How To Create A Capsule Wardrobe

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Have you ever stood in front of a closet full of clothes wondering why you don’t have anything to wear? Do you struggle to put together outfits in the morning? If that sounds familiar, it might be time to consider a capsule wardrobe.

The idea behind a capsule wardrobe is simple: assemble a small set of basic, neutral items that will never go out of style. You might have one capsule for each season, or you might simply rotate in seasonal pieces. The trick? The majority of your items should go together, so you can grab any two pieces and be confident that they’ll look great.

With a carefully planned capsule wardrobe, you can take all of the stress out of getting dressed in the morning. Plus, you don’t need to worry about spending money on trendy items that you’ll wear once before donating to charity.

Purging Your Closet

The first step in creating a capsule wardrobe is to go through your closet. Lay out everything you own -- and then be ruthless. One by one, try everything on and separate each item into “keep” and “donate” piles.

The Donate pile should contain anything that: 
  • Makes you feel at all uncomfortable
  • Doesn’t fit correctly
  • You haven’t worn in the past year
  • Doesn’t go with anything else in your closet
  • Still has the tags on

What does this process do? It helps you take an honest look at your clothes and remove the ones that you simply don’t wear. They might make you feel unattractive, or be out of step with your current lifestyle.

On the flip side, the pieces that end up in the Keep pile are real winners. They make you feel fabulous, fit perfectly, and are actually realistic for your life. That’s the basis for a capsule wardrobe: comfortable, attractive clothes that you’ll definitely wear.

Keep in mind that when it comes to a capsule wardrobe, you make the rules. If you’re working from home but you can’t bear to donate your beautiful office clothing, simply put it in storage. The same goes for items like formal dresses and sentimental pieces.

Making Sure You Have Wardrobe Staples

Once you’ve donated the clothing that doesn’t fit into your life, it’s time to make sure you have the right wardrobe staples. Although there are no hard-and-fast rules for a capsule wardrobe, it’s usually a good idea to keep it to 30-50 pieces, including shoes, coats, and accessories. Why? It makes decisions easier and takes the stress out of choosing an outfit.

In general, your capsule wardrobe rotates around basic items that you can wear most of the time. As a guideline, this could include: 

  • 5-10 tops
  • 5-10 bottoms
  • 5-10 shoes
  • 1-3 jackets
  • 5-10 accessories
  • 5-10 dresses

Keep in mind that depending on where you live, you might need different capsules for each season. If you have extremely cold winters, cool falls and springs, and hot, humid summers, you might need to rotate through three different capsules. Alternatively, you could pick a set of seasonal pieces to switch out each season. In Miami, for example, you might add light cardigans and jackets in the winter.

Naturally, there’s room for flexibility in this formula. Never wear dresses? Eliminate that category. Only wear two pairs of shoes? That’s fine.

Once you have your categories, start separating your keep pile. This is where you might start to notice gaps — you might love jeans, but only have one pair that fits you well.
At this point, it can be helpful to start making notes about your common outfit problems. Do you not have enough cute tops to go with your jeans? Do you need a coat that’s flexible enough to run after your kids? Chances are these problems line up with the gaps in your wardrobe.

What happens if you have too many clothes? Then it’s time to narrow them down. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to keep the pieces that work with the most other items in your capsule. Take a button-down shirt, for example—you can wear it with jeans, pair it with a skirt for work, layer it under a sweater, or even wear it tied at the waist over a dress.

Shopping to Complete Your Capsule Wardrobe

If you end up with a wardrobe that’s not balanced—you might have 10 shirts but one pair of jeans—it’s time to go shopping. The trick? Be honest with yourself about what you love, what looks good on you, and what you’ll actually wear. If you’re not going to wear skinny jeans, don’t buy them!

As you’re shopping, take your time. It can be helpful to bring an honest friend to help you make judgment calls. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to avoid overly trendy pieces, and stick with clothes that fit into your capsule’s color palette.

Not sure you have the right capsule? Don’t worry! As you start to wear your new, streamlined wardrobe, you’ll quickly learn what works and what doesn’t. Make changes as you go—eventually, you’ll end up with a beautiful closet that makes getting dressed effortless and joyful.

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