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The Ultimate Guide to Capsule Wardrobes

Looking for a practical way to save time and avoid stress in the morning? If you have ever found yourself frustrated while standing in a closet full of clothes and feeling like you have nothing to wear you need to try a capsule wardrobe.

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

Truth be told, there isn’t one exact definition.

As I started my personal capsule wardrobe and began helping others to create their own I have settled on what I feel is an accurate yet versatile description:

“A capsule wardrobe is a carefully selected collection of clothing items that are easy to coordinate.”

This definition speaks to the main points of a capsule wardrobe, but is still flexible enough to encompass the many styles of capsule wardrobes that exist.

The Benefits of a Capsule Wardrobe

We all know what it feels like to have a closet packed with clothes.

  • Your closet is full, but you have nothing to wear
  • You are constantly doing laundry, hanging and folding
  • Mornings are hectic as you search for that “one sweater” that goes with that “one skirt” that you can’t seem to find
  • When add up the cost of the items in your closet that you never wear, you realize you could have spent that money on an amazing mini-vacay.

Creating a capsule wardrobe solves these problems.

By focusing on quality over quantity when it comes to your closet, you will find that over time you save yourself a lot of time, energy and money.

With a capsule wardrobe you will:

  • Free up space in your closet which will allow you to stay organized and easily find each item.
  • Spend less time doing laundry because it won’t pile up
  • Avoid the stress of getting dressed because all the items are easy to coordinate
  • Save money by reducing the amount of clothing that you buy over time

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

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The basics of creating any capsule wardrobe are the same:

1) Start with a neutral color palette to allow for mix and match opportunities

Most capsules are built on a foundation of black, white, navy, grey and tan.

2) Only keep or purchase clothing that you love to wear

The minimalist in me loves this tip and it helps to keep my capsule wardrobe from growing beyond what I truly need.

The clothing you wear should

-fit well
-be a good representation of your personal sense of style
-make you feel great

If a particular item in your closet doesn’t meet these criteria, it’s time to let it go.

3) Select pieces that have colors and patterns that are versatile

The patterns and accent colors you select to be a part of your wardrobe essentials will bring your personal style and interest to your outfits. You just want to make sure that they are easy to mix and match and won’t leave you feeling limited in the mix and match department.

Time tested examples of accent colors and patterns that are successful in capsule wardrobes include:

  • Black and white stripes
  • Animal print
  • Polka dots
  • Accent colors: blush, navy, green, coral, burgundy or gold (choose 1 or 2)

Capsule Wardrobe Checklist: The Basics

So, you’re ready to give your wardrobe a simplified make-over, but where do you start?

I always suggest that you start by going through the items you own in order to create a framework for your wardrobe. It’s always easiest to start with the basics and build from there.

You will most likely be surprised to realize you have most of these items. If you are missing any you can add them to your shopping list.

But wait! Isn’t this about having fewer clothes, not buying more?

Yes, but if you don’t have the basics you will continue to struggle with being able to easily coordinate items quickly. The basics are essential to a polished and classic look.

Here are the items that will be the backbone of your closet:

  • Dark Denim 
  • Black Pants or leggings
  • Basic Tees  
  • Knit Sweaters 
  • A Black Dress 
  • Outerwear

Now that you have the essentials, you can move on to creating a capsule wardrobe that works best for your lifestyle.

Related Post: The Art of Minimalist Style; How to Simplify your Look

How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe

When it comes to creating your own capsule wardrobe, you will find there are a lot of options.

While some may suggest that a capsule wardrobe consists of only 33 items, others are much more lenient.

Because I am a “practical minimalist” I suggest you try whatever version you think will work best for you.

You should keep in mind that the goal of a capsule wardrobe is to make your life easier; the exact amount of clothing you decide to keep is entirely up to you.

That being said, there are some specific aspects of your life that you need to consider when planning a successful capsule wardrobe.

If you go all crazy getting rid of everything without thinking things through you may end up feeling frustrated.

So before you declutter your closet or purchase any new items be sure to consider the following questions to help you determine what items in your closet are essential and practical.

1) What is your daily schedule?

How you spend your days will help you decide what items are necessary for you to have. Whether you are at home with toddlers or spend your days sitting at a desk, we all want to feel comfortable and “put together”.  As you create your minimalist closet consider if the items you own are practical for your daily schedule.

2) What is your weekly schedule?

Take a look at your schedule for the month. Make sure that you have items in your closet that allow you to be dressed appropriately and comfortable for any functions you may be attending.

Whether it’s a night out with friends, your child’s weekend soccer tournament or evening workouts at the gym you want to make sure that the items you include allow you to dress for any occasion.

Focus on choosing items that are versatile to work in many different situations. For example, when selecting a “little black dress” choose one with a style that could be appropriately accessorized to wear to a bridal shower or to date night with the hubby. This will help you avoid having to run out and buy something in the spur of the moment.

2) How harsh are the seasons where you live?

Where I live the winters are pretty mild, but the summers are extreme. This means that I can get away with blending my Fall and Winter capsule wardrobe, but those clothes get stored away when it starts to warm up because long sleeves and pants would make life miserable.

The opposite may be true where you live. Perhaps your winters are extreme and require specific layers and outwear to keep you from freezing to death.

Or maybe you are lucky enough to have pleasant weather all the time and can get away with a year round capsule wardrobe.

You just want to be sure that you will be comfortable for your climate. This may mean have a different capsule wardrobe for each season.

3) Does your occupation require a certain style of clothing?

If you work outside the home, you may have a dress code you must follow.

Even without a dress code many jobs dictate a certain type of dress that is appropriate.

Whenever possible, try to select pieces that can be worn to work and during your free time.

However, I acknowledge that depending on your job this may not be possible. For example, if you are a nurse and wear scrubs every day you will most likely create a work capsule and a personal capsule.

4) How much closet/storage space do you have available?

To be completely honest, this question is what inspired my very first capsule wardrobe.

We moved in to a 1200 square foot midcentury home, with amazing built-ins in every room. The downside is that even though there is a lot of storage throughout the home, the closet space is less than ample.

The size of closet helps me to keep to my minimalist goals when it comes to clothing.

If you have a larger closet, you may be able to keep more clothing.

However, please try to avoid filling the space just because it’s there. One of the major benefits of a small wardrobe is the lack of clutter.

5) What is your personal style?

The goal of a capsule wardrobe is to simplify the process of getting dressed.

I want to take this time to emphasize that a capsule wardrobe can be created for any style, and that having a simplified or minimalist closet has no impact on the exact clothes you choose to wear.

For example, in many capsules (including my own) you will see a suggestion for a black dress.

However, if you know that you never wear dresses, then you do not have to have to one.

There is a difference between “minimalist style” and a “capsule wardrobe”.

A capsule collection is appropriate for any age or gender.

While a minimalist style is about creating a certain look.

No matter what your personal style, be sure to always keep your personal preferences in mind during this process.

You don’t want to end up with a closet full of clothes that feel like costumes.

Examples of Capsule Wardrobes

Ready to explore some of the options when it comes to simplified wardrobes? Here are some popular  types of capsule wardrobes that will help you to get started.

Business Casual

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/483925922451227344/

French Minimalist

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/128493395601867740/?lp=true

Women’s Winter Capsule Wardrobe

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/802274121096008349/

Stay at Home Mom

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/265993921727650836/

Books About Capsule Wardrobes

Looking for more inspiration? Check out these best-selling books on Minimalist Wardrobes

So, there you have it mama! I hope this has given you a clear idea of what a capsule wardrobe is and how it can save you from wasting your time, money and stress when it comes to answering that daily question of “What am I going to wear?”

I would love to hear about your experiences minimizing your closet. Please comment or ask questions below.

13 Comments

  1. I’m seriously considering starting a capsule wardrobe. In fact, I have been going through my closet and getting rid of a lot of my old clothes. For me, it’s important to invest in a few quality pieces that I like instead of a lot of cheap, ill-fitting pieces that just cause clutter.

    1. That’s where I started too. I began creating my capsule by realizing I had a lot of clothes that didn’t fit well, or that were not well made. It was a great place to start because it made it easy to say goodbye to those clothes and free up the space to carefully consider the rest of the items.

  2. THESE ARE GREAT TIPS FOR THE WANNABE MINIMALIST. I RECENTLY (FINALLY) NARROWED MY WARDROBE DOWN TO THINGS I ONLY LOVE & WANT TO WEAR & IT’S BEEN LIFE CHANGING. I NEED TO CONSIDER THE THINGS YOU’VE MENTIONED TOO FOR WINTER. THIS IS SOMETHING I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT & WANT TO MASTER. THANK YOU!

    1. Hi Bailey – I would love to hear what part of creating a capsule wardrobe has been tricky for you. For some, it’s letting go of clothes they don’t wear. For others it’s the challenge of avoiding impulse shopping. Glad to hear these tips are helpful to you!

  3. You’ve definitely got me motivated to clean up my closet! There’s so much I don’t wear or think, I’ll fit into that one day again… And thinking about it – I wear the same stuff all of the time anyway!

    1. Isn’t that SO true! There are so many items that we keep in our closet “just in case” or because we have had it for so long. All it does is make our closets cluttered and more difficult to find what we are looking for. Glad this post could help you get motivated!

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