How to create a capsule wardrobe
Both space-saving and sustainable, a capsule wardrobe is a great way to Long Love Your Wardrobe. It’s a concept the fashion world’s been buzzing about in recent years, after blogger Caroline Rector turned heads in 2014 by whittling her wardrobe down to a mere 37 pieces (see Unfancy, if you’re curious to learn more). But the idea of a minimalist, versatile and high-quality wardrobe goes way back, with boutique owner Susie Faux coining the term in the 1970s to describe mix and match staples, and designer Donna Karan popularising the idea with her 1985 capsule collection of fashionable women’s workwear. Read on for our guide on what a capsule wardrobe is, why you need one, and how to create your own.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
Image by With Nothing Underneath
A capsule wardrobe consists of a limited selection of items which complement each other, from which you can create a variety of different outfits. They’re often classic pieces which don’t go out of style, such as With Nothing Underneath’s timeless shirt collection, and are often composed primarily of neutral colours. The idea is to edit your wardrobe down to your most-loved clothes (which fit you and your lifestyle right now), rewear, restyle and remix them regularly, and shop less often as well as with more intention.
Why have a capsule wardrobe?
There are loads of benefits to having a capsule wardrobe. Here are the main ones:
More sustainable. The most sustainable item is the one that’s already in your wardrobe. If we Buy Less, Wear More, we can save on the textiles that end up in landfill each year.
More time. A minimalist, curated wardrobe will save you time and limit decision fatigue. You’ll find it much easier to find and choose what to wear when you’re getting ready.
Saves space. Having fewer clothes frees up wardrobe space, which means less clutter, and more peace of mind. You’ll also find it easier to see what’s available for outfit styling, and pack when travelling.
Saves money. With a capsule wardrobe, you’ll shop less often because you’ll be wearing what you already have most of the time. That means less money spent on new clothes.
How to create a capsule wardrobe
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#1: Assess. To create a capsule wardrobe you’ll love, we suggest going through every piece you own and assessing what you wear regularly (aim for at least 30 wears), why you love what you love, what you never touch, and what suits your current activities and lifestyle (you’ll probably have to take everything out of your wardrobe first). This will help you understand what your style is, what colours you like, what cut suits you, and what materials are your favourites - and so, what you actually love and wear.
#2: Streamline. Free yourself of clothes which no longer serve you, or which you can’t restyle into something else. Consider repairing damaged or faded pieces to give them a new lease of life, or repurposing them into something you’ll wear more (use the Sojo App for repairs and alterations made easy). If you’ve got unwanted but otherwise undamaged clothes, there’s no need to throw them away. Give them to friends or family, donate them to a charity shop, or sell them on a platform like Depop, to live on in another’s wardrobe.
#3: Organise. Reserve your wardrobe space for those of your staples which not only fit your preferences and lifestyle, but also the current weather and/or season. Pop unseasonal items into storage, and when the weather changes, or a new season rolls in, reassess your capsule wardrobe, swapping your pieces into and out of storage.
#4: Consider. Moving forward, shop less often, and with intention. A capsule wardrobe doesn’t mean never buying new again, but supplementing existing pieces thoughtfully. Look for well-made, high-quality investment pieces made from sustainable fabrics. If you can see yourself wearing it at least 30 times, if it brings you joy, and if it fits your lifestyle, it’s a safe bet to join your slimmed-down edit and live on and on.
What to include in your capsule wardrobe
Image by The Anna Edit
There aren’t any rules as to what should and shouldn’t belong in your own capsule wardrobe: it depends on your own preferences and needs (which might change over time). The number of items you include isn’t set in stone, either, though we suggest sticking to around 30-40. We’ve put together our top tips below as a helpful starting point.
#1: Choose a primarily neutral colour scheme. Think white, cream, grey, navy, black. Neutrals work well not only with each other, but also with any other colour. You can add a few accent colours too, of course, which you love, and which suit your skin tone.
#2: Choose classic/timeless styles. Your capsule wardrobe should withstand trends: you’ll be wearing these same items season after season and year after year.
#3: Choose high-quality, durable fabrics. We recommend natural fibres, such as organic cotton and linen, which aren’t just long-lasting, but sustainable and breathable.
#4: Choose versatile, interchangeable staples. Some good, basic pieces you might want to include are: a couple of T-shirts and tops; 3-4 simple button-up shirts; a pair of smart black trousers; one or two pairs of jeans; a cardigan and jumper for layering; a versatile black dress; a jumpsuit, a pair of denim shorts and denim skirt; 2 jackets; 3-4 pairs of shoes. Feel free to add in one or two patterned items as well, but make sure they’re timeless patterns, which won’t go out of style. Stripes are always a good option!
#5: Add in statement pieces. These will finish off your look and refresh your style, even if you’re mainly wearing the same items time and time again (though we recommend sticking to accessories which you can easily mix and match). It could be a statement piece of jewellery, a scarf, a belt, a pair of sunglasses, or a designer handbag. For slightly more variety, and to elevate your everyday style, there’s also the option to rent statement pieces. We’re in love with Onloan’s range of handbags, jewellery and other accessories.
#6: Have fun! Rewearing doesn’t necessarily mean repeating outfits: restyle your staples in different ways. For example, pair a white shirt with a tailored suit and heels for a sharp, clean look in the office, or wear it untucked over jeans with trainers at the weekend. And before you start panicking about the things you could have, reframe your attitude and look at your existing wardrobe not as a limitation but as a chance for experimentation. This is a great opportunity to explore your personal style and embrace your aesthetic.
Now you know how to create your own capsule wardrobe, so your favourite pieces can live life to the fullest. Be practical, be mindful, be imaginative, and enjoy the journey!
Cover image by Lux Life Magazine