Building a capsule wardrobe changed my life.
I used to collect fast fashion, like most women. I’d impulse buy a cute top. (Never mind if it was rayon and cheaply made.) I’d pick up cute shorts on a clearance rack. (Who cares if they were already shredded, that’s the style, right?)
Like many people, I had a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear, or at least, nothing I liked to wear.
Then I learned how to build a capsule wardrobe—and everything changed.
Grab my capsule wardrobe planner at the end of this post.
What is a Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is typically made up of 20-40 high-quality, interchangeable separates. In short, every piece “goes” with every other piece.
Now, you may worry a capsule wardrobe sounds drab or dull, but it doesn’t need to be at all!
It’s true that since I switched to a minimalist capsule wardrobe, my clothing pieces became more basic and solid colored. But there are still plenty of ways to add personality: accessorize, include a signature color, or opt for classic cuts to make you feel confident.
The advantage of a capsule wardrobe is it simplifies your choices. No longer will you stand in front of your closet for hours, staring at racks of clothes you hate. You won’t feel like you’re pulling at tops that twist or cling in the wrong spots.
Instead, a capsule wardrobe is made up of pieces that fit, flatter, and match your ideal color scheme.
You aren’t limited to only certain outfits because each piece is interchangeable and goes with all the other pieces.
Another “magic” benefit of a capsule wardrobe is you stop spending on cheap, fast fashion. When each piece of clothing is a deliberately chosen part of your wardrobe, you’re more selective about your purchases. You only buy those items that go with the rest of your closet.
I can honestly say I love every item in my wardrobe now. Plus, I buy quality items now, so they last years!
If this sounds like a dream to you (it definitely did to me), then here’s how to build a capsule wardrobe you’ll love!
1. Take Your Measurements
Most women don’t truly know their size, and it’s not our fault! Stores regularly practice what’s called “vanity sizing” or putting smaller labels on larger clothing. They know when you fit your normally size-eight body into a dress with size four on the label, you’re more likely to buy it!
The best way to figure out what’s going to fit is to take your measurements. Typical measurements include your waist, thighs, arms, neck, hips, and bust. It’s also a good idea to visit a lingerie store to get a professional bra fitting (most women wear the wrong size).
Familiarize yourself with the guidelines of your favorite brands. For example, one brand may run smaller or larger, so plan accordingly. Don’t focus on the number on the label but check sizing charts for the specified measurements. This is especially important if you order clothing online.
When you shop in the store, make it a practice to try on every item before you purchase.
If you’re buying higher quality clothing, alterations are a worthy investment. This is especially helpful if you have a narrow waist with more full hips or smaller shoulders.
2. Create a Style Inspiration Board
One of my favorite parts of creating my minimalist wardrobe was the opportunity to explore my personal style. I spent time looking for pictures of clothes and styles I liked.
You can create a digital style inspiration board on Pinterest or by creating a notebook in Evernote. If you prefer, create a paper inspiration board for your capsule wardrobe, including colors you like and inspiring photos of outfits.
As you explore your personal style, you may discover you lean toward flowy, feminine cuts, or more structured, clean lines. Pay attention to the styles you gravitate toward.
- What style fits your personality? (Funky, classic, professional, casual, etc.)
- What cuts are the most flattering?
- What qualities do you see in your favorite outfits?
You may also discover you prefer earth tones like browns, blues, and greens; soft colors like pastels, greys, and neutrals; or a downtown vibe with black, white, and a pop of bright color.
Assess your preferred color scheme by asking:
- Which colors feel the most flattering?
- Which colors help you feel confident and pulled together?
- What color scheme do you already own?
- Which colors work best with your hair and skin tone?
3. Use a Planner to Get Started
I love planners! Using a capsule wardrobe planning tool helped me start building my closet, and it was so helpful. I decided to create a minimalist capsule wardrobe checklist to help my readers get started!
This planning tool will help you decide what type of capsule wardrobe will fit your personal taste and style. It will also help you choose pieces that flatter your body shape and type, and find items that fit your lifestyle and suit your personality too.
This capsule wardrobe planning tool will also help you sort and make sense of your capsule wardrobe as you go. This is extremely helpful as you assess your closet and weed out the items that no longer work for you.
The planner then becomes your shopping guide. As you purchase items (as needed) to round out your capsule wardrobe, you’ll know exactly what you need to watch for. It’s also a helpful place to take notes about your existing pieces.
4. Set Your Guidelines
Before going through your closet, you’ll want to refer to your planning tools. Assess your inspiration board, your wardrobe planner, and your measurements. These will set the guidelines for the pieces you’re going to keep.
You may want to use these questions to help you assess your clothing:
- Do I like this item?
- Does this fit properly?
- Do I like how I feel when I wear this item?
- Is it flattering?
- Does this piece fit my lifestyle?
- Could I wear this item to brunch, on errands, AND to my job?
- Is the fabric comfortable?
- Does this fit within my wardrobe style?
- Does the color “go with” or fit in the color scheme of my wardrobe?
- Is the piece well-made?
- Does this item show stains, holes, or damage?
- As a follow up: is it worth repairing or altering?
5. Clean Out Your Closet
Now for the big moment! It’s time to sort through your closet! I recommend going through your wardrobe when you have plenty of time.
You’ll want to prepare for your closet cleanout with the following:
- A full-length mirror (even better if you find two mirrors to help you get a full picture)
- A camera
- Bins or bags (for sorting and packing up clothes to donate)
- Comfortable underclothing (whatever you would normally wear)
As you go through your closet, sort each item: yes, maybe, or no (you know you don’t like it and don’t want to keep it).
Assess the yes and maybe pieces against your guidelines.
- Does it fit?
- Do you feel good and confident about wearing it?
- Does it fit the color scheme and style for your capsule wardrobe?
Any item that doesn’t immediately make the yes or maybe cut should go right into the bin to donate or the pile to throw out.
Once you’ve narrowed the clothes down, go through the items you’ve planned to keep a second time and try each item on. Some people find it helpful to set a timer on their camera and take photos as well. This will help you get a realistic idea of exactly how clothing looks on your body.
I found it helpful to set a number of pieces I planned to keep (30). This process helped me become very thorough in my selection process.
Now, assess what’s left. The items should all fit within your style and color scheme. Each piece should go with everything else in your wardrobe.
A sample capsule wardrobe may include:
- 2-3 solid colored skirts or dresses
- 6-8 solid colored knit tops for layering
- 1-2 button-down tops
- 3-4 blouses in your color scheme
- 1-2 pairs of jeans
- A blazer in a basic color
- 2-3 cardigans/layering sweaters
- 3-4 pairs of pants
- 3-4 camisoles or tank tops
The idea is to end up with 30-40 interchangeable pieces that fit, flatter, and are configured in a myriad of ways. Your list may look a little different from the above list (for example, perhaps you don’t like to wear skirts or prefer hooded sweatshirts to cardigans).
You’ll also want to plan for your lifestyle. If you work from home, your capsule wardrobe may look a little different than someone who works in a professional office environment. Be careful not to veer too casual or too formal in your choices—you want to select pieces you can wear in most situations.
Note: I didn’t include workout wear, pajamas, underwear, socks, shoes, and seasonal outerwear in this list. Depending on your climate, job, and hobbies, there may be additional items you need to swap into your capsule.
6. Inventory Missing Staples
Now, if you’re like me, you may go through your closet and realize you own a lot of clothing that doesn’t match up with your capsule.
It’s often tough to let old clothing go, but remind yourself of why you want to simplify. Think of how much easier your mornings will be when you can easily choose anything in your closet and feel great. Think of how much easier it will be when every piece matches every other piece.
Look through the list of pieces to build a capsule wardrobe above (or the list of items you’ve created for your lifestyle).
- Are there pieces that don’t really fit the bill?
- Are there areas that are lacking?
Make notes on the pieces you may need to upgrade soon and the items you’re missing. You may also want to note any accessories or shoes you need.
Keep in mind, each accessory and each pair of shoes should fit within your capsule as well (but they provide a great opportunity to create a signature style).
7. Purchase Only High-Quality Items
Adopt a mindful shopping practice going forward. Now that you have your list and know your preferred style, it’s easy to purchase only what you will need for your capsule wardrobe in the future.
When you do find an item you want to purchase, consider the quality. If sustainability or eco-friendliness is a concern, shop from retailers you trust.
Evaluate your clothing purchases against your capsule wardrobe criteria and guidelines.
- Does the item fit properly?
- Is it flattering?
- Do you feel confident when you wear it?
- Does it go with every other item in your wardrobe?
- Does it fit your style and color scheme?
Adopt a one-in-one-out policy. Each time you purchase a new item of clothing, it means you need to let go of another item. I find this policy helps me be much more mindful about the clothing I buy.
After all, now that I love every item in my wardrobe, I hate to say goodbye to a piece. Any new items must be really great to make the cut; otherwise, it’s not worth it.
Having a capsule wardrobe has made my life so much easier. I feel great about my wardrobe, and I feel good that I’m no longer contributing to the industry of cheap, disposable, fast fashion.
If you’re ready to makeover your closet and simplify your life, I highly recommend learning how to build a capsule wardrobe. I promise you’ll be glad you did!