Have you ever stood in front of your closet and thought “I have nothing to wear,” even though your wardrobe is actually full? A capsule wardrobe could definitely be the answer.
In this article, you will find out everything you need to know about how to create a capsule wardrobe (or wardrobes depending on your lifestyle!)
Why is there so much hype about capsule wardrobes?
In these times of fast fashion, it could be easy to jam-pack your closets with dozens, if not hundreds, of items you don’t actually wear very much.
But what if you could do a lot more with fewer clothes?
That’s possible with a well-thought of capsule wardrobe. You have fewer pieces but a lot more options for outfits.
If you want to make sure that you stick to your clothing budget as well as spending less time putting together outfits which then don’t quite work, a capsule wardrobe could definitely be for you.
Read our article about outfit ideas: how to get inspiration for your next outfit.
So, exactly what is a capsule wardrobe?
Quite simply, a capsule closet is a a limited number of clothes, shoes and accessories, which all go together, making getting dressed a breeze. Read on for an example of a capsule wardrobe for the natural style personality.
The term “capsule wardrobe” has been around since the 70s when London boutique owner Susie Faux is said to have coined the phrase as part of her bid to help women invest in key pieces that all worked with each other.
Designer Donna Karen then released a collection of 7 items of work wear, all designed to go together and make the working week easy, before the idea regained popularity again among women keen to do more with less.
All different kinds of capsule wardrobes
At 40+style we like to create a capsule wardrobe for occasions, colors, personality styles and body type. Here are just a few of the capsule wardrobes we have created.
Seasonal capsule wardrobes
You could choose to create a new capsule each season. This is a great way to rethink what you have in your closet, and to create space in your closet by packing away the items you don’t need that particular season. Below, is an example of a spring capsule.
Capsule wardrobes for your body shape
It’s always important to think about your body shape when putting together any outfit or capsule.
Capsule wardrobes focused around certain colors
Do you have a color you love to wear? You could create a capsule around it.
Capsule wardrobes for certain occasions & activities
If you are taking a trip, then thinking about a capsule is a great way to ensure you have plenty of outfits to wear, because you will be able to mix and match everything you pack.
- Travel capsule
- Airport outfits
- Activewear capsule
- Weekend outfits capsule wardrobe
- Visiting a winery
Capsule wardrobe built around a favorite piece of clothing
Try taking one item out of your closet, and then create a capsule around it.
- Skinny jeans capsule
- Flared jeans capsule
- Wide leg pants outfits
- Cropped and capris pants outfits
- Black skirt capsule
- Plaid pants outfits
Capsule wardrobes for different style personalities
- Natural style personality
- Classic style personality
- Minimal style personality
- Architectural style personality
- Romantic style personality
- Glamorous style personality
- Trendy style personality
- Urban/Street style personality
- Eurochic style personality
- Bohemian style personality
- Rock style personality
- Preppy style personality
How many items should you have in your general capsule?
This varies from woman to woman, so I can’t answer this one for you. There has been plenty of advice offered about how you should only have 30 or 37 items in your closet, for example.
However, I would define a capsule differently. I think it’s about making sure that you wear everything within your closet, and it’s definitely hard to do that if nothing goes together or you have 500 items in there.
So, whether you have 30 or 60 or 120 items is up to you. Just make sure you love everything you own and you wear it.
Sheree @shesheshow above shows how you could start with wardrobe essentials like wide jeans and a moto jacket, and change the look of your outfit with your accessories.
Check out this similar shirt, moto jacket, wide leg jeans, sandals, handbag, earrings, scarf and belt.
Do you only need one capsule wardrobe?
Again, this comes down to you and your lifestyle. You may find that you are happy with one overall capsule wardrobe.
Or, it could be that what works for you is to have one casual capsule, for example, and then one capsule wardrobe for work or more formal wear.
Depending on where you live and what the weather is like, you may want to think about creating your capsule wardrobe for the seasons.
I also find that when I’m able to travel, it is useful to create a mini travel capsule wardrobe for my trip so I know that I can create plenty of outfits for the time period I’ll be away from home.
You can also have a capsule wardrobe around a certain color like red (see below).
The benefits of a capsule wardrobe
“Capsule wardrobe” isn’t just some trendy term to be bandied about. It can have so many benefits, and not just for your style. Here are the main advantages to creating a capsule, or capsules:
- You will save money as you won’t impulse buy
- You will wear everything you own
- You will be able to get dressed quickly
- Your closet will be neat
- You will have fewer items, but more outfits
Tips on how to build a capsule wardrobe
Now that you’re thinking about how a capsule wardrobe may work for you, let’s look at what to put in your capsule…
Capsule wardrobe essentials: Start with your basic wardrobe
That doesn’t mean that your basics have to be basic. However, just like a house, a good capsule wardrobe starts with good foundations.
So, think about the essentials you need in your closet for your lifestyle.
You can then build your capsule wardrobe around these.
For example, if you make sure you have a great pair of jeans that fits perfectly, a classic pair of black pants and a pair of white pants, these will go with so many of your tops.
But that doesn’t mean that your capsule wardrobe has to consist of “boring” items just to make sure that it all works together. For instance, if you choose a white shirt, you can make sure it is a special white shirt in a silk fabric, or one which features interesting asymmetry.
Tanasha @letsrecreatethelook above wears a palette of brown and white. You could easily change the look of your outfit by adding a color like red or orange.
Recreate her outfit with this similar dress, blazer, ankle strap sandals and handbag.
Your capsule collection: Look at what you have already
It can be tempting to think that you have to clear out your entire closet, and then replace it all with a capsule wardrobe of 60 items.
However, that isn’t the case at all. Start with what you already have. Have a closet clear out and make sure that everything you have is something that you love, that you wear and that fits properly.
From there, you can work out any gaps you have in your closet. Make sure that every piece in your closet can be worn with at least 3 other pieces so you don’t create wardrobe orphans (pieces that cannot be worn with any other item in your closet).
Take a look at how to edit your closet and also how to find lots of new outfit ideas by rearranging your closet.
For example, you’re likely to have a black dress in your closet. Include it in your capsule and change the look with your shoes and accessories.
COS Double-Breasted Trench Coat – Fraiche by J Long Sleeve Faux Wrap Dress – Linea Paolo Bilson Pointed Toe Pump – Michael Kors Small Saffiano Leather Convertible Crossbody Bag – Arket Chunky Gold-Plated Chain Necklace – Arket Small Gold-Plated Hoop Earrings
Use at least 4 colors for your capsule clothing but preferably more
While the idea of a capsule wardrobe is that everything goes with everything else, that does not mean you have to stick to neutrals.
In fact, if you only use a neutral color palette, you may soon tire of your capsule wardrobe.
Instead, choose a color scheme in the same way that you would for your home. Opt for a base of two or three neutrals, but then you can add in plenty of accent colors.
Remember, your clothes have to match with only 3 other pieces in your closet. Unless you opt for an ultra small capsule wardrobe, they don’t need to match with everything. So don’t limit yourself too much on the colors.
If you do want to keep your capsule as minimal as possible the beauty of having your base colors is that when you do become bored with your accent colors, you can always swap your colors around at a later date.
Or, you can do the opposite and keep your colors, but change the neutrals you are using.
Take a look at this article on the ultimate checklist of 28 essentials.
Josephine @chicatanyage above (read her style interview here) wears her moto jacket with a satin skirt and sneakers.
Steal her look with this similar top, moto jacket, skirt, sneakers and necklace.
Pattern and print in your staple wardrobe
Quite often women who limit their wardrobe and create capsules avoid print.
But that can lead to a boring wardrobe and make your outfits a little bit one-dimensional.
Instead, I encourage you to choose at least a few prints. Again remember, they don’t have to match with all your clothes, just 3 other items.
By sticking to patterns and prints in your color selection, your clothing will still be interchangeable, yet you will add interest.
Mavi Jeans Denim Trucker Jacket – FRAME Ruffle Silk Blouse – Karen Kane Bias Cut Tie Dye Midi Skirt – Sam Edelman Ethyl Low Top Sneaker – Arket Leather Crossbody Bag – Arket Small Gold-Plated Hoop Earrings
Start with your bottoms for your capsule closet
The easiest way to start your capsule wardrobe is from the bottom up.
You can begin with jeans or pants and then add interesting tops, dresses and jackets.
For more inspiration check out our article on what shoes to wear with different styles of pants.
Don’t forget your style personality
There can be a perception that a capsule wardrobe means a classic style. And, of course, that can be the case.
But, that is not what a capsule closet is about. A capsule should work for you, no matter what your own individual style personality.
Make sure to take the style personality quiz and you will get your personal capsule wardrobe recommendation with one capsule handpicked for you!
Capsule wardrobe planner: A capsule wardrobe example
I think the easiest way to describe putting together a capsule wardrobe, is to create an example capsule for you.
In this example, I’m imagining you dress in a smart casual way most of the time. But, of course, this can be adapted according to your lifestyle.
As many of you will still be in winter, I’ve opted for a combination of winter and spring items so you can use this capsule as the temperature starts to warm up, but you could easily adapt this capsule for any weather.
Capsule wardrobe pants
When showing you a capsule, you will usually find that I show you the tops first, simply because, well, they go on the top.
But, here I’m going to start with the bottoms because this is where I would usually start with my own capsule closet.
If you have good, well-fitting jeans as well as a pair of black pants and a pair of white pants, these will go with all of the tops in your closet, making it easy to create a capsule.
Of course, you don’t have to keep everything in plain, block colors. You can add a pair of print pants. You will still find that print pants can go with other prints in your closet as well as block color tops.
For this capsule, I’ve opted for dark jeans, white pants, a pair of wide pants and a pair of coated jeans, which will add a little edge to your outfits.
AG The Farrah High Waist Skinny Jeans – PAIGE Manhattan High Waist Coated Bootcut Jeans – Arket Kick Flare Jersey Trousers – Arket Wide-Leg Satin Trousers
Susan @susan_unefemme above (read her style interview here) pairs her jeans with a blazer for a classic look.
Get her look with this similar blouse, blazer, jeans, mules, necklace and sunglasses.
Capsule wardrobe tops
Now to move onto tops. And this is where I’ve started to add some prints to my capsule. I’ve stuck to a palette of neutrals and created interest with the structure of the tops.
I’ve started to add some flattering shapes here with draped tops that would be perfect for hiding a belly, as well as a silk top for an element of luxury.
Everlane The Drapey Square Shirt – Arket Relaxed Poplin Shirt – FRAME Ruffle Silk Blouse – Ming Wang Draped Mock Neck Crepe Blouse
You could pair the silk shirt with the leather pants for an interesting mixture of textures.
Cinq à Sept Khloe Ruched Sleeve Blazer – Ming Wang Draped Mock Neck Crepe Blouse – PAIGE Manhattan High Waist Coated Bootcut Jeans – Arket Stretch-Leather Sock Boots – Arket Leather Crossbody Bag – SWAROVSKI Generation Crystal Linear Drop Clip-On Earrings
Capsule wardrobe jackets and coats
You will also need to think about the outerwear for your capsule. Here, I’ve added four of the most versatile styles for your closet, including a wool coat, blazer, moto jacket and a denim jacket that will be ideal when the weather warms up.
I love a moto jacket as these can instantly alter the mood of an outfit to give a more casual feel. You don’t have to stick to black, you could choose a more vibrant color or a paler neutral.
Cinq à Sept Khloe Ruched Sleeve Blazer – Mavi Jeans Denim Trucker Jacket – Madewell Oversized Shearling Motorcycle Jacket – COS Double-Breasted Trench Coat
Natalia @odin.stylish.me above opts for a timeless red dress and long coat, and adds on-trend elements with her chunky necklace and zipped boots.
Check out this similar dress, coat, booties, handbag, necklace, earrings and sunglasses.
Capsule wardrobe dresses and skirts
The skirts and dresses you choose can also provide versatile options to ensure that you can put together many, many outfits.
For example, you could wear your wrap dress over your pants. Or you can wear a print skirt formally with a blazer and shirt, or casually with a moto jacket and t-shirt.
Karen Kane Cascade Faux Wrap Dress – Fraiche by J Long Sleeve Faux Wrap Dress – Kate Kasin Pencil Skirt – Karen Kane Bias Cut Tie Dye Midi Skirt
Madewell Oversized Shearling Motorcycle Jacket – Fraiche by J Long Sleeve Faux Wrap Dress – Club Monaco Joanie Leather Boots – Arket Leather Crossbody Bag – Arket Small Gold-Plated Hoop Earrings
Capsule wardrobe shoes and boots
When it comes to choosing the shoes and boots which will work for you, think about your lifestyle as well as what you are most happy to wear.
For example, there is no point in filling your closet with heels that look fantastic on the shelf if you find them too uncomfortable to wear.
As a general guideline, I would say that a pair of sneakers, some sandals or heels, booties and a pair of longer boots will see you through most days.
Linea Paolo Bilson Pointed Toe Pump – Arket Stretch-Leather Sock Boots – Club Monaco Joanie Leather Boots – Sam Edelman Ethyl Low Top Sneaker
Abi @stealmystyle40 above chooses a color palette of black, white and yellow.
Check out this similar shirt, vest, coat, jeans, booties, tote, earrings and sunglasses.
Capsule wardrobe accessories
Your accessories can really make or break your outfits, and your capsule wardrobe concept.
They can also enable you to change up your capsule when you feel that you are tiring of your outfits.
If you have a palette of neutrals in your closet, then simply adding new colors with your accessories can give your outfits a completely different look.
Arket Leather Crossbody Bag – Michael Kors Small Saffiano Leather Convertible Crossbody Bag – Arket Chunky Gold-Plated Chain Necklace – Arket Small Gold-Plated Hoop Earrings – BaubleStar Natural Crystal Drop Dangle Earrings – SWAROVSKI Generation Crystal Linear Drop Clip-On Earrings
For example, you could wear your neutrals with red.
COS Double-Breasted Trench Coat – Everlane The Drapey Square Shirt – Kate Kasin Pencil Skirt – Sam Edelman Ethyl Low Top Sneaker – Michael Kors Small Saffiano Leather Convertible Crossbody Bag – BaubleStar Natural Crystal Drop Dangle Earrings
Reminders on your capsule wardrobe checklist
I hope this article has inspired you to create a capsule of your own. Here are some points to remember to tick off on your capsule wardrobe list before you add any new item to your closet:
- Does it go with at least 3 other items that I already own?
- How many outfits can I create if I add this to my closet?
- Does this tie in with my own personal style?
- Very importantly, does it fit properly?
- Does it suit my lifestyle?
Now, to put together all of the clothes, shoes and accessories from the capsule wardrobe above.
You can wear these in countless different ways, but below are 9 outfits to get you started.
shop the items above here:
Your capsule wardrobe put together
You can see the clothes, shoes and accessories from above together in one capsule. You can easily switch around the options to create plenty of different outfits. For example, the striped shirt would look good with the leather pants, you could add the denim jacket to the white pants for a summer look, or you could put together an outfit using pale neutrals with the moto jacket, white top and white pants.
Earlier capsule wardrobes we created
Below are previous season capsules. These clothes are no longer available, but these outfits should still give you some ideas for putting outfits together from your own wardrobe.
Do you already have a capsule wardrobe? Or is a capsule closet something you are hoping to create? I’d love to hear your own thoughts and tips
- Outfit Ideas: How To Get Inspiration For Your Next Outfit When You’re Bored With Everything In Your Closet
- How To Do More With Less – Or Why It’s Ok To Wear The Same Outfit Multiple Times
- A Capsule Wardrobe For The Classic Style Personality
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Feature image by Susan @susan_unefemme
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I love the capsule concept and truthfully have lived it for many years. I just continue to struggle with pieces that I don’t use, but continue to keep. I did use the Covid time positively with no shopping at all and making outfits from what I already had. Wow! I feel empowered, lighter in my closet clutter, and appreciate my style more than I did before. I am grateful to 40+ Style, even though I’m much older.
Awesome website, Sylvia!
Your style quiz hit my style right on the head (Rock and Roll)!
Cool pieces, many of which I already own, are featured; giving me more alternatives on how to hook them together.
Far from being boring, matronly or “old lady”, your models are realistic and attractive.
Your capsule wardrobe advice is great! It helped me take a good look through my clothes; I donated items that were no longer relevant, and now I can be ready to go in minutes!
Great article Sylvia! One technique that has helped me create my capsules is to arrange my clothes by color, not clothing type.
When I see all the colors together, somehow it makes it easier to pick and choose coordinating combos.
Absolutely love these casual wardrobes they are so easy to understand thank you.
I keep casual wardrobes for seasons living in the UK but I like to keep a capsule wardrobe for more expensive dressier clothes for going out to restaurants and holiday some help with this would be brilliant I tend to have too much put to one side in this particular capsule, so help on how many items to keep for best would help thanks Jackie
Love the navy choices. I cant wear black so navy is my neutral but not always easy to find so I jump when I do. Thanks for the ideas – I haven’t been able to ‘capsule’ yet but hope springs eternal!
Hi Sylvia- I love your website! So much information and inspiration. Thank you!
I’m wondering if there is a program you could suggest for making a photo representation of the capsul wardrobe? Thanks much!
Thanks for the kind words Christine. A lot of my style students love the Style book app https://www.stylebookapp.com/
I know I have too many clothes. I don’t mind that but need to think about what goes together better.
Whatever works for you is perfect. So long as you’re not overwhelmed with your wardrobe and can create outfits easily 🙂
Thanks so much for these great tips! I’ve just done a major closet clean out and hope to start putting together capsule wardrobes for the future. I’ll likely have to do mine by season, but there will be some overlap. It’s great to see prints and colors in a capsule!
You’re very welcome 🙂 Yes if you have clear seasons that’s a great idea. It’s good to have only the clothes in your main closet that you actually will be able to wear.
Love these examples. Too often capsule wardrobe ideas are boring—same striped top, trench coat, tote bag, jeans, etc. I want pieces that are versatile yet have some detailing that make them rise above basic.
Exactly and I like to break the myth that capsules have to be centered around just a few basic colors. The key to a successful (capsule) wardrobe is variety 🙂