How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe You Don’t Hate
So, you’ve stumbled into the deep dark recesses of Pinterest and discovered the Capsule Wardrobe. How to do one without selling your soul to the minimalists, you ask?
I’ve got you. Capsules shouldn’t be about downsizing for the sake of downsizing or reaching a certain number. You’ve got to make your closet work for you, whatever it takes. I started my capsule wardrobe almost four years ago, and I have been through a lot of trial and error and trying to match myself up to the beautifully curated photoshop collages of only 37 pieces of clothing!
It sucked, and that’s not what I want to show you. I want to show you the right way, for you, to make a capsule wardrobe and be done done doneeee with hating your closet.
What not to Expect
I’m not going to tell you exactly what you should be buying. There won’t be a pretty little chart at the end where I chose on-trend clothes at the highest of prices and matched them up for you in the hottest outfits, because they’re all just soooo versatile. Cue the eye roll. While I do have some fabulous and affordable posts like that, that’s the kind of thing you look at after you’ve been in this capsule game for the while. You gotta be a seasoned closet connoisseur.
I’m not going to give you a list of the items EVERYONE needs in their closet. Maybe you’re truly a spy and you need a trench coat to look chic, but personally I have no use for the “classic” trench. I wear jeans almost constantly, so lists that say I need X amount of trousers get chucked out the window.
I won’t tell you that you can only have 37 pieces including shoes, accessories, your children, and your furniture in your capsule! Your capsule can be as small or as large as you want it, as long as it’s the right amount for you. Trust me, you’ll know what your right number is.
Finally, I’m not going to preach to the choir. You’re probably here because you want to make your life and your closet just a bit simpler, but you should know before you start this that no special capsule wardrobe method can turn your life around. Sure, it might turn your closet around, but don’t expect immediate changes. In fact, your first capsule is probably going to be one of your worst, but trust me. It gets WAYYYY better.
What you will find
My step by step method to making a capsule wardrobe. There’s a lotta insanity out there about this topic, and I don’t want you get sucked in. My method works for me and eliminates the fluff, but you can certainly tweak it for you.
How I define a capsule wardrobe
Why you might want to build one
Why should I build a Capsule Wardrobe?
Remember those fun quizzes in Teen vogue that tell you if your style is on point or if your boyfriend is probably going to break up with you tomorrow because you don’t like to French kiss? Yeah, let’s do one of those.
Give yourself 1 point for each statement you answer with YES
I spend way too much money on clothes each month.
I have a ton of clothes but “nothing to wear”.
I don’t have enough clothes and always reach for the same old things.
I have great clothes, but I always wear whatever is clean/comfy.
All I have in my closet are “statement pieces”.
I want to look more put together and have a cohesive style.
I buy things mostly because they’re on sale, duh.
I spend way too much time picking out outfits.
Cool, so your boyfriend is breaking up with you. Kidding! If you gave yourself 1 point or more (probably more), then you might want to try a capsule wardrobe!
Notice I said TRY. That’s all. Some people hate it, others go gaga for it. This isn’t something you have to stick with for the rest of your life, pinky promise. But, it is well worth a try.
This is you no more!
How to Build your Capsule Wardrobe
Not up for reading my steps? Okayyyy, well you’re missing out, but I understand we’re all short on time. In a nutshell:
Clean Out Your Closet
See What’s Left & Curate
Make a Color Palette
Find Your Go-To Brands
Find the Gaps
Fill in the Gaps
clean out first (linke to purge article) make sure not to get rid of everyhting fun. capsules don’t have to be basic!
Step 1 | Cleaning Out
You’ve gotta get rid of allll the shiz clogging up your closet that isn’t even your style, it’s all stained or ripped, doesn’t fit you anymore (for better or worse), or is your old prom dress. Styles come back around again, but let’s pray 90s and 2000s prom dresses never do.
If you really do have some great sentimental clothing, keep it! Just not in your capsule wardrobe. Display it, store it, something, but it doesn’t belong in your normal day to day wear.
If you’re really feeling it or struggling to figure out what to get rid of, try reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It is essentially going on a closet-cleaning acid trip without the side effects.
Even better? Read my more in depth post just about the best way to clean out your closet. Now THAT is life changing.
Just keep all of the things you love most and feel great in and chuck the rest.
Step 2 | Curate & Assess
Put on your best Instagram hat and curate what’s leftover like you’re the social media manager marketing for an indie brand that promises to revolutionize feminine products.
Not everything you kept belongs in your capsule. Think about how you spend the biggest chunk of your time and you dress during that time. Do you have work clothes that are only for work? Do you work somewhere casual and wear the same thing to work as outside of work? Are you a stay at home mom? Do you go to a lot of fancier events?
Figure out where you spend most of your time and how you dress for that time, and curate based on that. Your capsule might be split between work clothes and weekend clothes, or it could all be casual. Or maybe you just need to be business formal sometimes, so you create a tiny capsule for that time outside of your regular capsule.
As always, make it work for you dahling.
Decide which pieces you want in your capsule. These should be pieces you feel AMAZING in and you wear frequently or can mix and match easily.
Don’t feel like all your pieces need to be basic, either. If you love butterfly printed kimonos, we’ll find a way to make it work in the next steps.
Not every piece has to work together, but there needs to be some amount of cohesion in the pieces you chose. This can be in terms of similar styles or cuts, colors, patterns, etc.
Step 3 | Color Palette
Getcha groove on! Time to add some colorrrrr, or if you’re like me, pick a careful assortment from the neutral rainbow.
Take a look at this example palette.
In all of my color palettes I have four components:
Main Colors (the colors you wear a lot but don’t make up the base/bulk of your closet)
Neutral Colors (this is your base)
Accent Colors (the colors you want just a couple pieces of for fun or to be on trend)
Patterns & Textures (we so often forget the variety that pattern and texture brings to a wardrobe, especially one with limited colors. Neutral lovers, this is for you).
I’ve written wayyyy more about how to dig deep and choose the RIGHT color palette for you, because it’s more than just choosing the prettiest one on Pinterest.
If you can’t see a color palette emerging from the pieces you’ve curated in Step 2, then check out this post on making the most perfect color palette.
Step 4 | Go To Brands
This step is totally optional, but I really recommend you do it.
As my style and my body changes, the places I shop change, also. But, that doesn’t stop me from wandering in to American Eagle and wishing just a little that I could still wear those booty shorts.
To keep myself from wasting time and money on brands I know don’t work for me, I like to make a quick list of the brands that I think fit the style I’m going after and work on my body. So if you’re petite or plus size, you might want to list your favorite brands that carry extended lines and some new ones to try.
Your list should include brands that carry things that are totally your style, but don’t be afraid to add a little “Brands to Try” section that may not look like your style on the face but could be a great accent. Basically, don’t stick yourself in box.
For example, if your style is classic you might have J.Crew, Madewell, Universal Thread, Vetta Capsule, and Banana Republic on your list. And you might stick in Free People and Zara on the “To Try” side.
Step 5 | Find the Gaps
Now that you’ve figured out which pieces from your closet are going into your capsule, you’re bound to start seeing some holes somewhere.
This could be in the form of lack of color, maybe you don’t have enough pants, or you could be lacking in the fancy blouse department.
If you find yourself thinking, “If I just had _____ then I could make so many more outfits”, then that’s a gap! For me, it was black jeans. I wore a ton of jeans, but I only had blue denim. I started to notice that if I had some black denim I could add more variety to my closet.
Step 6 | Fill the Gaps
After you’ve figured out the gaps, now you can fill them!
Word of Caution: Find the gaps before you go shopping. Thinking about black jeans every time you get dressed is the sign of a gap, but only thinking you need black jeans because you saw them on sale is not a gap.
I would highly recommend that you make yourself a checklist as a guide for the things YOU want in your closet.
Not sure what style to fill in your gaps with?
This is the checklist I use for my closet. Notice how I just have item TYPES like “jeans” not specifics like I must own a pair of gray jeans. The boxes represent how many items of each I can have in my wardrobe, and the blue boxes are optional or room for trendy items.
If you want to read more about how I structure my personal capsule wardrobe, you can read about that here.
Check out these examples if you need some help visualizing what capsule wardrobes can look like.
Don’t Talk about Capsule Wardrobe Club. Just kidding, literally tell everyone you know and change their life.
Decide if you want your capsule to have a time frame. Some people choose to go with it as long as they please, others do seasonal wardrobes or year-round wardrobes that they refresh yearly/seasonally.
Figure out your perfect number of pieces…but don’t get upset if you don’t stick to it.
Decide which pieces “count”. Do you want to limit how many accessories you own or shoes or handbags? If so, you might want to include that in your number.
Consider having mini capsules for undergarments, formal events, loungewear, or “getting dirty” clothes. Getting dirty like painting or doing yard work, get your mind out of the gutter 😉
You’re ready to go off and create your very own capsule wardrobe now. I have a ton of resources to help you even more. Personally, I would start with the ones linked in this post, but they’re all useful. And if you have any extra questions? Drop me a line or comment, I’m always near my keyboard for you, friend.