What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

A curated collection of clothing (usually consisting of 30-40 items) that can be easily mixed and matched. A Capsule Wardrobe should be personal to your style and contain two-three base colors and one-two accent colors.

5 Steps to Build a Capsule Wardrobe 

1. Inventory what you have already

Set aside some time, put on some good music, and go through your entire existing wardrobe. I’ve been doing this step of the process since I was 14 and always start really strong (as you can probably guess, it’s not too hard to throw all your clothes from the closet to your bed), but then quickly lose steam once I realize how much work it’s going to be going through them. :p

A few tips – it really does help to put some good music or do this with a friend. I once had a FaceTime session with a friend going through their makeup and beauty products…it took forever, but was a lot of fun. 🙂

Once you’re throughly overwhelmed by all of the clothes you didn’t realize you had, remove items that don’t fit you, or don’t make you feel good. Make a pile and add clothes that have tears or flaws that you’re not willing to have fixed or aren’t your style anymore. You should a pile ready to be donated or thrown away now.

Be as critical as you financially can afford to be at this stage. If you really hate everything you have, but can’t afford to replace everything at once, just remove as much as you can – sometimes it’s better to build your wardrobe slowly because your additions will be more thoughtful.

2. Look for trends in your existing wardrobe

Review what’s left. Do you notice any trends? Do you gravitate toward certain colors or textures? What do your clothes say about you? Are they mostly appropriate for work, school, or events? Are they a mix of multiple. Is there anything that you need that’s missing from your wardrobe?

3. Build your base

Choose two to three colors to be the base of your Capsule Wardrobe. Typical base colors include: black, brown, tan, gray, and white.These should be colors that can be mixed and matched interchangeably. Your base is what will make getting dressed everyday easier because you won’t have to worry if pieces go together.

It also allows you to focus more on incorporating your accent colors and accessories to your outfit, which in my opinion are way more interesting and specific to an individual.

My base colors are black, light tan, and light gray.

  • Black: I work in an office in Manhattan and most people dress in black at work. I also think my blonde hair looks sophisticated against black clothes.
  • Light Tan: It’s a few shades darker than my complexion and hair color. I like the way neutral monochromatic colors look together. I think it brings out the color of my eyes  and texture of my hair.
  • Light Gray: For days when I don’t want to look as intense as a full black outfit can look on me, I opt for a gray based outfit.

4. Choose one-two accent colors

These should be colors that you are drawn to and make you feel confident.

If you’re not sure where to start, think about people you know who’s look you really like. What colors do they wear? Do they have a smilier complexion or hair color to you? It also helps to pay attention to color against complexion and hair color. I don’t believe there are any definite rules, but you may notice that you feel more confident wearing some colors or cuts of clothing against your complexion and hair than others. Start to take note of what works well for you.

If you’re still not sure, don’t worry about it too much. Seriously, if you pay attention you will figure it out over time.

My current accent colors are sky blue and blush.

  • Sky Blue: I saw a woman in the office wear a sweater in a beautiful powder / sky blue color and decided I had to incorporate it into my wardrobe. I found a dress in that color and was thrilled to discover it looked really beautiful against my hair and complexion, although I actually think the color would be flattering against any complexion. This color also looks great against my base colors.
  • Blush: Ok, so everyone seems to also be in love with this color right now too, but I think it’s because neutrals are so popular right now and it’s basically a really feminine neutral.

5. Invest in quality pieces

Look for stores that sell high quality clothes made from good fabrics and well constructed. This can be really tricky and expensive so be sure to take your time and do what works for your situation. It’s better to take your time and invest in pieces that you love and will last a long time than to haul a bunch of clothes that will fall apart after several wears. Because a Capsule Wardrobe is a refined collection (generally 30-40 pieces) you’ll be wearing the same pieces more often than you’re probably used to.

Tips to building a Capsule Wardrobe:

  • Don’t feel like you have to do these steps in one day. This is a process that is ever changing. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it perfect.
  • Be observant. Start paying attention to what people are wearing and ask yourself lots of questions to help understand what your style is and why you like certain things better than others.
  • Don’t get discouraged! I promise you can do this and keep it up. Give yourself time and think of it as a project rather than something that’s done once.

Style Worksheet #1

Your style is generally just a collection of repeated looks you know how to do and are easy for you to put together. Take some time to think about what you’ve noticed and feel comfortable in. The questions below are an exercise to help you discover what your style is – there are no right or wrong answers. Don’t take it too seriously. Take it several times over several periods of time. I’ve included my answers to help you get started!

What colors look best on you?

Black, light tan, light gray, sky blue, blush

What materials do you like best?

Wool, denim, sequins, chiffon, cotton

When was a time you felt really great in an outfit? Where were you? What were you wearing?

Last Easter, a church with massive stain glass windows, a light blue chiffon dress covered in sequins and beads. Probably wasn’t the best choice for other mass-goers because I was  a human disco ball reflecting light EVERYWHERE. It’s the most beautiful dress I’ve ever worn, even more than my wedding dress.

Why do you want to build a Capsule Wardrobe?

Simplify my life. Also…there’s no space for my midwestern wardrobe in New York City.


    1. It took me about a year before I actually started living off 30-40! The transition can be frustrating but is well worth it 🙂

      1. Actually reading your post I remembered how amazing it was the first time I purged my wardrobe and I came home and did ir again, so I think I’ll get there at some point 🙂 thanks for the inspiration!

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