folded jeans, folded white tee and a boot are laying on a plain white background
Photo: Sarah Dorweiler

Fashion is not my profession. I have a long history of a love-hate relationship with every little piece from my wardrobe. Of course, sometimes I stumble upon one or two pieces that will look decent on me. Usually, I wear them nonstop, until the very first hole. But, most of the pieces in my wardrobe aren't my cup of tea. What was I even thinking when I bought them? I have no idea! 

To break the wheel of my unfortunate fashion decisions, I've decided to seek some serious fashion help in the depth of the Internet and came upon a peculiar fashion term ‒ capsule wardrobe. What is a capsule wardrobe, how to build your personalized capsule wardrobe, and how to end the budget-breaking habit of wasting money on clothing you'll never wear? If you, like me, need an answer to these fashion questions, then you are in the right place! 

capsule wardrobe jackets ona rack
Photo: Amanda Vick

What is the Capsule Wardrobe?

The concept of a capsule wardrobe was created in the '70s by Susie Faux, an owner of the London-based fashion boutique. She developed an idea of a small and versatile clothing collection, where every piece goes well with another piece from the collection. A capsule wardrobe never goes out of fashion, because it consists of fashion staples that are beyond the time and trend, which you personalize according to your own wishes and fashion preferences.

The capsule wardrobe is closely related to a minimalist lifestyle. It should not include any unnecessary fashion items, consisting only of high-quality essential pieces, which you will use at all times and occasions. So, if you are on the road to smart consumption or simply desire to reduce your shopping addiction, then a capsule wardrobe is a good way to start the journey.

capsule black dress on a rack
Photo: Henry & Co.

Now, that we understand the basic idea behind the concept, it is time to find out how to build your very own collection of clothing essentials. But, most importantly, where to start your fashion hunt for those must-have clothing essentials. Here are a few points and leading questions, which are going to help you understand your basic wardrobe needs.

  • Know your style. What do you love to wear? What makes you feel confident and elegant. 

The first thing you should take into consideration is your style and view of fashion. You can't build a multi-functional capsule wardrobe if the chosen pieces don't create a wholesome symphony. Settle your style according to the previously worn items. For example, if you wear a pair of jeans with sneakers daily, and don't even look at that pair of high heels, which collects dust on one of your shelves, then you might land on an athleisure style. And another way round, if you can't imagine your life without a dress and heels, then you might be loving chic fashion style. Remember, Coco Chanel, used to say that fashion changes, but style endures. It is hard to catch up with the fast-fashion trends, but you can always rock your style.

  • Choose quality over quantity. How long will each piece last? What material is it made with?

One of the most important things for the capsule wardrobe is the quality of the piece. You are going to wear every item frequently, so make sure to pick good-quality brands and materials. Minimize synthetics in your capsule wardrobe. Instead opt for natural compositions such as linen, cotton, wool, and silk. It is better to buy fewer items with better quality than stuff your wardrobe with junk.

Of course, there is no need to break your budget on one T-shirt or jeans. You can find everything you need even in mass-market clothing stores. If you aren't sure, if the quality of the material and cut is great, you can practice your skills in the high-end store. Go to the store with luxury brands and feel the fabrics. Look how they drape, wrinkle, and stretch. Now you are ready to use your skills in practice!

man and woman wearing white t-shirts and jeans
Photo: Force Majeure
  • Color is the key. What are your favorite colors? Are they easy to combine? 

I know it might sound too obvious, but colors are crucial for the capsule wardrobe. Ignore them, and you might end up with a bunch of beautiful clothing, which does not correspond with each other. The easiest way to learn how to combine colors is to start with neutrals. Black, white, and nude are going to be your best fashion friends in the beginning. Later, you can start incorporating your favorite colors and the colors that complement your look.

  • The less is more. Are you going to wear this item frequently? Does it fit with the rest of the wardrobe?

The next capsule wardrobe rule is one of the hardest to follow, especially for fashionholics and shopping enthusiasts. With so many different trends and styles, rising every new season, it is hard to focus your attention only on the must-have clothes. But you have to stick to your plan and don't buy any pieces, even if you want them very much.

Download a fashion app, which will help you to create your capsule wardrobe list and keep all of the items organized. Add pictures of the styles, color palettes, and wishlist with the necessary pieces and strictly follow the list. Such apps are going to help you stay on track with zero fashion relapse.

capsule wardrobe outfit: white t-shirt and jeans

  • Back to basics. Is this item versatile and color-neutral?

Basic clothes are the fundamental pieces that serve as a 'base' for any outfit you are going to build upon it. Basic means plain, simple, and versatile, both in color and cut. This clothing will never go out of style, catering to your fashion needs throughout your life. Fortunately, nearly every brand and store has a dedicated category for essential clothing, making it easier to find such pieces without much difficulty.

Give attention to the simplest, color-neutral items. For instance, distressed pink jeans, covered with glitter and rhinestone aren't going to fit your capsule wardrobe concept. While classic straight or skinny denim-colored jeans perfectly go with the basic white tee, button-up shirt, sneakers, heels, and a bunch of other items from the list.

What Colors to Choose for Capsule Wardrobe?

Neutral colors for a capsule wardrobe typically consist of versatile shades that can be easily mixed and matched with other colors. Here are some commonly considered neutral colors for a capsule wardrobe:

Black: A classic neutral color that pairs well with almost anything and can be dressed up or down.

White: Clean and crisp, white is a versatile neutral that can be used as a base or to create contrast in an outfit.

Gray: A versatile and understated color that works well as a neutral base or as an accent.

Navy: A dark blue shade that provides a sophisticated alternative to black and pairs well with many colors.

Beige/Tan: Earthy tones like beige and tan offer a warm and natural neutral option that goes well with a variety of colors.

Cream: A softer alternative to white, cream adds warmth and sophistication to a capsule wardrobe.

Olive Green: A muted green shade that works well as a neutral and can add a touch of color to your outfits.

fashion collage with a few capsule wardrobe clothing essentials

Capsule Wardrobe Essentials Everyone Should Have

After you came up with the notion of how your capsule wardrobe should look and feel, you can start forming its structure. Start with the main items and slowly build up the whole wardrobe around them. Of course, the ideal capsule wardrobe consists of a limited amount of pieces. But, if you feel like it restricts your fashion imagination at the moment, you can increase the allowed quantity.

Here is what my current ideal capsule wardrobe looks like, though I'm still working on the quality of the pieces and their amount. As you can see, there are 13 items at the moment, they are primarily black and white, but I plan to re-think the color scheme in the future by adding dark burgundy and brown pieces.

1. The black tank top;
2. The button-up white shirt;
3. The skinny black jeans;
4. The high-waisted mom jeans;
5. The faux leather jacket;
6. The chunky knit sweater;
7. The white V-neck t-shirt;
8. The knee-length pencil skirt;
9. The nude pumps;
10. The white sneakers;
11. The chunky ankle boots;
12. The little black dress;
13. The black long-sleeved cardigan.

Capsule Wardrobe vs. Regular Wardrobe

The essential difference between a capsule wardrobe and a regular wardrobe lies in the mindset and approach to fashion. A capsule wardrobe encourages intentional and mindful consumption, focusing on quality over quantity, while a regular wardrobe may prioritize trends and a bigger assortment of options. Ultimately, the choice between the two depends on your individual style preferences, lifestyle, and sustainability goals.

While a capsule wardrobe is a curated collection of essential and versatile pieces, a regular wardrobe is a more traditional approach to clothing, where the emphasis may be on a larger quantity of items that cater to a broader range of styles and occasions. The goal of a capsule wardrobe is to streamline your closet, reduce decision fatigue, and promote sustainable fashion choices. On the other hand, a regular wardrobe approach may have a broader selection of trendy pieces, statement items, and seasonal garments. 

Let's wrap up...

Of course, every piece in your capsule wardrobe may vary, depending on your taste, style, and occasion, yet they will cover all your fashion needs. You can upgrade them every new season, according to your weather needs and other preferences. Hopefully, this little guide is going to help you build your first capsule wardrobe. Do you have any other tips on gathering the must-have wardrobe pieces? Please, share them in the comment section below. I can't wait to hear your ideas!

Lots of love,