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What is a Capsule Wardrobe (& How to Create Yours)

If you’ve ever wondered what a capsule wardrobe is and how to create one for yourself, keep reading. We’ve laid out the core principles of a capsule wardrobe, plus straightforward steps to take to build your own.

Have you ever been late to an event just because you couldn’t decide what to wear? Or maybe you’ve bought yet another striped shirt, only to realize you already have three that look almost identical. If you’re tired of your overflowing closet and endless “what to wear” dilemmas, (the classic closet full of clothes and nothing to wear dilemma!) a capsule wardrobe might be your saving grace.

This simplified wardrobe concept is all about embracing versatility, organization, and mindful consumption.

So, let’s get into capsule wardrobes, where less truly is more.

What Is a Capsule Wardrobe? (+ Capsule Wardrobe Benefits)

A capsule wardrobe is a carefully curated collection of clothing, shoes, and accessories that prioritize quality over quantity, and versatility over trendiness.

It typically consists of a set number of timeless, quality pieces that can be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits for different occasions. Think: a white button down shirt that can be paired with suit pants for work, leather pants for the weekend, or jeans for your kids sports game; or that same pair of suit pants that can be worn with a crewneck sweater the following week, etc.

Most capsule wardrobe experts agree that 30-40 pieces is the ideal number for a capsule wardrobe, including shoes, but not including things like gym clothes and specialty athletic wear, swimwear, and pjs. The goal, however, is not to make you feel like you’re doing without, it’s just to get rid of the excess, so if you need to adjust that number for your lifestyle, that’s ok.

Whether you have 30 items in your capsule wardrobe or 60, the approach not only frees up space in your closet, but it also helps you define your personal style, saves you time, and leads to more sustainable fashion choices.

A few of our capsule wardrobe favs:

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

Image via GAP. A good capsule wardrobe has both casual and dressed-up elements

Now that you know what a capsule wardrobe is, let’s talk about how to create your own. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you transform your existing closet into a streamlined, chic capsule wardrobe.

Your big goals here are:

  • To identify what you wear most
  • To identify what you don’t wear
  • To fill in any gaps in your wardrobe
  • To get the information you need to make more intentional shopping choices going forward

Check out our list of outfit ideas that never go out of style to get your creativity flowing…

Step 1: Declutter and Assess

Before you start curating your capsule wardrobe, it’s essential to declutter your closet and take inventory of what you already have. Start by removing all your clothes, shoes, and accessories and sort them into four piles: keep, donate, sell, and toss.

Be ruthless in your decision-making process – if something doesn’t fit, is damaged, or hasn’t been worn in over a year, let it go. When you’re whittling your stuff down to just 40-ish pieces, you don’t have room for “maybes.”

Pro-tip: When decluttering, invite a trusted friend to help you make unbiased decisions about what stays and what goes. Plus, it’s way more fun that way!

Step 2: Identify Your Core Pieces

Next, identify the core pieces in your wardrobe. These are the items you wear most often and feel your best in. They should be versatile, high-quality, and suitable for your lifestyle at the moment. Examples of core pieces might include well-fitting jeans, a classic white shirt, a tailored blazer, or a little black dress.

Take note, however, that if you own and love 6 business suits, but your office has been remote for the last five years, those things aren’t serving you even if you like them. Ditto for clothing that not longer fits, clothing for any activities you’ve since given up,.

Step 3: Narrow down a Color Palette

Image via Boden

Having a cohesive color palette is key to ensuring that all the items in your capsule wardrobe can be easily mixed and matched. There’s a good chance you’re naturally drawn to certain colors, which will become apparent as you narrow down your core pieces and get rid of the excess.

Start by identifying the neutral colors that you’re most drawn to (such as black, white, beige, or navy), and then choose a few accent colors to add personality and variety to your wardrobe.

Step 4: Fill in the Gaps

Image via J Crew. Neutrals tend to be a hallmark of the capsule wardrobe.

Now that you have a solid foundation, it’s time to fill in any gaps in your capsule wardrobe. Make a list of items you need to complete your wardrobe, such as additional tops, bottoms, or outerwear. Be mindful when shopping – only invest in high-quality, versatile pieces that will last and complement your existing items.

We love these classic clothing stores for longwearing, timeless pieces in all price points.

Step 5: Accessorize

Accessories are the secret sauce to making your capsule wardrobe even more versatile. A few well-chosen accessories, like statement necklaces, scarves, or belts, can transform a simple outfit into something special. Remember to stick to your chosen color palette and consider the overall style you’re trying to achieve.

Pro-tip: Try a capsule jewelry collection, too! Choose a few versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down, such as a pair of hoop earrings, a simple pendant necklace, or a stackable set of rings.

Step 6: Embrace the Art of Outfit Planning

One of the biggest perks of having a capsule wardrobe is the ease of creating stylish outfits. Spend some time experimenting with different combinations and jotting down your favorite looks. This way, you’ll have a ready-to-go list of outfit ideas whenever you’re in a rush or feeling uninspired.

Pro-tip: Snap photos of your favorite outfits and create a digital lookbook using a photo app or dedicated wardrobe planning app. This will make it even easier to plan your daily outfits.

Step 7: Maintain and Refresh

Image via J Crew. A good capsule wardrobe tends to include jeans, a white shirt, and a blazer.

The key to making your capsule wardrobe work in the long run is regular maintenance and the occasional refresh. Every season, take the time to re-evaluate your wardrobe and swap out seasonal pieces. As your style evolves, update your capsule wardrobe by incorporating new pieces that align with your personal aesthetic, but remember to stay mindful about consumption and quality.

Sample Capsule Wardrove Essentials

Building a capsule wardrobe for the first time can be overwhelming. So, to give you a better idea of what one might look like, here’s an example of 35-piece capsule wardrobe Then, we’ve listed capsule wardrobe outfit examples, below.

  • Blue jeans in a current cut
  • Black or white jeans in a current cut
  • Athleisure leggings x 2 pairs
  • Leather pants or leggings
  • Suit pants or trousers, 1-3 pairs depending on your job
  • White button-down shirt
  • White crew-neck t-shirt, short sleeve
  • Black crew-neck t-shirt, short sleeve
  • White crew-neck t-shirt, long sleeve
  • Black crew-neck t-shirt, long sleeve
  • Striped or printed t-shirt
  • Logo t-shirt
  • Cotton camisole
  • Silk or satin camisole
  • Cardigan sweater
  • Pullover or turtleneck sweater
  • Fitted blazer
  • Oversized blazer
  • Leather jacker or jean jacket
  • Shacket or oversized button down shirt
  • Zip-up sweatshirt
  • Hooded sweatshirt
  • Puffer vest
  • Midi-length denim skirt
  • Casual neutral dress
  • Formal or business casual neutral dress
  • White sneakers
  • Loafers or ballet flats
  • Black heels
  • Chelsea boots
  • Trench coat
  • Long wool coat
  • Cropped puffer or Sherpa coat

Mix-and-match outfit ideas

For a weekend brunch or casual get-together

  • Blue jeans + striped t-shirt + trench coat + loafers
  • Blue jeans + logo t-shirt + shacket + chelsea boots

For running errands:

  • Leggings + white t-shirt + shacket + sneakers
  • Leggings + Zip up + puffer vest + sneakers
  • Blue jeans + t-shirt + cardigan sweater + sneakers

For a date night or night out

  • Blue jeans + satin camisole + fitted blazer + black heels
  • Casual dress + leather jacker + black heels
  • Black jeans + satin camisole + leather jacket + loafers

For work:

  • Trouser pants + white button down + blazer
  • Trouser pants + crewneck sweater + black heels
  • Business casual dress + crewneck sweater + chelsea boots
  • Black jeans + striped t-shirt + blazer + Chelsea boots

There are literally so many ideas! And if you see an outfit type missing above, or an item you wear often missing above, make sure you include that in your own capsule wardrobe. It’s all about personalizing it to your style.

Capsule Wardrobe Benefits

By now, you’re probably wondering why you haven’t embraced the capsule wardrobe concept sooner. Here are some of the incredible benefits of this minimalist approach to fashion:

  1. Less stress: With fewer choices, you’ll spend less time fretting over what to wear, which means more time enjoying your day.
  2. More confidence: A well-curated capsule wardrobe ensures that you always look and feel your best.
  3. Simplified decision-making: Decision fatigue is real, and a capsule wardrobe can help you reserve your mental energy for more important things.
  4. Money savings: Investing in high-quality, versatile pieces often results in spending less in the long run, as you won’t feel the need to constantly update your wardrobe.
  5. Sustainability: By choosing quality over quantity, you’ll help reduce the environmental impact of fast fashion.