capsule wardrobe formula for 35 piece wardrobe

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe You’ll Actually Wear in 2024

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.

Table of Contents

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

Chic Capsule Wardrobe Example

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe from Scratch

Capsule Wardrobe Essentials

How to View Trends in Your Capsule

Capsule Wardrobe Resources

FAQs

Note: This post may contain affiliate links meaning I earn a small commission when you shop the links, at no cost to you

fall capsule wardrobe colorful

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 personal 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.

Chic Capsule Wardrobe Example

how to build a neutral capsule wardrobe graphic

5 Tops 

Off-the-shoulder top 

Puff Sleeve Top 

Black Bodysuit 

Striped Turtleneck

White Button Down  

3 Bottoms

Wide Leg Trousers

High Waisted Jeans

Satin Midi Skirt

2 Dresses 

Tank Dress 

Sweater Dress

3 Outerwear

Buttoned Cardigan

Striped Turtleneck 

Structured Trench Coat

4 Shoes 

Lug-Sole Loafers 

Slip-on Heels

Ankle Boots 

White Sneakers

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe From Scratch

Here are ten steps to build a capsule wardrobe you’ll actually want to wear: 

woman in sunglasses and a plaid coat

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 Style 

Petite Summer Outfit with wide leg trousers and striped shirt

The exciting first step in building a capsule wardrobe that truly suits your needs? Assess your style, and lifestyle requirements. Let’s dive in. 

👉 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 to step two. 

Sort Your Closet

clothes hanging neatly in 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? 
  • Does it fit well and flatter my body? 
  • Does it align with my personal style? 
  • Is it versatile? 
  • Is it in good condition? 

🗂 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 Wardrobe Essentials

fall capsule wardrobe neutral

We’ve moved into the main part of building a capsule wardrobe. It includes: 

🌟 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. 

 Browse the capsule wardrobe checklist for essential items.

🎯 Tips for selecting core pieces:

Prioritize quality over quantity. Invest in well-made pieces that will withstand wear and tear. Longevity is key as you build a capsule wardrobe.

Remember to adapt your capsule wardrobe to suit your local climate and season. Weave in layering pieces so your wardrobe remains functional and comfortable throughout the year.

Choose a Cohesive Color Scheme 

🎨 Select a color palette that suits your style:

color palette generator showing closet and six colors

A color selection tool can help you visualize your ideal palette.

🌈 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. 

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. 

Accent colors: Once you have your neutrals, consider incorporating a few accent colors to add interest and variety to your wardrobe. 

🌈 Incorporate patterns and textures:

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. 

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, 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.

Shop with a Strategy

When building a capsule wardrobe, shopping strategically is key to ensuring you make mindful and intentional purchases. 

aritzia store entrance featuring mannequins in minimalist clothing

How pretty is this Aritzia in Vegas?! I spy lots of bodysuits and essentials on deck.

🛍️ Tips for mindful shopping:

Create a shopping list: Before heading to the shops (or opening those online shopping tabs), list 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. 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. 

Choose sustainable options: Look for brands that prioritize sustainability and use eco-friendly fabrics. 

Create Versatile Outfits 

Want to maximize the versatility of your capsule wardrobe? Do this to create a range of outfits: 

👗 Maximize outfit combinations with fewer items: 

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.

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.

Click here to read the full guide on maintaining and refreshing your capsule wardrobe!

Store and Rotate Seasonal Items

affordable winter capsule wardrobe

A look at my winter capsule wardrobe essentials.

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, swap out the appropriate pieces. Bring forward the clothes that are suitable for the current season.

Store 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 Outfit Ideas

Here are six outfit formulas to inspire your capsule wardrobe styling.

Sweater + Midi Skirt = Cozy Elegance

fall capsule wardrobe outfit, midi skirt with sweater and boots

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.

T-shirt + Trousers = Effortless 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 

business casual chic women's outfit

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

Business Casual Outfit Sweater and Trousers with loafers

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 loafers.

Boat Neck Top + High-Waisted Jeans + Blazer = Sophisticated Layers

woman in blazer and dark jeans outfit

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

Summer Business Casual Capsule Wardrobe Outfit with white jeans and cowl neck top

Combine a flowy blouse with cropped pants for a versatile ensemble. Choose a monochrome scheme to look extra polished. Then, add a structured blazer or a cozy cardi, depending on your mood.

Benefits of a Capsule Wardrobe

You can peruse 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).

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.

Tops:

  1. Crisp white button-down shirt
  2. Neutral t-shirt
  3. Boat Neck Top 
  4. Cozy knit sweater

Bottoms:

  1. Dark wash jeans
  2. Tailored black trousers
  3. A-line skirt
  4. High-waisted shorts

Dresses:

  1. Little black dress
  2. Versatile wrap dress
  3. Floral print sundress

Outerwear:

  1. Structured trench coat
  2. Utility Jacket 
  3. Cozy cardigan
  4. Tailored blazer

Shoes:

  1. Ankle boots
  2. White sneakers
  3. Leather Mules

Accessories:

  1. Chic Hat 
  2. Sunglasses 
  3. Leather belt

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build your capsule wardrobe The Elegance Edit

Full closet but nothing to wear? I created this style blog to take the stress out of getting dressed. Learn how to simplify your closet and create pretty, polished outfits with ease. Welcome to The Elegance Edit.