Capsule Wardrobe 101: The Ultimate Guide

Several times a week I stood in front of my closet not knowing what to wear, again… So when I first heard about a capsule wardrobe, I was interested but – to be honest – also a little bit skeptical.

How is it possible that you can always wear something nice with only a limited number of items? And that without getting bored of the items?

Due to my curiosity I decided to look into it more, and now I’m excited about the concept! Capsule wardrobes are becoming more popular and there is a reason for that.

I am not the only one who had this struggle. And besides that there is another important element; people are getting more aware of the sustainability topic.

Although there are already a lot of articles out there on building a capsule wardrobe, I decided to write down the steps I took myself in this guide. Hopefully in that way I can also help you to create a more minimalistic closet.

Capsule wardrobe: black and white fashion items

What is a capsule wardrobe?

Simply said, a capsule wardrobe is a selection of clothes that you can always count on to look great together. These are the items you love and can be combined with each other for a variety of outfits and for any occasion.

While building your capsule wardrobe, you can decide to create one for 3 months (one season), 6 months (spring/summer. autumn/winter), or the whole year.

It differs per person which time period works best, and I believe that the climate you live in has a lot of influence on this. Personally, I prefer the 6-month method, where good basics – such as long pants – stay in my closet for the whole year.

This method does not include underwear, sportswear, pajamas, bags, and other accessories. Of course, you can also take a minimalist approach on these, but you don’t have to keep them in mind while reading the rest of this article.

What is the perfect amount of items?

Some people say that 37 is the perfect number for the amount of items to include in a capsule wardrobe. And that with this number you should be able to make at least 80 outfit combinations.

However, as I said before, not everyone lives in the same climate/conditions, and it can also depend on if you can wear your regular clothes to work or not due to the office rules. So with that in mind, I am convinced that one number and one approach won’t work for everyone.

There will be people among us who can manage with much less items, while others need a little more. For that reason, I would recommend aiming for a maximum of 43 items, which you can divide as follows:

  • Tops: 10-15 (singlets, t-shirts, blouses, sweaters)
  • Bottoms: 5-10 (jeans, pants, skirts)
  • Dresses: 3-5
  • Blazers: 1-3
  • Jackets/Outerwear: 2-4
  • Shoes: 3-6

This of course also depends on whether you choose the 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month approach.

And again, I can’t say it enough; your capsule wardrobe will be very personal. Also, don’t worry if you notice that you need a few more items. This might also change over time, for example your work-life situation but also your fashion style.

Capsule wardrobe: white and blue fashion items

The benefits of a capsule wardrobe

While I was doing research on capsule wardrobes, and actually minimizing my own closet, I found out it has a lot of benefits. Are you still in doubt? Maybe these benefits can convince you:

  • Saves time and stress: no more doubting in front of your closet, since all items fit together. Within a few seconds, you find yourself a nice outfit.
  • Saves money: quite obvious, but by buying less you also spend less money. Ultimately, you can choose to replace old items with ones of higher quality. These may be slightly more expensive, but they last much longer (and therefore save money in the long run).
  • Accessible for everyone: no matter how much money you have, your body size/type, or what your personal fashion style is, a capsule wardrobe can work for everyone.
  • Clear overview: by minimizing your wardrobe, you reduce clutter, which makes it easier to see what is actually in your closet. When you have a better overview, you will also feel less overwhelmed.
  • Makes packing easier: your suitcase will be packed in no time for your next trip. Since everything fits together, you only have to look at what suits the location, your planned activities and the weather.
  • Better for the environment: we all know by now that buying (a lot of) clothes is not very good for the environment. The idea of a minimalist wardrobe is that you also buy less, which the environment will be very grateful for.

Related article: Most Frequently Asked Capsule Wardrobe Questions

Build your capsule wardrobe in 7 steps

As you read above, a capsule wardrobe doesn’t look the same for everyone. However, it’s about the principle behind it and from there looking at elements that suit you.

That is why the steps for creating a capsule wardrobe are basically the same for everyone.

  1. Clean out your closet: take everything out and go through your items one by one. Separate the items that no longer fit, are in poor condition, or that you haven’t worn in the past year. These items don’t belong in your capsule wardrobe, get rid of them.
  2. Put aside very seasonal items: depending on the climate you live in, you might have some items that you only wear for a very short period of the year. For example, a cashmere sweater or a summer dress. If they still fit well, make you happy, and fit the basis of your capsule wardrobe, you don’t necessarily have to throw them away. You can store them separately and take them out at the right time of year. If you haven’t touched them after a year, you can always get rid of them.
  3. Choose your colors: by choosing a color palette, you ensure that everything fits together. My advice is to go for neutral colors (black, white, gray, and beige) and add one or two accent colors that suit you as a person. It doesn’t mean you can never wear a different color, but make sure it matches at least 3 items from your closet so you can make multiple combinations.
  4. Include basics: since the idea of a capsule wardrobe is that everything fits together, it should be built around a foundation of basics. White t-shirt, black top, pair of jeans, black dress, etc. If you are missing some good basic pieces, include them in the next step.
  5. Make a list of missing items: now you know what is in your closet, it’s time to add the missing pieces. Make a list, so you know what you need and don’t (accidentally) make unnecessary purchases. Remember that high-quality items tend to last longer, and are therefore more durable.
  6. Add statement pieces (optional): some people think the idea of a capsule wardrobe is good, but also a bit boring. So once you have your basics covered, you can make it more personal by adding some statement pieces that reflect your style. Think about a unique bag, a patterned blazer or blouse, or a colorful item.
  7. Mix and match: now you have built your capsule wardrobe, it’s time to mix and match all your pieces into outfits that completely suit you. Also, experiment and create outfits that you might not have thought of before. Enjoy!

You don’t have to just throw the items you want to get rid of in the trash. And you shouldn’t! There are plenty of ways to do this in a sustainable way.

Think of donating, selling, or organize an evening with your friends to exchange clothes with each other.

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Things to consider when buying items

When you go shopping to complete your capsule wardrobe, ask yourself the following questions to avoid a bad purchase:

  • Can it be combined with at least 3 items in my closet?
  • Is it a trend item or will I also wear this next year?
  • Does it suit my personal style?
  • How many outfits can I make with this item?
  • Will the fit and fabric work for me?
  • Is the quality good enough? Or, for example, will it be able to shrink quickly?
  • Does this fit my lifestyle?

A capsule wardrobe doesn’t cost a fortune

This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions. Of course, just like everything in life, it can cost a lot of money, but it doesn’t have to.

You can put it together with any budget. If you want your items to last a long time, you will probably choose a higher quality (and therefore mostly a more expensive price).

But if you don’t have that budget, or if you first want to find out whether a capsule wardrobe is something that works for you, you can easily create one on a budget.

Related article: My In-Between Seasons Savior: Capsule Wardrobe

Don’t take it too serious

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I was a bit skeptical at first. And while I’m now excited about the concept and think it could work for a lot of people, I don’t believe this format will suit everyone. At least not 100% for me.

I use this as the capsule wardrobe method to minimize my closet, and at the same time have enough nice outfit options and make good choices whether I will buy something or not.

Sometimes I also want a more eye-catching item that may not fit my entire closet. But by having a good basis, you know that you can always put together many good outfits.

Are you enthusiastic about (or at least interested in) building a capsule wardrobe? Then don’t wait any longer and start minimizing your closet, so you can always put together a good outfit. If you still have some questions, I’ve made a list of answers to the 19 most frequently asked questions or ask them in the comments.

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One response to “Capsule Wardrobe 101: The Ultimate Guide”
  1. This is such a good idea. It reduces the decision making!

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