Create a Capsule Wardrobe in 5 Steps
For those of you who don’t always LOVE putting together outfits and figuring out what to wear, creating a capsule wardrobe can greatly simplify your life. One thing that I’ve adopted since embracing the minimalist lifestyle is having a capsule wardrobe.
I created my first capsule in the spring, so I’m on my third capsule and I’ll never go back! I’ve tweaked some things as I’ve learned what works for me and what just doesn’t.
For me, having a capsule wardrobe makes my life more simple because I save time, money, and space in my closet.
However, if you do love creating different looks to wear, a capsule wardrobe may not be for you…or at least not a strict or tiny capsule. If your wardrobe isn’t causing you stress (in regards to your time, money, or space), you don’t need to fix it!
Creating a capsule wardrobe in that case might just make you more stressed instead of less.
You can check out my capsule wardrobe in these posts:
What is a Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a smaller, pared-down wardrobe of only items you absolutely love and are preferably versatile, timeless, and of high quality.
Having a wardrobe containing only items you adore means you don’t have clothing around that doesn’t fit you well, doesn’t flatter your body shape, or simply doesn’t fit your personal style.
No more trying on multiple shirts in the morning because you’ve held onto clothes that fit you three sizes ago or you loved them on the hanger but not when actually wore them! I can’t be the only one who does this.
Sometimes I love a piece of clothing when I see it in the store, and I buy it even though I don’t love it on me. Because I WANT to love it on me. I blame the lighting, my current lack of a tan, or the hamburger I ate for lunch.
The Benefits of Creating a Capsule Wardrobe
Having a capsule wardrobe filled with versatile pieces means you can mix and match to create many outfits with a minimal amount of items.
Creating a timeless capsule wardrobe means you won’t spend as much money on clothes since what you have doesn’t quickly go out of style. You will have a classic capsule wardrobe.
And finally, having a wardrobe of quality materials means you can buy less because they don’t wear out quickly.
Doesn’t it sound great to have a capsule wardrobe? I love that I save time shopping and creating outfits every day. It’s an extra benefit to save money on clothes. And what a bonus to also have more room in the closet! Your spouse or roommate will thank you! Your sanity will thank you! 😉
How Many Items are in a Capsule Wardrobe?
How many items to include when creating a capsule wardrobe is truly up to you.
For me, I didn’t restrict myself to a certain number. I decided to follow the 5 steps below and just see what happened. I wish I would have counted my wardrobe items before I pared it down, but I ended up with about 37 items in my first capsule wardrobe this spring. This included tops, bottoms, and dresses.
For summer, I decided to include shoes as well and had only 30 items. What I didn’t include: workout clothes, lounging clothes, undergarments, and pajamas. I guess I also didn’t include accessories because I’m not big into those and I don’t have a large collection.
If you choose to limit yourself to a certain number of clothing items, you have a couple of things to take into account.
First, consider your lifestyle.
If you stay home most of the time, you probably can get away with a smaller wardrobe of mostly lounging clothes.
If you work outside the home and like to go out with friends in the evenings and weekends, your wardrobe might be slightly larger and mostly include work clothes that can be easily converted into an outfit for a night out on the town.
Second, consider how much you love clothes.
This sounds silly, but if you LOVE LOVE LOVE clothes, a teeny tiny wardrobe will just make you cranky.
A Suggestion for How Many Clothing Items
Because of this, I will simply give you a suggested range for each type of clothing:
- 1-2 dark-washed jeans
- 1-2 light-washed jeans
- 1-2 colored pants (one neutral color like black or white and maybe one fun color)
- 2-4 shorts
- 1-2 leggings
- 1-2 jackets
- 1 winter coat
- 1-2 cardigans or sweaters
- 1-2 blazers
Cool-Weather Tops (2-4)
- 1-2 long-sleeved shirts
- 1-2 long-sleeved blouses
Warm-Weather Tops (4-9)
- 2-3 short-sleeved shirts
- 1-3 tank tops
- 1-3 short-sleeved blouses
Skirts and Dresses (2-6)
- 1-3 casual skirts and dresses
- 1-3 fancy skirts and dresses
Dressy Shoes (2-4)
- 1-2 high heels
- 1-2 flats
Casual Shoes (4-7)
- 2-3 casual shoes
- 1-2 boots
- 1-2 sandals
Bags/Purses (up to 3)
- everyday neutral purse
- large cross-body bag (for outings/traveling)
- neutral clutch
So how many items is that?
If you had the maximum in each category above you would have 52 items. If you had the minimum you would only have 25 items. Again, though. These numbers may not work for you.
For instance, I don’t wear skirts. I just never know how to put a skirt outfit together because they feel weird to me. So, I don’t have even four skirts and dresses since I don’t dress up very often.
However, I currently have more shoes than this. I like to change up my shoes more than anything else for some reason. Maybe I really love shoes? I don’t know.
The point is, to choose a number to stay under or don’t. Restriction is only healthy to a point.
How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe
Again, creating a capsule wardrobe isn’t about a legalistic set of rules that you need to follow in order to call yourself a minimalist. Everyone’s capsule will be different because we don’t all have the same lifestyle. Nor do we all have the same tastes in clothes.
That being said, I will give you some guidelines and ideas for creating your own capsule wardrobe, but you need to make it your own. Please, please, PLEASE don’t just copy what I say. Figure out what works for you. What will make your life easier?
Don’t worry so much about what other people are doing. (I know that it’s hard!) If you feel like you really don’t know what will work best for you, it is fine to adopt someone else’s methods initially. BUT, be willing to make changes as you figure out what does and does not work once you’ve put the method into practice.
Step 1: Go Through Your Clothes
Take all of your clothes out of your closet and drawers. Yes, ALL of it.
Put it all on your bed then try everything on. Put anything you love and wear all the time back in your closet or dresser.
For everything else, decide if each item currently fits you well, flatters your body shape, makes you feel good, and the color looks good on you.
Use your answers to these questions to divide your clothes into three piles. One pile to throw away (for items that are worn out, ripped, or stained), one pile to donate/sell, and one pile of things you like.
Step 2: Choose Your Base Colors
Use the clothes you love and wear frequently to determine what the base color(s) of your wardrobe should be. These are your neutrals.
You can choose black or navy. Look at what you tend to wear to make sure that the base color you choose is what looks good on you.
Once you’ve selected one of these, choose complementary base colors.
If you chose black, your complementary base colors will likely by white and grey. If you chose navy, your complementary base colors could be beige and cream.
From your “like pile”, select solid-color pieces that are the base colors you selected and put them back in your closet or drawers.
Step 3: Choose Your Accent Colors
Choose 2 or 3 colors that coordinate with your base colors (and preferably each other).
These are the colors you love to wear because you find them beautiful. AND they look good on you. If you like a lot of colors, you can choose accent colors based on the season as well.
From your “like pile”, select solid-color pieces that are the accent colors you selected and put them back in your closet or drawers.
Step 4: Add in Texture and Pattern
Are there certain patterns you love? Do you love feminine patterns and textures like lace and floral? Or do you love geometrical patterns like strips?
Select clothing you have in your “like pile” that are either a base color or accent color you chose but have some sort of texture or pattern to them. Put these back in your closet or drawers. This will help your smaller wardrobe stay fun and interesting to you.
Step 5: Shop For What’s Missing
Look at everything you put back in your closet and drawers and take inventory. Keep in mind your lifestyle and preferences when doing this.
For example, if you almost never need to wear a dress, having only one or two dresses to choose from might be sufficient. If you are a stay-at-home parent, you will probably have mostly comfy clothes for hanging out at home.
Say you work outside the home where you need to dress business casual. You will probably need at least two blazers, several dressy tops, and a few dress pants or skirts.
What do I look for?
If you are missing some of your necessary items, it’s time to go shopping! Simply shop for your missing items in the base or accent colors you decided on to ensure your new clothing will coordinate with other items in your wardrobe.
If you find something at the store that can’t be worn with at least three other items in your wardrobe, it probably isn’t versatile enough. So it won’t get enough use to be worth the purchase.
Also, remember you are shopping for quality and timeless clothing. You want to select clothing that will last longer AND isn’t a trend that will likely go out of fashion in the near future. Focus on creating a classic capsule wardrobe or a timeless capsule wardrobe that you’ll love for years to come.
Capsule Wardrobe Maintenance
So, you have a capsule wardrobe…what now?
When the season changes, you simply take out items that won’t work (say, a heavy sweater) and replace it with items that are seasonally appropriate (say, a light blouse). Just keep the base colors the same from season to season, and you can change out your accent colors if you want.
Once you create your first capsule wardrobe, the rest is SO easy! The hardest part, really, is clearing your closet of what isn’t as valuable.
After that, it’s just maintenance. When something gets worn out or stops fitting you well, you replace it. At the change of a season, swap out seasonally inappropriate items. Something isn’t working the way you thought? Change it!
After I made my first capsule wardrobe in the spring, there were a couple of items I NEVER wore. I donated those and now my spring capsule is even more pared down!
After wearing my summer capsule, there were some items that didn’t go with enough of my other clothes. I plan to replace them with more versatile clothing next summer.
So, you learn and make changes as you go. You might be like me and find that your wardrobe could be even smaller and not feel restrictive. Or, you might find that you got bored with what your wardrobe and would like to have more variety. If that’s the case, you might have a higher number of clothing items than me.
And that’s a-okay.
Find out more about capsule wardrobes in these posts:
How to easily pack light for a trip
How to create a capsule for kids
Capsule wardrobe for girls
Outfits from my fall capsule
How to find quality clothing and where to shop
How to find your style
How to maintain your capsule wardrobe
Fall 10×10 style challenge
Does having a capsule wardrobe sound appealing to you? If so, what holds you back? Share with us in the comments!
Theresa Bedford is a syndicated freelance home and travel writer with regular contributions to the Associated Press wire and MSN. She helps everyday people love the life they have through simplicity, organization, and prioritization.
Thank you for this post. I really need a step by step of how to do this. I like too many things but I like the simplicity and ease of not having to plan outfits.
I’m so glad that you found it helpful! Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you.
This is a great idea. I actually think I have something like a capsule wardrobe without even knowing it. I don’t have a whole lot of space living in a 1-bedroom apartment so it’s necessary to pair down. It’s much easier to find clothing that goes together with a smaller wardrobe, too. Great post!
Yes! Capsule wardrobes aren’t just for hardcore minimalists! I’m so glad you found it to be useful to have a smaller wardrobe in a smaller apartment. So many benefits!
I’ve always loved the idea of a capsule wardrobe but have been so intimidated to try it. I love the idea of working with the colors you love, laying a foundation with the pieces you already own and editing from there. While I don’t want to get overambitious and say that I will ever pare down that much, I think this will change the way I approach my wardrobe from now on.
Thanks for reading, Meaghan! Even just being more intentional about what you purchase can make a big difference. 🙂
Lightbulb moment! I’m going to look into this. It’s actually a concept I use when traveling that I should just adopt as the norm! Thanks!
That’s so true that most of us already do this when we pack up to go somewhere. We put our outfits together ahead of time to make the most out of what we decide to bring. Great application!
Amazing ideas. It’s good to have a capsule wardrobe to avoid all the confusion
I agree, Zahra. I’ve always been overwhelmed by a large wardrobe that is unorganized and mismatched!
I love the idea of a capsule wardrobe, but I can’t seem to let go of my old stuff! *sigh* maybe someday
Haha! You’re definitely not alone. I’ve found that it’s harder for me to get rid of sentimental things, but things that just don’t fit or look good on me anymore…they have to go!
Love love love this article. I would consider what I have a capsule wardrobe but there are items that probably could do with throwing out or donating. I recently overhauled my wardrobe and I can tell you it made my house so much lighter. I also do laundry more often, but in smaller doses. Best thing ever! My base colours are black, white, grey and brown. I do have some navy items as well. My shoes are all black or various shades of tan. These go with everything. My inner pieces look similiar to your chart. I have a few patterns for inside as well.
That’s great! I agree, the house feels lighter, and there’s less laundry to do! I do a load every day, but it’s quick and painless.
Great guide! A capsule wardrobe has been on my to-do list for ages. Need to get moving!
Thanks, Stephanie! Good luck creating your first capsule wardrobe. Let me know if you need any additional guidance. 🙂
Great post! I would so need to create a capsule wardrobe, my actual wardrobe is quite messy right now 🙂 Thanks for the tips!
Let me know if you decide to give capsule wardrobes a try, Jessica! I’m happy to help guide you if you need it. 🙂
Love your article! I set up a capsule wardrobe for this winter, I cleansed my wardrobe and did all the right things. Just not clicking well for me but I think most of the things in my wardrobe I didn’t love to begin with. I had no problem when I was working but now I’m retired and in my seventies and I’m struggling to find my style. Any suggestions?
Thanks, Patricia! It is hard if you don’t like what is already in your closet. You hit the nail on the head when you said you are struggling to find your style. Here’s my suggestion, but you may have already done this: think about what you keep wearing over and over again and why. For me, I have one outfit that I wore all the time when I didn’t know what else to wear. When I really thought about it, I liked it because I was comfortable in it and because I liked the colors (they weren’t too bright…I don’t like to stand out- Ha ha!) Knowing this helped me select new pieces that fit in that style. Another thing you could do is start a Pinterest board and pin any outfits your find that you would like to try to that board. Sometimes when you do this, certain similarities will start to stand out. Say, you may realize you have a more feminine style because you chose a lot of outfits using lace or floral patterns. Hope this helps! Let me know if you need any more help with this. 😊
I am in desperate need of new clothes post baby and back to a consistent weight. I’m thinking of a capsule wardrobe but struggle with which stores offer quality clothing. Most of my shopping is done online. Any tips on your fav stores for casual, lounge and business casual wear?
I recently asked this in my Facebook group, Simple Living Gals, because I am actually new to buying higher-quality clothing. 😉 Here are some suggestions they had: Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, TJ Max, ModCloth, The Loft, Athleta, Banana Republic, Sam Edelman, TOMs, and Jane.com (there’s also an app). Hope this helps!
This is a great post and I keep re-reading it when the season is changing, as it requires quite some shuffeling of clothes. I re-did the color selection by hanging similar colors next to each other. Now I wonder what would be the best way to organise my wardrobe. Keep colors togeter (trousers next to shirts that have the same color) or sort them according to category (trousers with trousers but different colors). I‘d love to hear your view in this! Thanks, Angie
I love everything about this article. Thanks for the perspective.
Wow, I really thought I had a capsule wardrobe but after reading this I realize that I really don’t. I have wayyyyyy too many t-shirts but really only wear 4 all the time. Time to get it done once and for all. This motivated me. It’s a good step by step. Thank you for posting.
Thanks so much for stopping by Jackie. I’m so happy it helped!