Capsule Wardrobes

Capsule wardrobes are wildly popular these days, and with good reason. Originally a niche practice, the term “capsule wardrobe” was first coined by fashion icon and London West End boutique owner Susie Faux in the 1970s. The idea became popularized in 1985 with American designer Donna Karan’s collection of "Seven Easy Pieces," and has now entered the spotlight due to the popularity of Marie Kondo’s decluttering style. 

How many of us have open a closet stuffed full of clothing and complained about having nothing to wear? We often get decision fatigue over choosing what to wear because we have too many items of clothing. Fast fashion and consumerist culture have convinced us to buy more than we really need, with the end result that most clothing is barely worn before it ends up in landfills and generates pollution. 

This is where slow fashion, in particular capsule wardrobes, can help save the day. 

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few practical and versatile items of clothing that can be put together to create an entire wardrobe of many outfits. The essential items should all be timeless and classic so they can be worn for years on end, as well as interchangeable and complimentary to maximize the number of possible outfits. These key staples can then be augmented with seasonal pieces for variety. The main idea is to have outfits suitable for any occasion, without owning excessive amounts of clothing. 

An example capsule wardrobe for a woman might look something like this:

  • 1-5 shirts, including a button-down shirt, a t-shirt, and blouse
  • 1-2 knit sweaters
  • 2-3 pants, including jeans, slacks, and leggings
  • 1 dress or skirt
  • 1 blazer
  • 1 coat
  • 2-3 pairs of shoes, including boots, sneakers, and heels
  • 1-2 bags, including a purse and a tote bag
minimalist wardrobe

Building your own Capsule Wardrobe

At its core, a capsule wardrobe works by simplifying your wardrobe down to your favorite things that you will rewear again and again. Rather than focusing on trends, your wardrobe should be built around your own personal style. Who are you? What do you like? What clothing makes sense in your life? Shopping with intention will help you develop your own style, one that focuses on quality over quantity, reduces waste, and even saves money in the long run.

Start by pulling everything out of your closet and taking stock. Have you worn it within the last year? Does it fit your daily lifestyle? Does it complement your other clothing? Do you love it? If the answer is no, donate or recycle. 

Don’t just run out and shell out cash for a whole new wardrobe. Instead, replace items as needed, thoughtfully and intentionally, to build out the wardrobe that works for you. Pay attention to what you reach for the most, and if you find you have favorite types of clothing — such as t-shirts or jeans — double down and buy a few extra.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind when choosing clothing for your capsule wardrobe:

  • Choose a color scheme that compliments your complexion. Pick one or two base colors that go with everything, such as neutrals like black, white, grey, or brown, and use these for staples like paints or coats. Then choose one or two accent colors that complement each other, and use these for items like tops or accessories. A thoughtful color scheme means all items will be complementary and interchangeable. 
  • Choose classic shapes and patterns that flatter your body shape. While trendy designs can be used for accents, your staples should have timeless, classic cuts that will never go out of style. And the better you feel in your clothing, the more likely you are to wear it!
  • Choose high quality fabrics. Because a capsule wardrobe contains so few pieces, they get worn a lot, so make sure your items are made to last.

Most importantly, there is no one right way to create a capsule wardrobe. Experiment, get creative, and go with whatever works for you! If you’re not ready to jump in alone, there a number of sites that can help you start out:

  • Project 333 by Courtney Carver encourages you to choose 33 different items to wear in 3-month increments. 
  • The 10x10 Challenge consists of 10 days and 10 items so you can get a quick taste of how a capsule wardrobe works. 
  • Wonder Wardrobe by Daria Andronescu is an online video course that walks you through creating your own personal wardrobe. 


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Header Image: Wikimedia Commons

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