile and can be worn in different ways? Look for items that can be mixed and matched to create various outfits.
- Is it in good condition? Look for signs of wear, damage, or stains. Clothes in poor condition may not be worth keeping.
🗂 Separate your clothes into four categories:
- Keep: Items you love, fit well, and align with your personal style deserve a spot in your capsule wardrobe.
- Maybe: Place items in this category if you’re unsure about them or need further evaluation. Give them a second chance before making a final decision.
- Donate/Sell: Clothes that no longer fit, are out of style, or no longer bring you joy can find a new home through donation or selling.
- Seasonal: Sort out items that are only suitable for specific seasons. These can be stored separately until the appropriate time of the year.
🎯 Determining which items to keep, donate, or sell:
Prioritize versatile pieces that align with your style and make you feel amazing. Let go of items that no longer serve you. Remember, your capsule wardrobe should consist of pieces that are functional and make you look and feel your best.
Select Your Core Capsule Wardrobe Essentials
We’ve moved into the main part of building a capsule wardrobe. Here’s what it entails:
🌟 Defining essential pieces for your capsule wardrobe:
Start by focusing on building a collection of high-quality tops, bottoms, dresses, and outerwear. These are the core elements that will serve as the backbone of your wardrobe. Look for well-made, durable pieces that can withstand the test of time and repeated wear. My favorite capsule clothing brands offer some great foundational pieces.
✨ Identifying versatile and timeless items:
When selecting your core pieces, aim for classic designs that never go out of style. Prioritize neutral colors like beige, black, and white as they provide a versatile canvas for creating outfits.
👗 Here are some essential items to consider for your capsule wardrobe:
- Crisp white button-down shirt: A versatile and timeless piece that can be dressed up or down.
- Little black dress: The ultimate classic for any occasion, easily accessorized for different looks.
- Tailored blazer: Adds polish and sophistication to any outfit, suitable for both professional and casual settings.
- Well-fitted jeans: Look for a pair that flatters your body shape and can be dressed up or down.
- Versatile skirts: A knee-length pencil skirt and a flowy midi skirt offer endless styling options.
- Trench coat: A timeless outerwear piece that adds elegance and works well in transitional seasons.
- Cashmere sweater: Provides warmth and luxury, perfect for layering or wearing alone.
- White sneakers: Comfortable and versatile, they can be paired with dresses, jeans, or skirts.
- Tailored trousers: Choose a neutral-colored pair that fits impeccably for a polished and versatile look.
- Silk blouse: Elevates any outfit with its luxurious feel and timeless appeal.
🌦 Considering your climate and seasonal variations:
Remember to adapt your capsule wardrobe to suit your local climate and season. Weave in layering pieces like lightweight sweaters, cardigans, or scarves to accommodate changing weather conditions. This ensures that your wardrobe remains functional and comfortable throughout the year.
🎯 Tip for selecting core pieces:
When shopping for your capsule wardrobe essentials, prioritize quality over quantity. Invest in well-made pieces that will withstand wear and tear. Longevity is key as you build a capsule wardrobe.
Choose a Cohesive Color Scheme
🎨 Select a color palette that suits your style:
When it comes to building a cohesive capsule wardrobe, one effective approach is to use the colors of your core pieces as a guide for your overall closet color palette. You should also consider your color season so you choose colors that complement your skin tone and hair color.
- Harmonizing hues: Look for colors that complement each other. You can opt for a monochromatic color scheme, where different shades of a single color are used, or choose complementary colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel.
- Versatile neutrals: Neutrals are an essential part of any capsule wardrobe. Classic colors like black, white, gray, and beige are timeless and serve as a foundation for building outfits. They can be easily mixed and matched with other colors.
- Accent colors: Once you have your neutrals, consider incorporating a few accent colors to add interest and variety to your wardrobe. These can be bolder shades that complement your neutrals and inject personality into your outfits.
🌈 Incorporate patterns and textures effectively:
To avoid a monotonous look, incorporate patterns and textures into your capsule wardrobe. These elements add visual interest and depth to your outfits. Here are a few tips:
- Start with basics: Begin by selecting patterned and textured versions of your core essentials. For example, choose a floral print blouse instead of a plain one, or opt for a chunky knit sweater instead of a smooth one.
- Scale and balance: Consider the scale of patterns and textures. Mix larger-scale patterns with smaller-scale ones to create balance. Also, balance textured pieces with smoother fabrics to create contrast and visual interest.
👗 Create a cohesive and harmonious look:
The key to a successful capsule wardrobe is ensuring that all the colors, patterns, and textures work together seamlessly. Here’s how to achieve a cohesive look:
- Consistency is vital: Stick to your chosen color palette and ensure that the colors you select for each item within your capsule complement each other. This will make it easier to mix and match pieces. You can see this tip in action in this dark academia capsule wardrobe.
- Pay attention to undertones: When selecting colors, consider the undertones. For example, if you opt for warm-toned neutrals, ensure that your accent colors also have warm undertones to maintain cohesiveness.
Need a hand? This guide to choosing a capsule wardrobe color scheme can help.
Find Clothing Gaps
Now that you have selected your core capsule wardrobe essentials and know your colors, it’s time to identify any gaps that need to be filled. These are the missing pieces that will complete your capsule and ensure that you have outfits for every occasion.
📝 Identify the gaps:
Ask yourself the following questions to help identify the gaps in your wardrobe:
- Are there specific occasions or events that I don’t have suitable clothing for?
- Are there certain pieces that would help me create more variety in my outfits?
- Are there any essential items that I need but am currently missing?
- Are there certain pieces I regularly wear that I can use in a couple more colors?
By answering these questions, you’ll be able to pinpoint the areas where your wardrobe may be lacking and make a list of the specific items you need.
⚖️ Focus on versatility:
When filling the gaps in your capsule wardrobe, prioritize versatile pieces that can be styled in multiple ways and suit various occasions. Reach for items that can be dressed up or down and that suit your color scheme.
🛍️ Make a shopping list:
Based on the identified gaps, create a shopping list of the items you need to complete your capsule wardrobe. Be specific about the type of items, such as “brown leather mules” or “lightweight summer cardigan,” and note down any preferences you have for materials or styles.
🎯 Tip for filling clothing gaps:
To maximize the versatility of your capsule wardrobe, look for pieces that can be mixed and matched with your existing core items. This allows you to create a wide range of outfits without needing a large number of individual garments.
When it comes to building a capsule wardrobe, shopping strategically is key to ensuring you make mindful and intentional purchases. By following these tips, you can shop with purpose, fill the gaps in your wardrobe, and prioritize quality and sustainability.
🛍️ Tips for mindful and intentional shopping:
Create a shopping list: Before you head to the stores (or open those online shopping tabs), make a list of the items you identified as missing. Having a clear list keeps you on track. Plus, it prevents those impulse purchases we’ve all been guilty of.
Set a budget: Determine how much you’re willing to spend on your shopping trip or for each specific item. Setting a budget helps you make informed decisions and ensures you don’t overspend. You can read the affordable capsule guide for more ways to build your wardrobe on a budget.
Avoid impulse purchases: While it can be tempting to buy items on a whim, it’s important to pause and ask yourself if the piece truly aligns with your capsule wardrobe vision. Consider if it fits your personal style, is versatile, and can be easily integrated into multiple outfits.
Choose sustainable options: Look for brands that prioritize sustainability by using eco-friendly materials, practicing ethical manufacturing processes, and supporting fair trade.
Shop with a Strategy
Create Versatile Outfits
Want to maximize the versatility of your capsule wardrobe? With a few well-chosen pieces, you can create numerous stylish looks for many occasions. Try these practices to create a range of outfits:
👗 Maximize outfit combinations with fewer items:
Experiment with different combinations: Play around with your core pieces and explore different outfit combinations. Mix and match tops, bottoms, and outerwear to create fresh ensembles. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new pairings.
Leverage your layers:
Layering is a fantastic way to add depth and interest to your outfits. For warmer months, consider lightweight layers such as cardigans, kimonos, or lightweight jackets. In colder seasons, opt for thicker fabrics like sweaters, blazers, and coats.
Capsule Wardrobe Outfit Ideas
Here are six outfit formulas to inspire your capsule wardrobe styling.
Sweater + Midi Skirt = Cozy Elegance
Achieve a cozy yet elegant look by pairing a soft sweater with a flowing midi skirt. Opt for complementary colors and add a belt to define the waist. Complete the outfit with ankle boots or flats.
Neutral T-shirt + Wide Leg Trousers = Effortlessly Chic
Pair a classic neutral t-shirt with a pair of elegant wide-leg trousers for a chic and comfortable outfit. Complete the look with minimalist accessories and a pair of sleek flats or heels.
White Button-Down Shirt + Dark Denim = Laidback Polished
Create a polished yet unbothered outfit with dark denim and a trusted white button-down. Roll up the sleeves and give the shirt a loose tuck for a more effortless feel.
Striped Top + Denim Jeans = Casual and Timeless
Combine a striped top with your favorite pair of well-fitted denim jeans for a timeless and casual look. Add a denim jacket or a leather bomber for extra style, and finish with sneakers or ankle boots.
Boat Neck Top + High-Waisted Jeans + Blazer = Sophisticated Layers
Layering can elevate your outfit. Start with a boat neck top as a base, add high-waisted jeans, and top it off with a structured blazer. Complete the look with ankle boots or pointed heels.
Blouse + Cropped Pants = Modern and Versatile
Combine a flowy blouse with a pair of cropped pants for a modern and versatile ensemble. Choose complementary colors or experiment with prints. Add a structured blazer or a statement belt for extra flair.
Maintain Your Capsule Wardrobe
Make sure your hard work lasts by maintaining your capsule wardrobe. Here’s how:
Follow Garment Care Instructions 🧺:
Laundry! I know, not the most fun topic. But proper garment care is crucial for your capsule closet’s longevity. Pay attention to the care labels on your clothing items. Each garment has specific washing and care instructions. Adhering to these guidelines will help prevent damage, fading, and dreaded shrinkage.
Treat Clothing Well ✨:
Be gentle. Handle your garments with care to prevent unnecessary wear and tear. Be mindful of how you put on and take off your clothes to avoid stretching or snagging delicate fabrics. Use appropriate hangers for specific items, such as padded hangers for delicate tops or suit hangers for jackets and blazers. By treating your clothing well, you’ll preserve its quality and appearance.
Repair and Alter 🧵:
Instead of discarding clothing at the first sign of damage or fit issues, consider repairing or altering them. Replace missing buttons, fix loose seams, or mend small tears to extend the life of your favorite pieces. Additionally, a trip to the tailor for alterations can help ensure clothes fit your body perfectly, ensuring they flatter your figure.
Avoid Overwashing 🚫🌊:
Washing clothes too frequently can accelerate wear and tear. Unless an item is visibly soiled or has an odor, consider wearing it a few times before laundering. Overwashing can cause colors to fade and fabrics to deteriorate faster, shortening the lifespan of your garments.
Store and Rotate Seasonal Items
Adapting your capsule wardrobe to different seasons gives you room to shake up your closet. By implementing a seasonal rotation system, you can ensure that your clothes remain practical for current weather conditions.
Organize by Season 🗂️:
To make it easier to navigate your wardrobe, organize your items by season. You can section clothes into different groups based on the seasons—spring/summer and fall/winter. This way, you can easily identify the pieces that are suitable for the current weather and avoid sifting through items that are out of season.
Store Off-Season Items 📦:
When the season comes to an end, pack away the clothes that are not currently in use. Properly store off-season items in a separate space, such as storage bins or garment bags. This helps maximize your closet space and reduces visual clutter.
Seasonal Rotation 🔄:
As the seasons change, so can your wardrobe. When transitioning from one season to another, assess your upcoming needs and swap out the appropriate pieces. Bring forward the clothes that are suitable for the current season while storing away the items that are no longer needed. This rotation allows you to maintain a clutter-free and functional closet throughout the year.
Refine Your Wardrobe
Last, but not least, remember to periodically reassess your closet. By taking the time to reevaluate and refine your collection, you can ensure that it continues to align with your personal preferences and meets your needs. Here are some tips for maintaining a well-curated capsule wardrobe:
Style Check-In 👗:
Regularly evaluate your personal style and fashion preferences. As your tastes may evolve over time, consider if there are any items that no longer resonate with your style. You can remove these to make room for pieces that do suit you.
Fit and Functionality 📐:
Check the fit and functionality of your clothing. Ensure that each piece still flatters your body shape and serves a purpose in your daily life. If an item no longer fits well or aligns with your lifestyle, consider donating or selling it.
Donation or Addition 🎁:
If you come across items that no longer serve you or align with your style, consider donating or selling them. This allows someone else to benefit from your pre-loved pieces while also making room for new additions.
Capsule Wardrobe Essentials
Follow the steps above and you will have a pretty clear idea about what your essentials look like. The list below can offer some guidance as well. And, if you need more detail, I created this full capsule wardrobe checklist guide.
- Crisp white button-down shirt
- Neutral t-shirt
- Boat Neck Top
- Cozy knit sweater
- Dark wash jeans
- Tailored black trousers
- A-line skirt
- High-waisted shorts
- Little black dress
- Versatile wrap dress
- Floral print sundress
- Structured trench coat
- Utility Jacket
- Cozy cardigan
- Ankle boots
- White sneakers
- Leather Mules
- Chic Hat
- Leather belt
How to Approach Trends in Your Capsule Wardrobe
A timeless capsule wardrobe brings a bevy of benefits. But you may be wondering if a capsule wardrobe can be trendy. The fact is, you’ll have to make some tradeoffs when building a capsule closet. For me, a simple and timeless wardrobe is worth giving up trying all the new trends. However, I’ve found ways to keep things fresh and fun while still maintaining a small wardrobe. Two words: Clothing. Rentals.
Renting clothes from a clothing rental service allows you to experiment with trends without committing to purchasing them. It’s a sustainable and budget-friendly way to add variety to your capsule wardrobe.
Helpful Capsule Wardrobe Resources for Beginners
The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees: Explore the art of curating your wardrobe and discover how to build a versatile capsule collection that truly speaks to your personal style.
Project 333 by Courtney Carver: Join the minimalist movement with this book that guides you through the process of creating a capsule wardrobe consisting of only 33 items.
Cladwell: This handy app helps you create and manage your capsule wardrobe by providing personalized outfit suggestions based on the items in your collection.
Stylebook: Organize your wardrobe, plan outfits, and track your daily looks with this popular app that allows you to mix and match items to create endless outfit possibilities.
Capsule Closet FAQs
How many pieces should a capsule closet have?
Ah, the million-dollar question: how many pieces should you have in your fabulous capsule closet? Well, the truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. But I do have a guide with 3 ways to determine how many pieces should be in your capsule.
While some capsule enthusiasts aim for around 30 to 40 carefully curated items, including tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear, and accessories, it’s all about finding your sweet spot. The key is to focus on quality over quantity and select pieces that can be mixed and matched like a sartorial puzzle.
What is the formula for a capsule wardrobe?
There are actually multiple capsule wardrobe formulas to choose from! For a travel capsule wardrobe, the 5-4-3-2-1 method is popular. There’s also the 10×10 challenge, where you create 10 outfits using only 10 pieces for 10 days. Check out the capsule wardrobe formula guide here to explore multiple options and how to use them for your own wardrobe.