What is a Capsule Wardrobe and How do you build one? Are you tired of not knowing what to wear despite having multiple clothes in your wardrobe? Perhaps it is time to learn what a capsule wardrobe is and how to build one for yourself. Don’t worry, it is not rocket science. All you need is to follow this simple guide that we put together, and you will be able to dress with style without spending anything.
Life is already complicated enough, but we go and statistically spend about 30 minutes (182 hours, or 7 days per year!) choosing our outfit every morning. That’s a lot of time that can be used for something more important, in my opinion. You could spend that time playing with your kids, sleeping, reading, or anything else that gives you joy. But we all want to look good, and how we dress defines the first impression when we meet someone. That’s why this page is so important for women and men of all ages. We all need a capsule wardrobe!
The idea of a capsule wardrobe is not a new trend. It has been around for a while and has evolved from radical minimalism to different versions of themed (like “boho” or “French,” whatever it means) wardrobes during the past 5-7 years.
You may have considered it already because of its obvious time, money, and space-saving benefits because it is one of the ways to control overconsumption and help the planet, or maybe simply because you are tired of scraping through the endless pile of laundry every month and feel the temptation to set it on fire in your backyard.
There are many reasons why you may have thought about trying to build a capsule wardrobe for yourself, your partner, and your kids, but all those good intentions often hit a massive bump in reality.
How do you know which clothes you actually need? Can a capsule wardrobe be trendy, or must it be a collection of bleak, boring “classic” items? Do I have to build a separate capsule wardrobe for each season? In this guide, we will try to dispel these and many other doubts about the idea of a capsule wardrobe and help you create your own timeless and versatile collection of clothes and accessories for the whole family.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
Many think that capsule wardrobe is some sort of general term that is supposed to limit the number of clothes in the wardrobe to a particular number. For some reason, this number is often 10. However, capsule wardrobes are a concept that has a particular author and history. And understanding the origin and history of capsule wardrobes makes it much easier to create them for yourself!
The term capsule wardrobe was first mentioned and widely popularized by a London boutique owner, Susie Faux, in the mid-1970s. She was the first to introduce the idea that a person can easily build a timeless and versatile wardrobe out of a limited amount of clothing items and accessories. The only condition Susie mentioned is that those items should be of high quality to avoid the inevitable wear and tear issue that pops up when you wear the same pair of jeans or shirts over and over again.
Miss Faux, however, did not mention any particular color palettes, styles, or raw numbers that would be necessary to consider a wardrobe “capsule.”
These ideas developed in the mid-1980s and 1990s when Donna Karan picked up the concept and came up with her “Seven Easy Pieces” collection, which became a sensation in the fashion industry and started to fall victim to overconsumption and overproduction trends.
Statistically, today, an average person wears about 20% of all the clothes that they own and constantly feels like they “have nothing to wear” at the same time. It is mainly the direct result of overconsumption, carefully nourished by the modern fast-fashion industry.
The idea of a capsule wardrobe aims to limit your collection of clothes to a number of “core” staple pieces, which can be easily mixed and matched to create various outfits for different occasions. Those are usually some classic jeans, several t-shirts, a dress that can be glamorized or toned down with accessories, and essential shoes and outerwear suitable for your climate.
Does it mean that every capsule wardrobe looks the same? Not at all. What is a versatile everyday dress for a stay-at-home mom probably won`t work for someone who works in the office. And a pair of trousers you would wear daily while living in a big city may not be that relevant in a rural area.
Therefore, rule #1 of creating a capsule wardrobe is to avoid following the guides and Pinterest collages and build around the 20% of your wardrobe that we have already mentioned—the clothes you are actually wearing. There is a solid reason why you always choose these jeans and that T-shirt when you have 10 more in your closet.
Benefits of having a capsule wardrobe
There are many benefits of adopting a capsule wardrobe. Among many other benefits, I have included just a few important points below.
When you have fewer clothing pieces, it is easier to decide what to wear depending on the occasion.
You will save money in the long run:
As I mentioned many times across Missmv articles and media publications, investing in high-quality, versatile pieces may initially seem expensive, but a capsule wardrobe can save you money in the long run. You’ll buy fewer items, and the pieces you buy are likely durable and versatile, reducing the need for frequent replacements.
A capsule wardrobe helps you save time:
As mentioned earlier, when you have a limited number of items in your wardrobe, you spend less time deciding what to wear each day. This can be especially helpful for those with busy schedules.
Protect the environment:
A capsule wardrobe encourages a more sustainable approach to fashion. By focusing on timeless, high-quality pieces and reducing fast fashion consumption, you minimize the environmental impact of clothing production and disposal.
Save space and keep things organized:
A smaller wardrobe requires less physical space, promoting better organization and making it easier to see and access your clothing. This can be particularly beneficial if your space is small.
Define your Personal Style:
A capsule wardrobe encourages you to define and refine your personal style. By selecting pieces that truly resonate with you and can be mixed and matched seamlessly, you develop a more cohesive and authentic wardrobe.
Having a capsule wardrobe reduces stress:
The simplicity of a capsule wardrobe reduces decision fatigue and the stress associated with having too many choices. You’ll feel more confident and comfortable in your clothing choices.
Embrace quality over quantity:
Rather than buying many inexpensive, disposable items, a capsule wardrobe encourages investing in higher-quality, durable pieces. This can lead to a more refined and long-lasting wardrobe.
Adopting a capsule wardrobe promotes a more mindful approach to fashion consumption. You become more conscious of your clothing choices, focusing on what you truly need and love rather than succumbing to impulsive or trend-driven purchases.
As you can see, there is absolutely no reason not to embrace the movement and swift your mind along with your fashion decisions.
Common Myths about Capsule Wardrobe
The idea of a capsule wardrobe has been around for several decades, which is enough for any concept to acquire dozens of myths that can change it beyond recognition. Often, these misconceptions are the main reason why people decline the idea without even trying to implement the capsule wardrobe in their lives.
Let’s try to debunk some of the most common myths about capsule wardrobes.
- Capsule wardrobes are only for minimalists
While minimalists are those who probably enjoy the concept of having a limited amount of clothes most, the idea of taking control over your possessions is not something they have a monopoly on. You can enjoy the benefits of saving a great deal of time and effort by choosing your outfit every day, even if your lifestyle is far from the ideas of minimalism.
- Capsule wardrobes are all basic
While some basic items, like classic jeans and plain t-shirts, are essential for most capsule wardrobe collections, this concept is not necessarily related to a particular style. You can have your three vanilla goth dresses and create outfits with them using various accessories and makeup. You can stick to the “old money” aesthetics or create a sporty capsule wardrobe. The choice is entirely up to you.
- The capsule wardrobe should have 5, 10, etc. items
Sticking to a strict number of numbers is another common misconception about a capsule wardrobe. It mainly appeared because we actually like numbers. They make our lives easier. That is why most guides to capsule wardrobes have titles like “5 items you will ever need to build a timeless wardrobe.” But in real life, those numbers can easily decrease or increase.
Depending on your lifestyle, you may not need even one of the “essential” pump shoes they recommend, but you won`t manage with only one t-shirt in your wardrobe. The numbers are very conditional.
- A capsule wardrobe cannot be trendy
Some are worried that choosing a capsule wardrobe means you can no longer follow trends. It is also a mistake. In fact, nothing allows you to be more fashionable than a capsule wardrobe. When you have a steady signature style, a “hot” skirt, jacket, or purse will stick out and highlight your image much better than when your wardrobe becomes a chaotic mixture of trendy items.
- A capsule wardrobe is expensive
Quality is often (but not always) expensive in fashion. But while the adepts of capsule wardrobe claim that it should consist of high-quality items, it does not mean you will have to go bankrupt building your streamlined collection.
In fact, when you buy quality clothes, footwear, and accessories, they last much longer, reducing the shopping frequency. Also, when you take it as a rule to choose quality over quantity, it will save you a great deal of money from uncontrolled shopping sprees during discount seasons.
Remember, you are the one who sets the rules and determines the limits of your capsule wardrobe. The only rule is to have a collection of relevant and comfortable clothes that you actually wear. All the rest are just guidelines and recommendations.
How do I start a capsule wardrobe?
Now that we have determined what a capsule wardrobe is and put aside all the myths about this concept, let`s start building our own collection. But put your credit card and tote bag aside. Shopping is actually the very last thing you will do before starting your capsule wardrobe.
Instead, you should have patience and at least one free weekend that you will entirely dedicate to going through all the clothes, footwear, and accessories you already have. It may be pretty overwhelming; you will want to give up or set the pile of clothes that lies in front of you on fire several times during this process, but once you pull to the finish line, you will be rewarded, we promise.
Here is your step-by-step guide to building a capsule wardrobe fast and easily
Step 1: Take everything out of the closet
You may sort the clothes by season and put the irrelevant items aside to cut some corners. For example, there is no point in scraping through sweaters and cardigans in July. Leave those items until the next season. You will already be more experienced by that moment and deal with those clothes faster and more painlessly.
Step 2: Determine your 20%
Put aside the clothes that you actually wear every day. It will be the core of your capsule wardrobe. Lay these images in front of you, and you will instantly see the pattern:
- The type of items that best fit your lifestyle;
- The color palette and materials you are most comfortable in;
- The amount of clothes you actually need to go through the week
Step 3: Go through the remaining 80%
This is not the most “painful” process. Check every item that you have in your closet and answer the following questions:
- Did I wear it at least once this year?
- Does it fit me now?
- Do I feel happy when I put it on?
If you answer “yes” two times out of three, the item gets a chance in your new wardrobe. If the answer is “no” for two out of the three questions, it is time to say goodbye to those clothes. No cheating! Believe me, you will feel so relieved when you have fewer clothing pieces that can be paired easily with your other accessories.
Step 4: Go through the remaining clothes once again
Now add the “surviving” pieces to your everyday collection and inspect every item very carefully. If you see signs of wear and tear, stains that don’t come off, or any defects that would prevent you from wearing a pair of pants on any occasion, these items should be replaced.
There is no need to keep your wardrobe clogged with unwanted items. You will free space, allow the air to flow easily through your clothes, and you will make a good deed by giving those items to charity.
Step 5: Shopping
And now you go shopping. Here, the only rule is to replace your damaged favorites with new, high-quality items of the same color, pattern, and style, not to buy a bunch of new clothes that will be lodged in your wardrobe once again.
While choosing the new items, pay attention to the materials, appearance, and quality. Don`t let sales and special offers distract you and make you compromise by going for a cheaper item instead of the one that you love and will wear gladly every day.
These simple steps are the easiest way to build a capsule wardrobe that you will stick to without breaking the bank. But what if you want to reinvent your style and build a capsule wardrobe from scratch? No problem!
How to create a capsule wardrobe from scratch
You may want to change your style entirely and build a new wardrobe for different reasons. Suppose you moved to a new country, and the local climate and traditions don’t correspond with your old wardrobe. Or maybe there was some life-changing event, and changing your style is the most natural way to express yourself.
Here is how to easily build a capsule wardrobe from scratch for any style:
Step 1: Choose your “black” color
Determine the primary color for your wardrobe. We call it the “black” color because, for most people, a pair of black pants and a black tee are the most versatile canvas for any outfit. They can be “bedazzled” with some bright accessories, brightened up with white or beige, or supported with same-color layers for a more dramatic effect.
This color does not have to be black. It can be navy blue, brown, or white, depending on your preferences and lifestyle. The only rule is that it will be the most practical and versatile color that will make you feel comfortable in any situation
Step 2: Add the neutrals
Now, you need to diversify the color palette of your capsule wardrobe. For most people, “neutral” colors are white, grey, and beige. But in fact, those can be any three colors that complement each other, and what is most important is that they make you feel comfortable.
Now it is time to build your collection. The thumb rule is:
- 1 bottom in your “black” color
- 1 bottom in your “neutral” color
- 1 top in your “black” color
- 1 top in every “neutral” color (3 altogether)
- 1 full-body piece (a dress, a romper, etc.) in the “black” color
- 1 full-body piece in the “neutral” color
Altogether, you will end up with 8 pieces that can be mixed and matched in endless variations.
Step 3: Add the accents
To avoid a boring, faceless wardrobe and give yourself a chance to remain trendy, add accent pieces to your wardrobe. Those can be bright colors, some hot accessories, or items that represent current microtrends.
To stay in the frame, make it a rule to have no more than 1 accent piece in your wardrobe and no more than 3 colors in each outfit. This step is optional. If you are a minimalist who prefers neutral, timeless looks, who are we to advise you against it?
Step 4: Add layers
Layered outfits always look stylish and put together. A blazer, a cardigan, a jacket, a jacket, or a trench coat add those final touches to your look that separate “wearing” clothes from “styling.”
If you live in a hot climate, you can still wear layers. A linen or cotton shirt looks great, great with a black, grey, or white tank top and a pair of shorts. Just stick to the “not more than 3 colors in one outfit” rule, and you will easily build a stylish layered outfit.
Step 5: Shoes and handbags
Choosing accessories is a very personal process determined entirely by your lifestyle. Some wear pumps every day, while others prefer flats and boots.
Make sure to get one pair in your “black” color and two more in the “neutral” colors. There should be at least one pair appropriate for a more “formal” setting and one pair of entirely casual shoes.
As for the bags, get one “black” and one “neutral” piece.
Those are, of course, the most basic rules and numbers, which can be adjusted to your current lifestyle and preferences. Generally, it is the essential formula that will help you save a great deal of time, money, and effort getting dressed every morning.
More to read:
Can you build a capsule wardrobe for kids?
Every parent knows how overwhelming a kid’s wardrobe can be. First of all, children grow fast. That is why the lifespan of clothes is a questionable matter when we talk about kids’ wardrobes. Second, kids are adventurous, to say the least, so they get dirty faster than adults and rarely a piece of clothing and go over 1 wear without a stain.
So, can you build a capsule wardrobe for a kid? Yes! Here is how:
- The essentials: children really don`t need as many clothes as we think. Statistically, a top and a bottom for every day is more than enough to have a perfect wear-laundry balance. You can always “water it down” with dresses and overalls.
- The colors: try to stick to one color pattern. That way, it will be easier to dress your little ones without wasting time choosing particular items, and you will avoid “fashion fails” when your partner or the kid themselves are choosing the outfit.
- Comfort: kids’ clothes have to be comfortable. Period. You can waste thousands on some fabulous dresses and cute suits, but it will all be wasted if these items are itchy, restrain movement, or make your kid sweat.
- The budget: the intention of buying your kid a top-brand outfit may be pretty strong, but little ones don`t really care about labels or price tags. They need comfortable, safe, and natural materials, which can be found in many affordable brands.
As you see, building a capsule wardrobe is not rocket science or some expensive project. It is also not some restriction that will force you to reject self-expression, take joy, and spark out of your looks. Vice versa, choosing a capsule wardrobe is a great opportunity to set yourself free, determine your actual style, and save a lot of time, money, and effort, making life so much easier for you and your whole family.