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How to create a simple capsule wardrobe

1. Declutter (And be ruthless about it):

If it’s been more than a year since you went through your closet then decluttering should be your first priority. Make four piles: the absolute yes, the kinda feeling it, kinda not, the heck no and the walking dead (irreparably torn or literally dead) Remove all items from your closet except the absolute yes pile. Go through that pile again to ensure you really love every piece.

PS: If the idea of discarding the kinda feeling it, kinda not pile makes you nervous, bring it to a different room or storage where you can easily reach in if you desperately miss an item. Donate or sell the heck no and dump the walking dead pile.

2. Establish Your Foundation:

This will be based on your individual style and where you spend most of your time because these two factors determine well over 90% of your wardrobe. A person working in corporate will have a very different foundation compared to a music artist or a university student. Someone in corporate could go with a 20-piece working wardrobe and a 15-piece weekend wardrobe while the student might go with an entirely casual wardrobe.

3. Establish A Timeframe:

Ideally a capsule wardrobe should transcend seasons but that’s not always possible. The most efficient way is to work with seasonal capsule wardrobes but ensure the majority of the pieces are rolling over into the next seasons. For example in the fall I will swap all my t-shirts for longer sleeved ones and one or two light sweaters. Then in the winter everything will be replaced by thicker sweaters.

In contrast, my sneakers, pumps and low boots will stay in the capsule through the year and the sandals will be replaced by thicker boots for the peak of winter.

4. Wardrobe Layout:

A typical capsule wardrobe is in the realm of 30-37 items or fewer, including shoes and sometimes even accessories. The secret to a great capsule wardrobe is a combination of statement pieces and basics that go well together. Here you get to play editor and visualize as many pairings as possible within your picked items, the more the better, of course. My rule of thumb is at least three possible combinations.

PS: Stay away from a blouse that can only be worn with one other bottom– unless you’d like to repeat that outfit a lot! Personally, I don’t mind repeating the same outfit as long as I get to switch shoes 🙂

5. Update The Necessary:

Once the layout is complete and if you find your capsule wardrobe is missing a key piece that you feel would enhance the wardrobe,  there’s always the option to purchase an update.

For example, it wasn’t until after I had decluttered and organized my shoes that I realized I’ve never had a sturdy pair of low all-season wear-with-everything black booties hence the Cole Haan update. My second update was the black and white Steve Madden sandals because my palette is super neutral so shoes present the chance to add interesting detail to what might be an otherwise bland ensemble. In addition, they are super versatile and will replace all my plain black sandals. My capsule wardrobe is also missing a midi-skirt so I will add that in if I find it in time.

6. Store The Extras:

Move all other times that are not part of the capsule wardrobe to storage or a separate room. If you don’t foresee wearing an item, now would be a good time to permanently retire it.

7. Shopping Fast:

The goal of a capsule wardrobe is to have a streamlined wardrobe of high-quality pieces that could be worn often and interchangeably, thereby saving money, closet space, and time. While the system leaves leeway for updating seasonal items, the idea is to minimize shopping and update the wardrobe two to three times a year max. Simply put; once your foundation and accents are cohesively established, the idea is to consistently wear what you own and shop rarely. Capsule wardrobes and consumerism are polar opposite concepts.

8. Develop Cohesive Personal Style:

Capsule wardrobes create an interesting on-going styling challenge, which over time perfects consistent signature style that thrives on individuality rather than external influence of consumer culture or trends. The goal is to find news ways to creatively wear items that you already own and love, which maximizes your closet and yields an exceptional cost per wear ratio.

PS: Capsule wardrobes are not everyone’s cup of tea and that is perfectly okay. Another way to try a capsule wardrobe sans the long term commitment is as a styling challenge for a period of time.

So….Those are the 8 steps I used to create my first capsule wardrobe. My style is eclectic minimalism so I ended up with a fairly neutral color palette. Naturally, narrowing down shoe choices was the biggest challenge (especially now that I’ve got only favorites since I decluttered) but overall I’m quite satisfied with these picks.

summer 2016 capsule wardrobe

1st Row: Paul and Betty pumps (’13) || Steve Madden GalleryL (’13)|| Calvin Klein Harlin flats
2nd Row: Superga Cotu Classic (intense blue) || Adidas Stansmith  || Aquazurra Amazon sandals
3rd Row: Alexander Wang Freja || Cole Haan Davenport (update)
4th Row: Rachel Zoe ( ’13 sample sale)|| Ralph Lauren Vimiera sandals || Steve Madden Purcee ( update)


summer 2016 capsule wardrobe

1st row: Zara (thrifted) || Max Azria (’14) || Marc, Marc Jacobs (’14)
2nd row: Frankie Morello Kylie || 7 For All Mankind Gwenevere || Pistola Cara
3rd row: Forever 21 Boyfriend || Levis 710 || Newlook dress (super old)

summer 2016 capsule wardrobe

1st row: French connection cami || Zara blazer
2nd row: Sheinside (old) || Shelli Seagall (thrifted) || Forever 21 (super old)

summer 2016 capsule wardrobe

1st row: Bebe silk blouse|| Zara T-shirt || Ann Taylor Loft shirt
2nd row: She Inside cotton blouse || Jcrew T-shirt || Forever 21 Tank
3rd row: Thrifted shirt || Gap shirt || Thrifted t-shirt || Forever 21 sleeveless jacket
*Not pictured: silk scarf and a black leather belt.

There’s a total of 36 pieces for this capsule it stands but I’m hoping to add a midi skirt before the season is over to bring the final count to 37.

  • Gabrielle

    Hi Dani! I am a newbie at this too. So awesome to know I’m not alone out here.
    Funny enough my mother is a professional seamstress and I can’t even sew a button back on. Sigh. There’s a skill I wish I inherited.
    Are you blogging about your journey? I would love to read and share the experience