In case you are unaware, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of basics to be mixed and matched to create endless outfit choices. The term was coined by Susie Faux, the owner of a London boutique in the 1970s.
In her words: “A capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that do not go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces.”
Your wardrobe does not have to be high-end or expensive, but investing in high quality garments that outlast trends will actually save you time and money. You can find a lot of deals online and in secondhand stores.
There are so many choices to find classic, quality pieces on a budget. But before you go out and start buying items, here is a layout of what you should do step by step!
First you will want to assess what you need in your closet. What kind of lifestyle do you lead? What is your occupation? What kind of vacations do you enjoy? What are your hobbies? Do you live somewhere that has four seasons? Do you enjoy dressing up or are you more casual?
Once you answer those questions it will be much easier to decide what you need.
Choose Color Palettes and Prints
You will need to, also consider which colors you wear the most, ones that flatter your skin/hair color, and prints that you seem to gravitate towards. Keep it simple.
First, choose one or two neutral colors – black, navy blue, gray, taupe/beige/brown, or white/ivory – that will go with most of your contrasting colors or fun prints.
Neutrals will be the most important part of your capsule wardrobe because they allow you to coordinate the most pieces. Choose neutrals that compliment some of the prints and other colors you like to wear.
Second, choose one or two contrast colorsthat will pair nicely with your neutral(s). For example, red looks great with navy, gray looks beautiful with blue, and green is a stunning choice against taupe or brown. You can also pair a neutral with a neutral!
If you’re like me and prefer gemstone colors as accent colors (red, purple, darker and brighter hues) opposed to pastel colors like pinks and lilac, then you will want to choose neutrals such as black and navy opposed to brown and gray.
Prints that are timeless and pair nicely with neutral pieces include stripes, polka dots, floral, checks, plaid, and leopard print.
You will definitely want a variety of styles for your tops to mix and match. I recommend at least 5 of each style:
- Tees/tanks (2 solid contrast colors, 3 neutrals, possibly 1 print)
- Blouses (3 prints, 2 neutrals, possibly 1 or more contrast color)
- Pull-over sweatersfor fall/winter (neutrals or contrast color)
Adding a print here or there is a great idea. Blouses are the easiest to coordinate with for prints (as far as tops go). For tops, you will want to choose comfortable breathable fabrics such as cotton and jersey. Adding a few in viscose or silk would be beautiful but cotton reigns supreme in this category.
Ideally, you should include skirts and pant pieces for bottoms. Not everyone prefers skirts though and that is just fine! Remember – what you enjoy and are comfortable in is what you will end up wearing over and over!
- Trousers (at least 2 pairs in neutrals)
- Jeans (at least 3 pairs in various cuts and colors)
- Crop/ankle length or “cigarette pants” (1 in neutral)
- Summertime shorts (1 dressy in a neutral, 2 in denim, 1 dressy in a print)
- Stretch pants for down days or active days (neutral such as black or gray only; 1 or 2 pairs).
- Pencil skirt (one neutral, one solid color)
- 3/4 circle skirt (one neutral, one print)
- A-line or pleated skirt (prints such as plaid will look amazing, one neutral)
- Culottes for spring/summer (1 pair in either a print or a solid color)
- Wrap skirt (one in neutral or print).
Adding more pants or shorts may be needed if you prefer not to wear skirts. If you are an active lady who enjoys a lot of gardening or goes to the gym be sure to include enough workout/active wear bottoms and also a few more neutral tanks/tees.
Fabrics for bottoms would include cotton, linen, twill, rayon/viscose, woolen blends (lined for skirts), suiting fabric, and of course, denim. Black denim would be smart for dressy or casual.
Layering can be a fun and easy way to make your wardrobe pop! Include cardigans in different cuts, blazers, vests (optional), jackets, and coats. These pieces all really work the best in neutrals.
If you want to include a statement piece such as a bright red wool pea coat or a black and white hounds tooth blazer, go right ahead but don’t forget your neutral pieces! Denim and leather are excellent choices for jackets.
Wool, tweed, and linen are beautiful fabric options for blazers. For cardigans, go with knit jersey but if you are looking to splurge, invest in at least one in cashmere. For these pieces, you will want to consider quality as your motivation to buy.
Though optional, it is very wise to have at least two formal dresses in your closet for weddings and other events. You can invest in:
- Cocktail dress (in any color you love)
- Professional dress (1 in neutral or print)
- Pencil dress (1 in darker neutral)
- Wrap dress (1 in a fun print)
- Vintage style dress with full skirt (in a fun print or color-these are one of my favorites!)
- Sleeveless, comfortable dress to layer (neutral).
Choose at least 5 if you like wearing dresses. I am a tad biased, but I happen to think there is no limit to your personal dress count!
There are lots of boutiques that can accommodate your taste in dresses. I suggest at least 3 prints and 2 neutrals.Fabrics varydepending on season and occasion.
For example, a linen professional dress that buttons up in an A-line with 3/4 sleeves would suit a business trip. A silk taffeta full skirted dress that adorns a boat neck bodice would be stunning for a wedding. Also, dresses are easy to layer or wear alone with accessories.
Add Accessories and Shoes
I’m sure that most of you will agree that you cannot have too many accessories!
- Flats (neutrals)
- Heels (prints, solids, or neutrals)
- Boots (1 or 2 pairs in neutrals)
- Sandals (2 neutrals)
- Athletic shoes (1 pair)
- Casual slides or loafers (1 pair in neutral)
You will need at least one pair of most of these categories. You obviously only need a few pairs, but what woman actually follows that rule?!
- Earrings (pearls, stones, drop earrings, small hoops)
- Necklaces (pearls, gold, silver, chunky, statement pieces)
- Bracelets (cuffs, bangles, dainty chains, pearls)
- Brooches (to add on cardigans, blouses, blazers, or hats)
- Rings (gold, silver, bronze, statement, dainty styles)
- Black leather
- Brown leather
- Statement belt such as a wide one
- Stretchy belts to throw over a cardigan or dress in neutral
- Large in neutral
- Small for formal in neutral
- Statement bag in a print
- Straw bag for summer
- Invest in at least 1 designer handbag in a print or color that is timeless (ahem, Coco Chanel!)
- Any bags that catch you eye and make you happy!
You will want to include at least one summer straw hat and one winter hat.
For accessories, you will want a variety of higher quality pieces to last a long time and truly give you that chic look that you’re after.
I am a vintage addict, so I enjoy vintage accessories and reproduction pieces. These styles are timeless and so ladylike! Pearls are a must have. Also, invest in a beautiful pair of shoes that are comfortable and elegant.
After all of your hard work comes the best part… deciding which pieces to put together. Invite a friend over if you want. Have fun with it!
Organize your closet by color and style, and start creating outfits. Remember, this whole project is to make you look amazing and feel more confident; with an added bonus – being proactive with clothing choices.
Here are some ideas:
Little Black Dress
Pearl earring and necklace layered under a striped cardigan sweater. For feet, slide-on black ballet shoes and a red or black bag of your choice.
Taupe woolen blazer, leopard print pleated skirt, ivory button up in sheer over a beige camisole. Accessorize with gold buckle belt in brown, gold floral brooch or statement earrings, kitten heel slingbacks in brown leather, and a large vintage style handbag.
Vacation (Warm Weather)
Sundress in neutral or white sleeveless blouse tucked into flared/pleated culottes (in print or fun color). Layer with a soft, thin cardigan in neutral. Wear with dress sandals in neutral.
Add a straw hat and sunglasses, and don’t forget your swimsuit! Adorn with simple pearl earrings, an anchor or nautical themed brooch or necklace for fun.
The ultimate goal of a capsule wardrobe is to have your work done for you, so you don’t have to spend an hour finding your outfit. You already know which pieces match as you have thought through the process.
Enjoy it and update as needed. I hope you have a blast creating your new looks!
What does a capsule wardrobe mean to you? Which are your favorite pieces? How many pairs of shoes are enough in your opinion? Please share any other ideas that you think work well and let’s have a conversation!