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Capsule Wardrobe: What Is It? 

Sustainable Fashion

Last Updated on January 24, 2023

I used to be a shopaholic: I treated clothing more like a costume, like a character I would be for the day rather than a true extension of myself. 

Now I’m big on finding my personal style and sticking to clothes that highlight my best features.

Capsule Wardrobe: What Is It? 

Creating a capsule wardrobe can help: With less clothing to choose from, you will be forced to pick items you absolutely love and use consistently. 

This helps cut down on impulse buys, but it also gives us better appreciation for the clothes we adorn ourselves with. Here’s what a capsule wardrobe is and how to start one. 

what are the rules of a capsule wardrobe? 

The rules of a capsule wardrobe are simple: You have to curate a selection of interchangeable clothing pieces that suit your needs and complement each other.  

Capsule wardrobes can vary in sizes: Some are as few 10 pieces, while others are 37 pieces. Truly, the number depends on you and what you’re comfortable with.

There’s no set-in-stone limit, but be mindful you should aim to have a certain number of pieces for your tops, bottoms, shoes, dresses and coats/jackets. 

For some inspiration, here are 10 pieces and the 30 outfits I created with them. 

Color wise, capsule wardrobes also primarily consist of neutral colors. However, you can base this off colors you enjoy wearing/find yourself reaching for the most.  

The goal is to make sure the pieces you choose remain timeless. You should be able to craft a variety of outfits from the small selection of clothes you choose. 

Capsule Wardrobe: What Is It? 

what are the 37 items in a capsule wardrobe? 

Having 37 items in a capsule wardrobe will allow you to have 9 pairs of shoes, 9 bottoms, 15 tops, 2 dresses and 2 jackets/coats. This will allow you to home in on the items in your closet you truly love.  

These 37 items don’t include items like underwear, workout clothes, purses, swimwear, PJs or accessories.   

Of course, if 37 feels too restrictive, feel free to change this number to one that works for you. There’s no set-in stone number for a capsule wardrobe: Just try not to add to it once the number is set. 

what is the point of a capsule wardrobe? 

The point of a capsule wardrobe is to simplify your closet, reduce clutter, and actually use what you have. If an item is just sitting in your closet, gathering dust, it’s going to waste. 

Creating a capsule wardrobe will help you home in on what clothes truly work for you and won’t leave you as stressed or anxiety ridden about assembling an outfit. 

The feeling of having “nothing to wear” stems from a few main problems: 

  • You haven’t defined your personal style yet 
  • Your closet is cluttered, making it harder to find things you do have 
  • The clothes you do have aren’t diverse: You have too many of the same pieces 
  • You don’t own staples, just tons of trendy fast fashion  
  • Your pieces aren’t cohesive and don’t match 
  • Nothing fits right anymore 

Having a capsule wardrobe fixes these issues, because you’ll be choosing only a select few pieces of clothing to work with. 

Ideally, a capsule wardrobe will help you: 

  • Maintain a collection of essential and classic pieces in your closet 
  • These pieces can be mixed and matched over time (aka, versatility)  
  • Complement your personal style  
  • Fit you like a glove (and if not, spend the extra money to get them tailored!) 
  • Declutters your closet, so you always know what you have 
  • Have access to timeless pieces that never go out of style  
Capsule Wardrobe: What Is It? 

how many colors should a capsule wardrobe have? 

Your capsule wardrobe should have only a few colors, ideally in neutrals. Depending on the number of clothing pieces you want total, you may be able to add a few other colors in you love too. 

However, getting a color analysis is a great way to assess the colors you should keep in your closet.  

I went to see Donna Fujii and left with a swatch book of shades that look best for my coloring. It was such a fun experience and helped me narrow down the colors to blush pink, navy blue, baby blue and wine red. 

Depending on your complexion, certain colors may clash or make you glow. I’d aim for 4-5 colors that flatter you in your capsule wardrobe for the sake of simplicity. 

Capsule Wardrobe: What Is It? 

how do I start a capsule wardrobe? 

To start a capsule wardrobe, there are a few steps you’ll have to take. 

step 1: assessing the wardrobe you already have 

Begin by setting aside some time to look through your closet. Take out all your clothes and really look at each piece. It’s time to define your personal style (aka what looks good on you, and how you like to dress). 

Ask yourself some reflective questions: 

  • How often do I use this item? Once a week? Multiple times a week? Once a month? Less? 
  • How much do I like how this looks on me? How confident does it make me feel? 
  • Does it fit me well?  
  • Is this a versatile piece that can be mixed and matched with some of the other items in my wardrobe? 
  • Account for weather: Will this item keep me warm/cool depending on the climate of where I live? 
  • Are the colors contrasting with my skin tone? Does it go with the other pieces in my capsule wardrobe? 

step 2: choosing your capsule pieces 

Once you ask yourself these questions, you’ll want to separate your clothes into piles: 

  • Pile one: Clothes you want to keep without a doubt 
  • Pile two: Clothes you’re not keeping 
  • Pile three: Clothes you’re undecided on 

Now is the time to decide on how many clothing pieces you want in your capsule wardrobe altogether. Is it only 10? Maybe 37? More? You’ll want a balance of shirts, bottoms, shoes, and outerwear pieces.

For the clothes you’re still undecided on, make sure to try them on and see how well they fit. Look in a body mirror and decide whether they flatter your body in a way you’d be comfortable wearing on a frequent basis. 

If you have a specific number of clothes in mind you want to keep (for example, 10 or 37 pieces total), you will have to be brutally honest with yourself.  

Remember to dress for what you do. Sit down and write down a list of the activities you normally participate in. 

My list looked something like this: 

  • work from home/weekend (7x a week) 
  • attend client meetings (1-2x a week) 
  • speaking/panel discussions/interviews (1-2x a month) 
  • go out with friends/date night/party (1-2x a week) 
  • dressier (1-2x a month) 

From this list you can tell that the majority of my wardrobe should probably be jeans and sweaters. But does the same apply to you?  

Finding this out will help you be honest about what you should and shouldn’t keep. 

Also, don’t toss out the “not-keeping” pile of clothes: Here’s how to recycle your textiles.

Sustainable Wardrobe 

step 3: analyze your keepers 

Next up, look at the clothes you will be keeping. Do any of them need tailoring or repair jobs? How about a trip to the dry cleaners? Set aside some time to give them the extra care they need to hold up and be used on a more frequent basis.  

Creating a capsule wardrobe means you will have fewer pieces to work with. And that means you will have to maintain and care for the pieces you have.  

One way to do this is to look at the tag inside each piece and make sure to follow the washer/dryer instructions the tag recommends. If it says don’t dry clean, stick to that.  

You can also buy new clothing pieces for your capsule wardrobe if you’re not satisfied with what you have after looking through your closet.  

To acquire some timeless staples that suit your needs, I recommend hitting up a local thrift or vintage store. There are also some online thrift stores worth looking into. 

You can also check out some sustainable clothing brands, as these brands will make more durable high-quality pieces built to last.  

So, are you going to try creating a capsule wardrobe? Let me know in the comments below. 

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