How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

Okay, I’ll admit it: I am a total pack rat when it comes to clothes. I’ve been saving my clothes since high school “just in case” I needed them. Which isn’t that odd, except that I’m so in love with fashion, I’m always buying new clothes. You’d think with all these clothes, I would have no problem putting together cute outfits every day. Yet I find myself faced with girlkind’s age-old predicament: with a full closet and dresser, how can I still have nothing to wear?

Since I usually go shopping for clothes for special occasions, my every day clothes usually get lost in the mix of fancier pieces. Enter: the capsule wardrobe.

Capsule wardrobes are mini-collections of clothes from your own closet that make getting dressed so much easier. Basically, you pull together some cohesive pieces you like, plus stuff you can wear it with, and voila! Getting dressed with a capsule wardrobe is basically like Garanimals for adults; you’ll always look good and it requires almost no effort.

The first step to creating a capsule wardrobe is figuring out what you’re comfortable wearing during the day and what you want your overall style to look like. From there, you can figure out which colors, patterns and silhouettes you want to include. You can pull inspiration from movies, magazines or just the clothes you already have.

Once I’ve decided on my style concept, I like to lay out my outfits’ general color palette. I usually incorporate most of the neutral colors, like white, tan, grey and black, plus a “pop” color or two. My “pop” color has been a bold red for a while now, but some pink has also been sneaking its way into my wardrobe lately.

A capsule wardrobe usually involves a lot of basics because they’re easy to put together, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring! Freshen your collection up with fun pieces and patterns that can be layered and dressed down with the more basic pieces. You can also elevate some of your basics by picking pieces with text or a simple pattern, like stripes.

The main goal of a capsule wardrobe is to collect pieces that will look good together no matter what, e.g. every top will look good with every bottom, every dress will look good with every jacket, etc. Plus, you get bonus points in my book if you can make outfits out of things that wouldn’t traditionally go together, like layering a dress over a shirt or wearing a button-up shirt as a skirt.

For a basic, casual capsule wardrobe, I would start with three T-shirts, one blouse, one pair of jeans per wash (e.g., blue or black), one pair of non-denim pants, one denim skirt, one non-denim skirt, two dresses and one or two jackets. These numbers aren’t hard and fast though; you can decide how many of each category you want based on what you already have, what you’re willing to buy or how much you think you need.

Here’s an example capsule wardrobe I put together on Polyvore:

From this capsule alone, you can make over 30 outfits with different combinations of tops, pants and jackets, plus the dresses. If you stick to something like this but find yourself bored after a month or so, you can follow a similar formula and just switch out the more detailed pieces.

Don’t forget that capsule wardrobes are not meant to be all-inclusive in terms of occasion. You can have multiple capsules for different sartorial needs and seasons, like day-to-day casual, work wear or simply going out.

Capsule wardrobes are a great way to take the stress out of getting dressed; you’ll be able to look at your closet every morning and put an outfit together in five minutes. With these tips, dressing fashionably won’t be chore anymore, but a fun and expressive activity you’ll look forward to every day!