The idea of a “capsule” wardrobe allows you to build a small wardrobe for a season based on a certain quality of your choosing, such as interchangeability, color, fabrics, and so on. The capsule concept was first popularized in the United States in the 1980s when designer Donna Karan created a line with just seven pieces that were interchangeable; less definitely became more when Karan birthed the idea of an intentionally minimalist wardrobe.
A capsule wardrobe contains a limited number of pieces that are coordinated to mix and match, so that all of them work to create many different outfits, with each article in the collection working together to complement one another. If you’re creating your summer capsule, for instance, each piece should be timeless in style and something you love to wear. This way of building a wardrobe is more sustainable and also allows you to invest in quality over quantity when shopping. Save time and money. Alleviate the stress of shopping. Live more sustainably.
How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe
What do you already own? Your personal collection should be made up of tried and true pieces that you know you love to wear. Start by paying attention to your lifestyle and activities for 30 days. What are you wearing? As important — what are you not wearing? Ideally, each capsule in your overall wardrobe should last about three months, or for a season, before being put away and swapped out for the next season’s capsule.
When planning your personal collection, ask yourself, “Does this go with at least three other pieces in this collection?” and also “Do I love this item?” Each person’s wardrobe will look slightly different depending on climate, region, and personal style, but essentially, it should contain a season-appropriate outer layer, several tops, several bottoms, a dress or two, and several pairs of shoes. This may look like a trench coat, a blazer, or a denim jacket, with several tank tops for layering, a couple of blouses, a sweater, a few pairs of jeans and/or slacks, a skirt, a couple dresses, pumps, sandals, boots, and white sneakers.
Purge extra clothing by selling or donating what you are not wearing. This may seem overwhelming, but you can take baby steps to cull down your closet. What you will be left with is a perfect wardrobe that you love and wear in its entirety.
Personal Touches & Tips
Neutral colors certainly aren’t required, but they tend to work best in capsule wardrobes and give you the most versatility. Black, white, taupe, gray, navy, and cream can be paired well together but also with nearly any other color when you want to add an accent color to an outfit. It can be helpful to select either black or navy as your base color, then add the neutrally colored pieces, finishing with a few more colorful accent pieces. When all of your base pieces are solid neutral colors, you can save the prints and color for your accent pieces.
Put your neutral capsule pieces in the front of your closet for easiest access. Then put your accent pieces and weather-dependent pieces toward the back of the closet. Change out the back half of your closet each season.
Consider what fabrics and cuts you are including in your collection. Since the idea of a capsule wardrobe is to have a limited number of clothing items on rotation, it is important to include high quality, functional fabrics that flatter your shape.
At the end of the day, a capsule wardrobe is meant to be a flexible lifestyle hack that makes your life easier, so do what works best for you, your budget and the storage space you have. Capsule wardrobes are meant to evolve over time and with the seasons, weather, and life changes.
By Mary Eliot Stone