So what is a capsule wardrobe? The simple answer is; it is whatever you need it to be. Online you will find lots of advice on how many items to have in a capsule wardrobe, what colours you should include, alongside what you need and what you do not need. The problem with lots of this information is that it does not help the individual, and the second problem is we are ALL different.
We live in different environments and have different lifestyles, budgets, body shapes, colouring, activities, and tastes. All of these aspects contribute to creating YOUR perfect capsule wardrobe.
So, in short, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothes that suit you, your lifestyle and has you looking and feeling great—nothing more, nothing less. Too many clothes and you have too much choice, waste money on things you never wear and struggle to decide what to put on in the morning. Too little, and you restrict yourself so much you crave variety. Balance and intentional shopping are critical when creating a capsule wardrobe for the first time.
Do You Need A Capsule Wardrobe?
You need a capsule wardrobe if two or more of the following apply to you
- You have too many clothes, but nothing to wear?
- You have wasted lots of money on clothes you have never worn.
- There are repeated mistakes in your wardrobe.
- You wish you could get dressed quickly and easily in the morning.
- You want to feel good in clothes again.
- Your wardrobe is packed to the point you struggle to see anything anymore, and your draws are the same.
- You have lost your sense of style and do not know what to wear anymore.
- You have no idea what styles suit your body shape or what colours work well on you.
- You don’t feel confident or stylish. Instead, you feel frumpy and often unattractive.
- Getting dressed is stressful, and you often settle for the same ‘safe’ item again and again even though it does not make you feel good.
- You struggle to create outfits as nothing appear to match.
- You might also have clothes that no longer fit you.
- There are clothes you own that you like, but they no longer feel good on you.
- You wear the same safe items repeatedly because they are the best of a bad lot.
- You over-prepare when travelling but end up wearing the same couple of outfits the whole trip.
- You have clothes stored in many other places, including your wardrobe and drawers.
- You buy a new outfit for every special occasion because you have “nothing to wear” and afterwards it sits in your wardrobe unworn.
Planning A Capsule Wardrobe
The first thing you want to do is plan carefully. The chances are you need to edit your wardrobe first before you can even get started. Set out a time and day to declutter and go from there. If you have too many clothes, consider decluttering by garment type over some time. For example, start with jackets then move on to jeans, trousers, skirts and so on and so forth. Make sure you gather all of your clothes in one place. That includes from the car, shed, outhouse, loft or basement. Wherever they are stored, you can only truly declutter your wardrobe by seeing all of it altogether. You may well have similar things stored in different places, so getting it all out is essential.
Once you have decluttered, you can begin planning a capsule wardrobe. If you are not sure of your body shape and colouring, getting a body shape guide done alongside a colour analysis is helpful. By doing so, you will know what to look for and what to avoid before you purchase anything. From your colour analysis, choose no more than eight colours. This will usually be around four or five canvas (neutral) shades and three or four paint colours (usually brighter in hue). The colours you choose will help you focus on what works in your wardrobe and what does not. It will also be easier to mix and match to create outfits.
Build A Capsule Wardrobe
Before you start to build a capsule wardrobe, you need to ask yourself a series of questions. Write the answers down because it will help you focus on your plan.
- What items do you like in your current wardrobe and why?
- What do you wear to work?
- What do you need for hobbies or leisure activities?
- Where do you tend to go on holiday? Is that regular? What do you need for that?
- Do you need clothes to be with the kids?
- Are there any special events you attend each year?
- What is the environment like where you live, and how do you need your clothes to protect you?
- Are there seasons?
- If you have seasons, do you want one capsule for the whole year, two for autumn/winter and spring/summer or four for all four seasons?
- What style do you admire?
- What’s your authentic style?
- Is there something in between the two, and does it meet your practical needs?
- How long does it take you to get ready?
- How do your clothes make you feel?
- How do you want to feel?
- What types of clothes do you need? Exercise, work, formal, etc pr a variety of different styles?
- What clothes make you feel good and why?
- What clothes feel comfortable and why?
- What do you buy and never wear and why?
- What do you wear over and over again and why?
- Are there fabrics that you find uncomfortable?
- Do you prefer ethical brands?
- Do you have a strict budget?
- How often do you go through a wash cycle, so how many options of each style do you need?
When you answer all of these, you will start to look at your wardrobe differently from how you do at present. Build your capsule wardrobe around your personal requirements so that your wardrobe works for you.
Capsule Wardrobe Rules
- You do not have to get rid of everything straight away. Put items you are unsure about away for a season; if you do not reach for them, let them go at the end of that season.
- Learn to shop intentionally. Ask yourself about colour, lifestyle, environment, comfort and style needs before you buy anything! Your clothes should serve you, not the other way around.
- There is no such thing as the perfect capsule wardrobe. Your wardrobe should adapt to you and your needs.
- Only use a limited number of items if that works for you. Ignore it if it does not. A capsule wardrobe is not a competition. Everyone is different.
- Allow for flexibility. Once you have your core capsule, only replace clothes when an event or outside influence requests something new. Otherwise, replace when items wear out.
- Do not try to match somebody else’s capsule; that will never work.
- You should decide what goes into your capsule and what does not—nobody else.
- Take your time. Most capsules take a year or more to complete to the point that they are manageable. There are no prizes for getting there first.
- You can create smaller capsules within your capsule wardrobe based on seasons or your lifestyle—for example, work, winter, summer, leisure, sports.
- Your capsule does not have to be under 30 things, nor does it have to be in neutral shades. It is only that way if you want it to be.
- Your capsule wardrobe should be your happy place.
Capsule Wardrobe Checklist
As I have said above your wardrobe will be different to everyone else’s. As an idea to get you started this is a basic capsule wardrobe checklist you can use as reference. In the following examples, I have listed the clothes I would suggest for an essential capsule wardrobe. I would expect yours to be different to this. Use this as a guide only to start thinking about what you might need. You will see I use navy in my descriptions. I have done this because black does not suit everyone. If you know it suits you and have black in your capsule, you can replace all of the navy with black.
(varies with environment)
1 waterproof rain jacket with hood
1 cargo jacket
1 quilted coat for freezing weather
1 smart wool coat
1 denim or lightweight bomber jacket
1 white t-shirt
1 striped T-shirt
1 charcoal or navy t-shirt
1 white shirt
1 check or plaid shirt
2 neutral (canvas colour) smart/evening tops
2 patterned smart/evening tops
3 white, navy and nude vests
2 long-sleeved tops in white and charcoal
2 Breton stripe long-sleeved tops in different colours. (navy and white or red and white)
1 cashmere jumper in a neutral (canvas colour), stone, navy or grey
1 bright paint coloured jumper in red or pink.
1 off-the-shoulder or loose fit jumper
1 neutral (canvas colour) cardigan in navy, stone or grey
1 bright paint colour cardigan in red or pink.
TROUSERS, LEGGINGS AND JEANS
1 pair of dark wash straight jeans (501s are ideal)
1 pair of lighter wash jeans
1 pair of white or stone straight jeans
1 pair of chino style trousers in charcoal, navy or stone
2 pairs of smart work trousers (navy and charcoal)
1 pair of black leggings
SKIRTS AND SHORTS
1 pair stone or navy shorts
1 pair denim shorts
1 smart straight skirt in a neutral (canvas colour)
1 denim skirt
1 pair of fun shorts
1 fun skirt (patterned or embellished)
DRESSES AND JUMPSUITS
1 little black dress (or navy / charcoal)
1 daytime dress
1 evening dress
(Adapt this to the environment)
1 smart jumpsuit
1 casual boiler suit or dungarees
1 large blanket scarf in a paint or canvas colour
1 neck scarf in a paint colour
1 black belt
1 brown belt
1 pair of statement earrings
1 pair stud earrings
1 classic watch
1 long necklace
1 short necklace
1 neutral (canvas colour) woolen hat (if you need it)
1 pair of leather or pleather gloves
1 pair of woollen gloves
1 statement clutch bag
1 tote bag
1 pair of sunglasses
1 pair of knee-high brown or black leather boots
1 pair of ankle boots
1 pair of wellington boots
1 pair of snow boots (if you need them)
1 pair of flat ballet shoes or brogues
1 pair of sparkle sandals
1 pair of black (navy or charcoal) heels
1 pair neutral (canvas colour) wedge sandals
1 pair of white trainers
1 pair of sports shoes
1 pair of flip flops or light sandals for summer
SPORTS AND SWIMWEAR
2 pairs of workout shorts
3 sports bras
2 sports vests
2 yoga / running leggings
The Benefits Of A Capsule Wardrobe
There are so many benefits of a capsule wardrobe;
- Less clutter
- In the colours you love
- Easy to maintain
- Easy to replace an item
- Creates space
- Less washing and ironing
- You feel more confident
- Better for the environment
- Rewards quality over quantity
- Easier to create outfits
- Quicker to get ready
- Saves you time
- You feel more stylish
- Reduces stress
- Saves you money
The Minimalist Wardrobe
As I have said above, your wardrobe is whatever you choose it to be. Some of you may be looking for a more minimalist capsule wardrobe. In this instance, you will likely want to limit your choices further to get started. Start with four options of colour and go from there. I have personal clients who have stuck to two or three colours, and that is it. If you go for an odd number, I suggest including a paint colour, like red. You could then build a minimalist wardrobe or black, white and red.
Another approach is to declutter your wardrobe gradually. Anyone who decides to build a capsule wardrobe often does so in stages. If you are a fan of minimalism, the chances are that you have been decluttering for some time. Using this strategy will enable you to gradually build your minimalist wardrobe by decluttering down to where you feel comfortable.
Summer Capsule wardrobe
If you build a separate summer capsule wardrobe, you will likely find that some items transition from one season to the next. One of the best ways to introduce a new season is to swap out two of the colours. For example, if you chose eight shades for winter and two of them are bottle green and burgundy, you might swap them out for bright red and aqua for the summer. Staggering your capsule like this makes sense because whichever colours you add in are more likely to fit with the rest of your clothes as the season transitions.
Below I have created an example of a summer capsule wardrobe.
Winter Capsule wardrobe
For winter, consider how you need your clothes to perform. Do you need protection from moderate or icy weather? Does your outerwear need to protect you from wet weather? Use most of the colours you chose for summer, maybe swapping a couple out for winter. Consider travel to and from places of work and, if applicable, using public transport. Below I have created an example of a winter capsule wardrobe.
Capsule wardrobe For A Retired Lady
If you are retired, you have a whole new life to look forward to. You should be excited about a future full of travel, family time, and hobbies. You likely want an easy capsule wardrobe that consists of excellent quality garments that will last you a long time. You need to stay stylish and comfortable and create a wardrobe that meets the change in your lifestyle. Think about your lifestyle changes and how they will impact your wardrobe. Do you need clothing that will easily pack away in a suitcase? Do you want more clothes that are suitable for hanging out with the grandchildren? If your previous work wardrobe no longer serves a purpose, you can replace it with one that does. Here are some retired capsule wardrobe ideas for your new retired life.
Capsule wardrobe For Men
To build a capsule wardrobe for men, keep your palette simple and clean. Consider navy, charcoal grey, white, black, stone and bottle green as base colours. All of those colours, bar black, will suit every skin tone. For more information on building a capsule wardrobe for men, check out this post. In the meantime, here are ten capsule wardrobe essentials for men.
1) Classic White Oxford Shirt
- essential for your men’s wardrobe
- It goes with everything; looks great under a blazer or cardigan.
- Element of formality to an outfit that works well in business settings and more casual occasions alike. The classic look has stood the test of time – it will complement any capsule wardrobe.
2) Straight Leg Jeans
- They go well with almost anything, Great for casual wear, but can be dressed up if needed. And you can never have too many pairs of jeans in the classic indigo colour.
- element of comfort – they’re easy to move around in and look great on anyone’s body shape (unlike tracksuit bottoms which can look sloppy)
3) Black Brogues
- A classic shoe that adds sophistication to any outfit. They’re also very versatile and can be worn with formal trousers for more business-appropriate occasions or dressed down with jeans when you want something smarter casual. Their versatility makes them an absolute wardrobe essential!
- Element of style – they add instant formality without making a huge statement.
- Which essentials list would be complete without mention of trainers? They’re comfortable, easy to slip on, and very stylish. If you need something for the gym or want them to look like they’re worn in, choose a colour other than white (they get grubby too quickly). However, if you want your trainers to have that ‘classic smart/casual look’, go for a simple white pair.
- Everyone needs a suit at some point. Try to keep it simple and stick to black or charcoal grey in a slim cut. Avoid any fancy detailing on the collar or cuffs then, that way, your suit will work for most occasions. Also, choose one that can be worn as a blazer on its own.
- Choose a T-shirt in a simple block colour or a stripe. Black, white, navy, or grey work best as they will mix and match easily with other items in your wardrobe.
- Rishi Sunak caused controversy this year for wearing a hoodie to a party political conference. Choose one in a simple colour like above. Knitted hoodies can also add an extra formality to an otherwise casual outfit.
- There is always a need for trousers when jeans are not suitable, but a suit is too smart. Have a pair in your capsule in navy, charcoal, stone or black.
10) Leather Belt
- When you’re looking for something smarter than jeans and a tee, the men’s suit is your best friend. A suede or leather belt is an easy way to add some extra style to any outfit – they’ll take your look from casual Friday in the office right through till Sunday afternoons spent having a meal at the local.
Capsule wardrobe For Women
See above for my full list of capsule wardrobe suggestions. Below I have four outfit ideas you might consider adding.
Capsule wardrobe For Teenagers
Fashion is essential to teenagers. Body image and outside influences can have adverse effects on any teenager. Peer pressure can also play a huge role in determining what teens think they should be wearing. If you are planning on building a capsule wardrobe for your teen, listen to what they want from their wardrobe. The pressure to ‘fit in’ can be immense, and to ignore that, will cost your trust and money.
Start by asking them to collect a selection of photos on Pinterest or Instagram of clothes or outfits they like. Take a look yourself, and get a good idea of their preferences.
Next, look at colour. Ask them to choose a selection of colours they like. Try to keep it to under eight. Try three to four canvas colours and three to four paint colours. Canvas colours tend to be more neutral tones/whereas paint colours are the brighter highlights. If your teen prefers canvas or paint shades predominantly, that is ok. Sticking to a limited selection of shades to start with will help them mix and match clothes easier.
Check out Depop and Vinted for teen lead pre-loved sales if you are on a budget. You can buy nearly new, quality over quantity clothing on both apps.
Take time setting up their capsule and give them lots of encouragement. Check out this more detailed post on capsule wardrobes for teenagers for more info.
A winter Capsule
A Summer Capsule
Capsule wardrobe For Kids
To create an easy capsule wardrobe for your kids, follow these tips.
- Sell or donate any clothes that no longer fit or are damaged beyond repair.
- Think about what your child does weekly. Do they have clubs or hobbies they attend? Do you regularly take them to the park or a playgroup? Do they have a regular sport? Think about how their wardrobe needs to serve all of these activities and take a few notes.
- Do they have a favourite colour or colours? Consider those and a few more that amount to around seven or eight shades. Choose half in neutral tones that mix and match with other shades easily, and half in brighter, happier tones that you can highlight their outfits.
- How often do you do a wash a week? This will determine how many duplicates you might need of an item.
- Use skirts or trousers as the basis of the wardrobe ad add multiple tops on top.
- If you have anything with a pattern on it, use the print from the design to accessorise. For example, a navy dress with red and white flowers on it might be worn with red shoes and white socks.
Baby Capsule Wardrobe
Depending on how old your baby is, they will likely need a lot of clothes! There are some items that I recommend adding to their wardrobe that will save the severe stains on their clothes. Consider buying around ten long-sleeved bibs if you do not have them already. Most of these are lined so that nothing seeps through. They are perfect for art and painting, and eating. How many times you run a wash will determine how many you need to buy.
Next, choose a colour palette of no more than eight colours. Choose half in neutral tones and half in bright shades. This way, it will be easy to mix and match. You can also buy packs of baby grows in your chosen colour palette.
To give you an idea of what to include, I would start with the following:
- Ten baby grows
- Five all-in-one sleep suits
- Three sleeping bags
- Ten trousers, leggings or tights
- Three baby mittens
- Seven pairs of socks
- One soft coat
Newborn Capsule Wardrobe
It’s not always easy to know what you’ll need when a new baby arrives. Every parent-to-be wants their little bundle of joy to have the best wardrobe possible from day one, but knowing what size and how many clothes they’ll require can be challenging to work out. If you are not sure of the sex, choose mutual shades. See above for baby capsule wardrobe ideas.
Here is a list of items that many parents will find helpful.
- Ten newborn baby grows
- Five vest or bodysuits
- Three mittens (so they do not scratch their faces)
- One all-in-one quilted suit (if it is winter)
- Two hats
- Seven pairs of tights / trousers / leggings
- A soft fleece jacket (if winter)
- Ten muslin cloths for burping!
Maternity Capsule Wardrobe
Your body changes dramatically throughout pregnancy, but the changes only last briefly. The best way to get around it is to choose clothes that will adjust with you. There are relatively easy ways that you can navigate through this time without looking like you are wearing a tent.
Below, I have listed some helpful items that I found when I was pregnant. They also meant that I did not add many things to my existing wardrobe. Choose anything you add to your capsule in shades you already have so that it will blend in easily.
- A maternity tummy band in black and one in white
- A wrap dress. Choose a slightly bigger size than usual and when you grow, wear a vest or T-shirt underneath in an alternative colour.
- Thai fisherman trousers. These are genius, as you can wear them to baby yoga too. They come in a wide variety of colours and expand as you do. You can also tie them up on or below the bump. Whichever feels more comfortable.
- A couple of breastfeeding tops – you can wear them now and once you have given birth.
- Harem pants in a soft jersey – again these will sit above or below the bump.
- A wrap skirt. Similar to the wrap dress, it will expand with you.
- Finally, if it is cold while you are heavily pregnant, grab some pregnancy tights that sit over the top of the bump. They will keep you and the baby warm.
Petite Capsule Wardrobe
If you are petite, there are a few things you can do to maximise the effectiveness of your capsule wardrobe. Alongside the general suggestions I have made above for building a petite capsule wardrobe, consider the following;
- Go for brands that cater for petite frames. In some instances, it does not matter if you wear petite or regular, but if you are under 5’2, you can’t go wrong with a petite brand.
- Keep crazy prints to a minimum. A simple small print will work better for you than large overwhelming prints.
- Wearing block colours in darker shades will elongate you.
- If you like to wear heels, get a tailor to alter the length of your trousers, so they skim the floor, the illusion will add a few inches to your legs.
- If you are particularly short in the body, avoid high-waisted trousers; they will only make your body look shorter.
Check out this post on capsule wardrobes for petite women for more info.
Plus Size Capsule Wardrobe
If you are plus-sized, consider the following to make the most of your shape and wardrobe, alongside the general capsule wardrobe info I have given above;
- For any area of your body that you are unhappy with use simple, dark block colours. For anywhere else, use lighter colours, patterns, and fabrics that catch the light, like velvet, satin, silk and velour.
- Avoid any huge frills, floaty fabrics or anything that adds bulk.
- Choose styles that skim your body rather than swamp it.
- Learn your body shape and use what you learn to make the most of your clothing.
- Do not buy clothes that hang straight off your bust with the thought that they will hide your tummy. They will only make you look larger than you are.
- If you love your plus-sized shape, try fit and flare dresses to enhance and show it off.
Capsule Wardrobe Maitenance
Now that you have started your capsule wardrobe, the last thing you want to do is ruin it with impulse buys. Become very intentional about what you add to your capsule and avoid shopping when unhappy or even hungry!
You should consider the following every time you add anything to your capsule wardrobe;
- Does it fit well
- Does the colour go well or fit with the rest of my wardrobe
- Does the material feel comfortable to wear?
- Do I feel good in it?
- Does it serve my lifestyle requirements?
- Will it work for the current climate?
- Does it meet my ethical standards?
- Does it work for my budget?
- Is it the best quality I can afford?
- Is it a style that will last and not date quickly?
Check out this post for more help on maintaining a capsule wardrobe and the impact of impulse buying.