What is a Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a term first used by Susie Faux in the 1970’s. Susie was the owner of a London boutique called Wardrobe and she coined the term ‘Capsule Wardrobe’ – a collection of a few essential items of clothing that never go out of fashion, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces.
When you see examples of capsule wardrobes they are usually minimal wardrobes made up of timeless and versatile pieces, with all items mixing and matching well with other items in the capsule. The number of items in a capsule wardrobe varies, even as little as 25 items can make up to 100 different outfits.
Why Create a Capsule Wardrobe?
You can adopt the idea of a capsule wardrobe for many reasons. It may be that you are starting to want less, but in better quality. You might be fed up with having a wardrobe stuffed full of clothes, but the feeling that you have ‘nothing to wear’. You might need to cut the amount of money you are spending on clothes. Or maybe you feel like you need to simplify your life, and starting with your wardrobe is a good place to start.
It can be liberating to choose from less, and to value the pieces that you have more. At the same time you can look and feel stylish, comfortable in the knowledge that the items in your core wardrobe are timeless and classic.
Benefits of a Capsule Wardrobe
- Save money, only buy a few good quality pieces each year
- Less clutter and a neater wardrobe space
- Less storage space needed
- Getting dressed in the morning is easier, less time consuming and less stressful
- Wear only the clothes you love everyday
- Have a better sense of your personal style
- Have many different outfit combinations ready to wear
- Consume less
- Have more time for what matters
At the heart of the philosophy is the idea of curating your wardrobe so that it contains only pieces you love. At the same time, having a capsule wardrobe leads to us shopping more mindfully, valuing what we already have, buying less and leaving behind less waste. Ultimately a smaller, more thoughtfully curated wardrobe can free up time for what really matters.
How to Create Your Capsule Wardrobe
There are no set rules as to how many items or which items your capsule wardrobe should contain. Here are some approaches that you might take:
- Project333 is a minimalist fashion challenge that suggests you wear only 33 items for a period of 3 months.
- Caroline Rector of Unfancy experimented with a capsule wardrobe for a year. Every 3 months she chose 37 items and wore only those items for the entire 3 months. At the end of the 3 months she would create a new capsule, using mainly items from her core essentials, with 4-8 new seasonal pieces. Caroline no longer follows such a prescriptive formula and is more relaxed in her approach but still has a minimalist style and blogs about thoughtfully curating your wardrobe.
- The Five Piece French Wardrobe is the idea that you create a core capsule of 25-30 high quality items and then each season add 5 new seasonal items to keep your look fresh and current.
It might be that none of these approaches are right for you – you should take the approach that you feel will best suit you. When you are starting out, sticking to a set number might help you curate your collection, and then your approach might become more flexible as time goes on.
If you are creating a capsule wardrobe to curb your excessive spending habits, it might be that shopping for new items each season might be problematic for you, and you might prefer to just select the core essentials that you are going to stick to for a period of time.
If you are doing this to simplify your life or for ethical reasons such as the desire to consume less, you may want to create your capsule solely from pieces you already have in your wardrobe. If you are wanting to create a capsule with timeless items that will never go out of fashion it might be that you buy new items initially but then aim to buy less over the coming year.
There are many different ways in which you can approach this.
Create Your Capsule Wardrobe
- Pick a day when you have at least a couple of hours free to sort out your wardrobe. Collect every item of clothing that you own from your chest of drawers, wardrobe, under bed storage etc. and place it all on your bed.
- Start sorting your clothes into 3 piles:
- Clothes you love and definitely want to keep
- Clothes you maybe want to keep
- Clothes that no longer fit, that you never wear and that you are going to donate to charity or sell
- From you pile of clothes that you definitely want to keep, sort out sports/active wear, underwear, sleepwear, around-the-home loungewear and occasion wear (dresses for weddings, events etc.). These items will not be part of your capsule wardrobe.
- Now it’s time to pick your base colour. Choose from:
- Dark Grey
The most popular base colours are black and navy since they go with most other colours (except each other).
- Once you have chosen your base colour, go through your ‘definitely keep’ pile of clothes and choose the items you have in your base colour. For example, if you chose black as your base colour you might already own:
- Slouchy black tee
- Black skinny jeans
- Black pencil skirt
- Little black dress
- Black blazer
This is the start of your capsule wardrobe! Hang these items up in your wardrobe or on a rail. You might have more or less items than those mentioned here, pick as many as you like at this stage in your base colour.
- Now it’s time to add neutral essentials. Neutral colours are those that match well with most other colours:
- Coffee/Camel /Tan
Various shades of denim blue can also go in this category since denim will match with pretty much any item in your capsule.
So the items you choose here might be:
- White tee
- Cream blouse or camisole
- Beige jumper
- Grey slouchy cardigan
- White skinny jeans
- Grey skinny jeans
- Your favourite blue jeans
- Denim skirt
Hang your chosen items up in your wardrobe or on your rail.
- The next step is to decide if you want to add one or two accent colours or some patterned items to your capsule, or if you want to keep it more neutral. If you want to keep it neutral you can add some more neutral pieces from your ‘definitely keep’ pile.
If you want to add patterns, have a look through your clothes for items that will match with what you have already chosen for your capsule. These might be:
- Polka dots
- Floral prints
If you want to add block colour instead, choose one or two accent colours. (If you choose two colours they need to complement each other well so that you can wear them together and with any other items from your capsule). Add some pieces in your chosen colour.
- Your capsule wardrobe is almost complete! You now want to add some jackets or coats, shoes and accessories such as scarves, hats and bags.
Depending on the season you might choose 2 or 3 jackets such as:
- Denim jacket
- Leather jacket
- Classic trench coat
For shoes you might want 4 or 5 pairs, such as:
- Black ankle boots
- Tan sandals
- Classic black court shoes
- White trainers
- Fun flats in leopard print or in your accent colour
Finally choose 1 or 2 handbags, scarves and hats to add.
- Your capsule wardrobe is almost complete! Now is the time to look at your capsule and decide if there are any pieces missing that you feel are needed. Make a list.
- Finally, go through the clothes that are left. Start with the items you decided you would definitely be getting rid of. If you are going to donate these items to charity, bag them up now. If you are going to sell them, put them somewhere ready to do this.
Now go through your maybe pile. As you go through each item, think hard about whether you really want to keep it, since you didn’t immediately feel that you loved this item. Do you want to add this item to your capsule?
For any items you decide to keep but that you do not want in your current capsule, you should box up and put out of sight for the next 3 months. After 3 months you can get these items back out when you create your next seasonal capsule and reassess if you still want to keep them.
That’s it – your capsule wardrobe has been created! Now it’s time to think about outfits. See below for outfit inspiration. As already mentioned, even a small capsule of around 25 items can create up to 100 outfits. Have fun wearing your capsule wardrobe and I hope you get from this experiment what you hoped to.
Shop Capsule Wardrobe Items