What Is A Capsule Wardrobe? Full Guide To Building Your Best Closet

Konstantina Antoniadou

August 9, 2022

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Looking to build a capsule wardrobe that will serve you day in and day out? Ready to open your closet and see endless options instead of “nothing to wear”? We have got you covered with this how to guide on building a capsule wardrobe!

Granted, designing a curated closet is not an easy task. That’s why we compiled our best tried-and-true tips on how to create a minimalist capsule wardrobe that’s versatile, affordable, and size-inclusive.

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This post is about building a capsule wardrobe in 2022

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Have you ever found yourself grumpily standing in front of your filled-to-the-brim closet with a puzzled look on your face once again because “you have nothing to wear”? You’d think that with so many options in your arsenal, you wouldn’t have to worry about not having a slew of viable outfit choices ready for grabs — but that’s simply not the case.

That’s exactly when most people try to re-fuel style by opting for even more clothing only to keep the unsustainable sartorial circle going. Nonetheless, there is a simple solution to tackle decision fatigue once and for all: designing a capsule wardrobe.

So what is a capsule wardrobe exactly? What does a capsule wardrobe consist of? Is there a specific capsule wardrobe formula that can make the entire process a breeze?

Here is our fool-proof guide to help you get started.

What is a capsule wardrobe

British fashion icon Susie Faux first mentioned the phrase “capsule wardrobe” in the 1970s. Susie’s boutique “The Wardrobe” was a place where folks could find high-quality, minimalistic staples that not only stood the test of time but also matched each other

According to Faux, a woman’s capsule wardrobe should contain at least “2 pairs of trousers, a dress or a skirt, a jacket, a coat, a knit, two pairs of shoes and two bags.” Later on, in 1985, American fashion designer Donna Karan showcased her “Seven Easy Pieces” line in which she managed to showcase various looks from only 7 bodysuits – quite impressive!

So basically, capsule wardrobe essentials are a limited and utterly versatile collection of interchangeable styles that allows us to create dozens of different looks with only a few carefully selected key pieces.

Instead of shopping impulsively for one-season, trendy clothing that is notoriously hard to style with your pre-existing clothing, a minimalist capsule wardrobe will not only reduce your sartorial carbon footprint and reinforce the idea of mindful consumerism but also help you save much time and energy by having an array of looks ready for grabs at any given moment. Quality over quantity — the oldest cliché in the ethical fashion sphere.

The Benefits Of Designing A Capsule Wardrobe

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Before you take notes on how to build a curated closet and make the most out of your minimalist staples, let’s go over some of the fantastic benefits of creating an affordable, size-inclusive clothing rotation.

Less stress & more joy

The benefits of owning basic capsule wardrobe essentials aren’t just gossip from the eco-conscious fashion aficionados. In fact, according to the recent study on capsule wardrobes by the International Journal of Market Research “a positive impact of a 3-week capsule wardrobe on our participants who felt less stressed, detached from fashion trends, have found joy in their fashion style, and enhanced their awareness of conscious consumption.”

Save money

While opting for sustainable basics clothing may seem like a splurge at first, if you really take some time to consider that these pieces are interchangeable and versatile — not to mention high-quality — you’ll quickly realize that, in the long run, you’ll be saving money. Instead of opting for new clothing every month or so that you’ll only wear 5 times max, your solid capsule wardrobe formula will last you season after season — that’s a fact!

Be more sustainable

Did you know that more than 15 million tons of textile waste is generated in the U.S. On top of that, every second 2,625 kilograms of clothes are burned or landfilled. This is twice as much as 20 years ago! There is more; the average American spends around $2,000 on clothing alone — because in most cases, fast fashion comes with a super short lifespan which results in the need of constantly having to replace your clothing.

As Orsola de Castro mentions, this overconsumption “leaves behind a trail of human and environmental exploitation.” By designing a capsule wardrobe, no clothing will go to waste, which means that no extra natural resources will be spent on your new, seasonal buys.

Instead, you’ll significantly lower your carbon footprint. Sounds amazing, right?

How to build a capsule wardrobe and stick with it

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The entire process of designing a capsule wardrobe is fairly easy — if you have a clear picture of your likes, dislikes, and, most importantly, your own, personal lifestyle. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you start your minimalist capsule wardrobe journey.

1. Time for a closet audit!

To kick start the process, take a look at your pre-existing items and assess their role in your wardrobe. Surely there are some pieces you tend to wear regularly and other styles you haven’t touched in years. Realistically, if you haven’t worn them for over a year, then they probably don’t belong in your capsule wardrobe. It would be best to create 3 piles: one to keep, one to repair, and another one to donate.

2. Make some keen observations

When you finish evaluating their usefulness, it’s time to start paying attention to the recurring themes. Your “keeping” pile is mostly likely chock full of clothing that suits your lifestyle’s needs. For example, if you work at an office, then probably women’s workwear in certain colors and silhouettes is your go-to choice.

If you are a fitness junkie, then loose tanks, leggings, and hoodies may be your sartorial holy grail. Are you a stay-at-home mom? Then maybe your pile mostly consists of comfy and cute Organic Cotton Sweatpants and wear-me-everywhere linen dresses. Let them be your guide to all your future purchases.

3. Create your style palette

As a rule of thumb, neutral colors like beige, white, black, grey, navy blue, and tan work seamlessly together and with pretty much every other color. So go ahead and choose a color scheme you love and don’t forget to list your favorite silhouettes as well.

For example, do you reach for petite clothing that is usually high-waisted? Are you feeling extra comfy in your V-neckline tops? Maybe, you are a sucker for oversized blazers or opt for wide-leg trousers every single day without even noticing it.

4. Make a checklist of key pieces that are missing from your capsule wardrobe

Now that you are one step closer to designing a capsule wardrobe with a lasting impact, it’s time to pinpoint which basics are missing from your updated minimalist rotation. Cross- reference your clothing and make a list of all the things that are missing in order to create even more cohesive outfits based on your pre-existing purchases.

5. Prioritize the most versatile pieces

Step number 5 is one of the most important steps for the final perfect touches to buidling your perfect capsule wardrobe. No matter what color palette you choose, no matter if you’re a teacher, doctor, or stay-at-home mom of adventurous little ones. Every closet need versatile garments and accessories that work season after season and in several different ways.

Right now, you should be able to name at least one garment piece and one accessory that you constantly reach for in your closet. Is it a favorite pair of leggings that can be dressed up or down without fail? How about a stunning pair of jewelry that can be worn to the office and also to the playground?

These are the pieces we want in our capsule wardrobe!

6. Keep in mind your favorite materials

Don’t forget to decide the materials of choice for your capsule wardrobe formula. Natural fibers like organic cotton, linen, and wool are not only sustainable but also pretty affordable and highly durable -which makes them a fantastic addition to your minimalist wardrobe. If you are leaning more towards the eco-consious side, then Tencel clothing is also a fantastic option.

7. Only buy what you need

When shopping for your new capsule wardrobe, is important to keep in mind that, once again, quality always beats quantity. It’s pretty tempting to opt for even more styles that just look absolutely beautiful, but don’t fall into the consumerism trap. Instead, focus on finding the exact items that are currently missing from your wardrobe based on your pre-existing checklist.

Let’s move on to the next step, designing a capsule wardrobe.

How Many Items In A Capsule Wardrobe?

While everything depends on your lifestyle, in general, a capsule wardrobe usually consists of 25-50 pieces – including clothing, shoes, and accessories. You can also divide your capsule wardrobe essentials into two modules. Start with your wardrobe’s core items which is a selection of 7 pieces of clothing that can create up to 12 different looks. Then, move on to the “extended” module by adding 7 more pieces that mix and match with each other AND with your wardrobe’s core items.

Capsule Wardrobe Formula

In our easy capsule wardrobe formula below, you’ll find some sustainable fashion staples – including shoes and jewelry to help on your quest to design a capsule wardrobe that’s ethical, sustainable, versatile, and size-inclusive.

Take a look at our example capsule wardrobe below. Note: This is just a sample minimalist wardrobe, please use your chosen colors, palette, and aesthetics as you wish.

Designing A Capsule Wardrobe with pre-curated options

Now that you have a complete list of the most important minimalist capsule wardrobe staples, it’s also worth mentioning that some stellar sustainable fashion brands also offer pre-curated capsule wardrobe collections for our convenience. Yes, you read that right, premade capsule wardrobe brands!

Vetta Capsule aims to help us build the perfect capsule wardrobe with a month’s worth of outfits through 10 curated mini collections consisting of five superhero pieces. 

Some examples are the Glam capsule, Utility capsule, Classic, Casual, and City capsules. The fabrics
of choice? 

Tencel, Linen, organic cotton, modal and recycled poly.

Shop Vetta Capsule Here

The certified B Corporation Encircled offers “Kits” with easy-to-wear options based on your lifestyle’s needs.

For example, their “work from anywhere” kit is a selection of ethically-made blazers and dressy sweatpants while the “versatile” kit includes leggings, wear-me-everywhere tops, tees, and so on.

Shop Encircled Here

Quince is another fantastic sustainable fashion brand with pre-made capsule wardrobes for pretty much every lifestyle.

Aside from their workwear collection of versatile, easy-to-wear staples for the office, you can also find the Sparkly Things edit, which is a collection of 14k gold and conflict-free diamond earrings & rings. Then, there is the Minimal Edit and Spring Refresh Edit – two curated selections of basic, all-year-round essentials that can be mixed and matched so easily. 

Shop Quince Here

The world’s first zero-waste fashion brand Tonle uses remnants and offcuts discarded by large manufacturers to craft their “capsule wardrobe collection ethically in Cambodia.

The selection includes everything from tops, sweaters, and dresses to jumpsuits in neutral colors but you can also purchase pre-loved tonlé clothing and accessories to bring them into your own style rotation. How cool is that?

Shop Tonle Here

Oh, Eileen Fisher – the epitome of perfectly proportioned styles and innovative patterns.

Their monthly capsule wardrobe edit offers many suggestions for simple, versatile styles you can wear over and over. In this capsule, there is also a  subcategory named “the statements” which includes bold colors and of-the-moment textures that can enhance the aforementioned capsule basics across the seasons and the years.

Shop Eileen Fisher Here

Known for their superior quality Fair Trade and sustainable women’s clothing which are also backed by WFTO Guaranteed Status, PETA, and GOTS, People Tree UK offers the “Essentials”. 

This curated collection of day-to-night basics includes everything you need for your capsule wardrobe ranging from bralettes and leggings to t-shirts, trousers, turtlenecks, dresses, jumpsuits, and skirts. Their favorite materials? Tencel, eco denim, linen, and wool.

Shop People Tree UK Here

Frequently asked questions about building a capsule wardrobe

What is the perfect capsule wardrobe?

The perfect capsule wardrobe should include a healthy dose of all-year-round, versatile, and high-quality staples that effortlessly match each other. Instead of relying on one-season, statement pieces you can only wear on a few occasions, this minimalist collection of 25-50 pieces of clothing can offer myriads of different outfits.

Neutral hues like beige, white, and navy can have the ability to not only go exist with each other in harmony but also match every other color with ease. So your capsule wardrobe essentials should be versatile, seasonless, easy to wear, high-quality and tailored to your own lifestyle.

What does a capsule wardrobe consist of?

The most popular capsule wardrobe formula includes neutral-colored t-shirts, work- appropriate blouses, dressy and casual pants in black and earthy tones, at least two pairs of jeans, blazers, and sweaters designed for layering, jumpsuits, and dresses that can be worn both casually and formally. Depending on your location and lifestyle, you can also play around with other quality basics like puffer jackets, sun protection clothing, utility pieces and formalwear – just to name a few.

How do I build a capsule wardrobe?

When designing a capsule wardrobe you first need to assess your already existing wardrobe. Do you spot any recurring themes and specific silhouettes? Maybe, a certain color palette just speaks to you? Let that be your guide! Next, you want separate your pre-existing staples from the ones you want to donate or repair.

As soon as your 3 piles are ready, you can start compiling a list of basics that are currently missing from your wardrobe. Versatility is the key, so you need to make sure that your future purchase will effortlessly match your current collection to create dozens of easy-to-wear looks hassle-free.

What is a 10-piece capsule wardrobe?

A 10-piece capsule wardrobe is a seasonal rotation of 10 basic items that can be styled in dozens of different ways. During summer, for example, these staples can be white and black t-shirts, a few linen tops, organic cotton jumpsuits, lightweight dresses, breathable skirts, shorts, and cropped trousers. 

For winter, your 10-piece capsule wardrobe can consist of a trench coat, a puffer coat, a layering blazer, sweaters and turtlenecks, wool trousers, knitted dresses, etc.

This post was all about designing a capsule wardrobe in 2022

The benefits of designing a capsule wardrobe are definitely many! Aside from saving money, and reducing stress, a minimalist capsule wardrobe is also very sustainable. While it may seem difficult to say goodbye to your current rotation at first, as soon as you assess the wearability of your previous purchases, you’ll quickly realize that you don’t really need that much clothing. On the contrary, a few carefully selected staples can help you create dozens of viable outfits that your previous, overfilled wardrobe simply wasn’t able to.

So feel free to use the aforementioned example of capsule wardrobe essentials as your guide and don’t forget to infuse your own aesthetic into your new, updated, and highly sustainable wardrobe. 

If you liked this post, you’ll definitely want to check out these other posts from SKL:

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