What is a Capsule Wardrobe | A Stylist’s No-Fluff Guide

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Capsule wardrobes. Perhaps you’ve seen the neatly arrayed clothing or the perfectly sectioned Pinterest checklists and thought what is a capsule wardrobe? And more importantly, is creating one worth my time? 

I’ve built capsule wardrobes for myself and my readers, facing successes and setbacks along the way.  So today I’m sharing: 

  • What a capsule wardrobe is
  • The benefits it brings
  • How to build your own wardrobe capsule
  • And answers to your burning capsule questions

Whether you’re ready to commit or simply capsule curious, this guide has all you need to know.

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

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

fall capsule wardrobe colorful

A capsule wardrobe is a thoughtfully curated collection of essential clothing that aligns with your style and life. The closet features a limited but versatile selection of garments you can easily mix and match. The result is a streamlined closet with lots of outfit options.  

First, let’s get clear on the meaning of a capsule wardrobe.

Capsule Wardrobe Definition

Here’s an easy-to-remember capsule wardrobe definition: The 3Cs.

  • Curated: A capsule wardrobe is curated to include only the most essential and versatile pieces that suit your style and needs.
  • Coordinated: Each item in a capsule wardrobe is carefully chosen to coordinate effortlessly with other pieces, allowing you to create numerous stylish outfits.
  • Clutter-free: By focusing on quality over quantity, a capsule wardrobe promotes a clutter-free closet that emphasizes simplicity and efficiency in dressing.

Capsule Wardrobe Examples

Here are two wardrobes I crafted to suit different needs. Notice the cohesive color palettes, multi-functional pieces. and flattering cuts in each. 

The History of Capsule Wardrobes

How The Capsule Wardrobe Began

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. She envisioned a curated collection of versatile and timeless pieces that could be mixed and matched effortlessly.

Faux’s idea aimed to simplify dressing while ensuring each item served multiple purposes. Her concept resonated widely, especially among those seeking to streamline their closets.

Donna Karan’s “Seven Easy Pieces”

In the 1980s, designer Donna Karan introduced her iconic concept of “Seven Easy Pieces.” This collection revolutionized women’s wardrobes by offering a set of garments that could transition effortlessly from day to evening, and work to leisure. 

This approach solidified the capsule wardrobe’s value, emphasizing the importance of timeless, interchangeable pieces.

New to capsule wardrobes? This beginner blueprint is for you.  

The Benefits of a Capsule Wardrobe

woman in sunglasses and a plaid coat

As a capsule convert, I feel qualified to tell you about some of the closet and life-enhancing capsule wardrobe benefits I’ve enjoyed. Here are a few benefits to embracing a wardrobe capsule:

  1. Simplicity: Imagine opening your closet each morning to find only the clothes that you truly love and that effortlessly go together. That’s the beauty of a capsule wardrobe—it simplifies your choices and makes getting dressed a breeze.
  2.  Savings: By focusing on quality over quantity, a capsule wardrobe helps you shop less frequently and more intentionally. This not only saves you money in the long run but also reduces decision fatigue and the time spent on maintaining a large wardrobe.
  3. Style: With a curated selection of pieces that fit well and align with your personal style, you’ll always feel confident and put together. A capsule wardrobe encourages creativity in styling and ensures that every outfit you wear reflects your unique taste.

For a deeper dive into the benefits of a capsule wardrobe, explore my full post.

What to Include: Capsule Wardrobe Essentials

One of the most common questions around capsules is What are the essential pieces every capsule wardrobe should include? 

That’s why I created  a detailed checklist tailored to small, medium, and large closets.

Psst. Do This Before Picking Your Essentials

Before diving into selecting pieces, assess your monthly activities and the level of formality they demand. This will guide you in choosing the right clothes that align with your lifestyle. Once you know what occasions you’ll be dressing for most often, pick your core pieces.

Basic Tops and Bottoms

Petite Summer Outfit with wide leg trousers and striped shirt

These are the foundation of your wardrobe. Opt for classic white tees, tailored trousers, and versatile blouses. If your lifestyle leans towards business casual, add in a few smart blazers or structured shirts.

Versatile Dresses and Outerwear

Include dresses that can transition effortlessly from work to social events, along with outerwear suitable for your climate—whether it’s a lightweight trench coat for spring showers or a cozy wool coat for winter warmth.

Shoes and Accessories

woman in midi skirt outfit for petite capsule wardrobe

Choose shoes that balance comfort and style, such as loafers for workdays and stylish sneakers for weekends. Accessories like scarves, belts, and classic jewelry can add personality and polish to any outfit.

Remember, the key to a successful wardrobe capsule is versatility and cohesion. By selecting pieces that cater to your daily activities and reflect your style, you’ll create a wardrobe that simplifies your mornings and enhances your confidence.

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe Year Round

Confused about capsules? Follow this step-by-step process to create a wardrobe that works for you. 

I call it the S.I.M.P.L.E. Method: 

Step 1: Sort and Assess Start by sorting through your current wardrobe. Assess each item based on its fit, quality, and how well it aligns with your personal style and daily activities. If this seems daunting, take it one season at a time. 

For instance, I can just pull out summer clothes and cleanse my closet before the season arrives. 

Step 2: Identify Core Pieces Identify the core pieces that form the foundation of your wardrobe. These are versatile items like basic tops, bottoms, and essential outerwear that can be mixed and matched easily.

Step 3: Mix and Match Create outfit combinations using your core pieces. Aim for versatility and cohesion within your chosen color palette

One way to shake yourself out of a style rut is to digitize your wardrobe and play around with outfit combinations on the app. New life in your closet and no mess to clean up? Yes please. 

woman wearing bikini and sunhat on beach in Hawaii


Step 4: Personalize with Extras Add in a few extras that reflect your personal style, such as a statement hat or favorite accessories. These extras should complement your core pieces without overwhelming them.

Step 5: Limit and Edit Keep your capsule wardrobe limited to a manageable number of items. Use the “one in, one out” rule to maintain balance and prevent clutter. Regularly edit your wardrobe to ensure it remains functional and aligned with your current lifestyle.

Step 6: Enjoy Your Effortless Style Once your wardrobe capsule is curated, enjoy the simplicity and ease of getting dressed each day. Embrace the freedom of having a closet filled with pieces that you love and that work together seamlessly.

The S.I.M.P.L.E. method allows you to move from what is a capsule wardrobe? to thank God I have one. 

Need more direction? Explore my guide to building a capsule wardrobe that lasts.

Capsule Wardrobe FAQs

Get your capsule questions answered. And feel free to contact me if you have more!

When creating wardrobe capsules, I include between 15-40 pieces. This ensures there are multiple outfit options without an overly cluttered closet. To determine your ideal number of pieces, use the modular capsule formula. 

 Here’s how it works:

  • Start with a basic module consisting of around 6 pieces that can all be worn together.
  • Each piece within the module should complement the others in terms of color and style.
  • For example, a module might include 3 tops and 3 bottoms that can all be combined interchangeably.

Read this guide for more methods of determining how many items should be in your capsule wardrobe.

For casual essentials, Madewell and Everlane stand out with comfortable denim and timeless pieces that blend into daily routines. Universal Standard offers inclusive sizing and well-made staples, making it perfect for those seeking versatile casual options suitable for all body types. For dressier occasions, shop Reformation and check out Encircled if you travel often. 

You can browse the best capsule wardrobe brands to shop here

Yes, creating a stylish capsule wardrobe on a budget is possible. Here are my quick tips:

  1. Focus on Quality: Invest in durable pieces that will last.
  2. Value Versatility: Opt for neutral colors and classic styles that mix and match well.
  3. Set a Budget: Determine your spending limit and allocate it wisely.
  4. Shop Smart: Look for affordable brands like Quince and Everlane, and take advantage of sales.
  5. Buy Secondhand: Explore thrift stores for quality finds at lower prices.
  6. Maintain Your Wardrobe: Follow care instructions to extend the lifespan of your clothes.

Take a look at this affordable wardrobe capsule I created for inspiration.  

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