How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe Without Making Big Mistakes

Beware of the Capsule Wardrobe

#Beware!

 

SHORTCUT:  This is the companion post to the video How To Build A Capsule Wardrobe Without Making Big Mistakes which can be found on the WWTNT YouTube channel.  You may choose to watch the video or read the transcribed version below. If you’ve already watched the video, and are here for the shopping links, scroll through the post (it’s in the same order as the video) and look for the “purple shopping bag in an orange circle” icon under each section.  The icon looks like this:Shopping Bag in WWTNT orange circle

Beware of The Capsule Wardrobe!

Before you jump on the Capsule Wardrobe Bandwagon, you need to read this (or watch the video instead)! This has become a trend, and you need to tread lightly. You don’t want to make the mistake of whittling your entire wardrobe down to the wrong clothes just because you followed the latest Pinterest template. 

I’m going to tell you what a capsule wardrobe is, why you may or may not need it, and if you do, how to create one that represents the real you.

Don’t worry, it’s easy! If you’ve ever been on vacation, you’ve already made one!

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe was created back in the 70’s. It was originally a group of classic pieces that you could use to expand your wardrobe. Donna Karan ran with the idea in the 80’s when she released Seven Easy Pieces, an interchangeable group of work wear clothes. Almost all black, very sleek. There was a bodysuit, a tailored jacket, a cashmere sweater, a dress, something leather, a white shirt, and a skirt.

Any which way you mixed them together, they made beautiful outfits that would quickly take you from the office to date night.  

And that’s basically what a capsule wardrobe is: a small collection of clothes that work together to create many outfits.

(For more on this Seven Easy Pieces collection, including outfit ideas and accessories, be sure to read How To Build The Best Capsule Wardrobe? Ask Donna Karan)

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Surprise!

As I said, if you’ve ever been on vacation, you’ve already created one! You packed a small selection of the items you needed for the activities you were planning to do. You had a finite amount of space in your suitcase, so you had to take things that would mix and match together to make more than one outfit. 

So how do you apply what you’ll need for a week to what you’ll need for several years?

Very carefully!

A Pinterest Trend?

Right now, the capsule wardrobe concept is getting way out of hand on Pinterest. And like all trends, you need to tread lightly. Otherwise, everyone is going to be running around in the same striped tee, chambray shirt, and denim jacket. 

Now, that’s a great look, but it’s not everyone’s look. (If it is your look, check out these great finds!)

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Is it Right For You?

What if you’re someone whose soul radiates in bold, bright colors or loves girly, Boho ruffles? You’d feel stifled by a strictly classic wardrobe.

And that’s what we’re seeing a lot of right now on Pinterest: templates with timeless pieces in safe colors. Simple, timeless perfection for some, but kind of dull for others.

Your wardrobe is not a paint by numbers thing. Together, your shape, your taste, and your personality are unique.

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Do You Need a Capsule Wardrobe?

So why would anybody want a capsule wardrobe? Well, it’s an excellent way to build mini wardrobes for events like vacations or travel-related work. Or you might use a capsule wardrobe for one particular season. Just what you need for short bursts of time. 

But, I’m guessing you were probably attracted to the Capsule Wardrobe idea because of its simplicity and you like the idea of applying it to your entire wardrobe. I don’t blame you, it will potentially save you time, money, and space. Not to mention, it’s very eco-conscious.  

And if done correctly, the capsule wardrobe concept is a great tool for someone who is just beginning to build a wardrobe or someone who is editing down all that they have to just what they wear. 

It challenges you to make more out of what you already have and it clarifies what you’re missing to complete more outfits. 

Having a tight wardrobe is like having a menu of outfits. That overwhelming feeling goes away. You don’t resort to just wearing the same thing every day. It’s like having dinners for the month already figured out!

How To Build a Capsule Wardrobe

A limited wardrobe takes a lot of planning. It needs to be big enough that you don’t get bored with fewer choices and that you’re not constantly doing laundry because you’ve only got one shirt that you’ve made part of almost every outfit! If that’s the case, buy more than one of those shirts! I’ve had plenty of clients who did! 

You’ll need about 30 pieces in your wardrobe, not including accessories. If you need additional clothes for work, you’ll need more pieces.

Each item has to be versatile, flattering to your shape, and be something you feel great wearing. 

That’s another thing to watch for in those Pinterest templates: You might be following something that doesn’t suit your shape. 

Use them purely for inspiration. If you like the idea of a striped shirt, pick one with the neckline that flatters you most (see Which Shirts To Wear When You’re Fuller On The Bottom for ideas).

First, Consider Your Lifestyle

What do you do? Where do you go? Really, where do you go? Seems like a given, but would you really be surprised at how many of us have bought “fabulous things” we’ve never worn? (As for those, find a way to start wearing them, or sell them off. You don’t have room for anything in your closet that makes you feel guilty!)

Then, Consider Your Climate

What’s the weather like where you live? If you’re dressing for four seasons, you’ll want one main wardrobe that gets supplemented with big sweaters or swimsuits depending on the time of year.

Next, Consider Your Style And Shape

The idea is to pick what you love and what looks good on you and build from there. You can even start with that one special piece you feel great about and create your first outfit.

Collect:

You’ll need all the staples: tops and bottoms. But they need to be interchangeable with at least three other things. 

Depending on what you like (your signature style), need (for your lifestyle), and look good in (your shape), your tops could range from t-shirts to turtlenecks and your bottoms could be only skirts or just jeans.

Look for inspiration. Use the Capsule Wardrobe Pinterest templates you find as a guide. You have the artistic license to substitute a bold, bright yellow coat for the suggested classic trench. Just make sure it works with several of the other clothes you choose.

Following, are a couple examples of what you might end up creating:

The Classic Capsule Wardrobe

The Classic Capsule Wardrobe

#TheClassicCapsuleWardrobe

 

Let’s start with The Classic Capsule Wardrobe, since that’s what you’re going to see most on Pinterest. 

There are 24 timeless pieces in neutral colors that work together to create multiple outfits. Add a varied selection of accessories to the mix, and your outfit options will multiply rapidly. 

This is a fairly casual wardrobe with jeans and jean cut pants and a couple skirts.

There are three dresses, two of which can be dressed up or down depending on the accessories you put with them.

The knitwear includes both heavyweight and lightweight turtlenecks as well as a couple cardigans and a pullover.

And the outerwear includes both denim and leather jackets, as well as a trench coat. If your climate is warmer, your knitwear and outerwear will probably be a bit different.

I’ve chosen a structured white shirt because it can be dressed up or down. You can see the difference between its cut and the cut of the blue chambray shirt next to it.

The t-shirts are basic rounded v-necks, but if a higher crew neck is better for your shape, you would choose that instead.

The striped shirt has a 3/4 length sleeve and is made of a fluid fabric that can be dressed up easily under a structured blazer.

A Multitude Of Outfit Ideas

Here are some examples of how you can combine these 24 pieces to make a variety of outfits:

Classic Capsule Outfits 1

 

As you look at them, imagine how simply adding boots, heels, or sneakers could give each outfit a different look.

Classic Capsule Outfits 1

 

Which look would you wear out to lunch with friends? Which one would be comfy enough to run to the grocery store and still feel like you look good.

Classic Capsule Outfits 3

 

I’ve shown you 36 outfits (more than you’d need in a month). But there are still a lot of combinations you could make. And if you added a shirt or two to the mix, you’d have even more outfits. Again, different accessories can turn just one combination into several outfits. 

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The Colorful Capsule Wardrobe

The Colorful Capsule Wardrobe

#ColorfulCapsuleWardrobe

 

Now, here is another capsule wardrobe template. I wanted to show you that it is possible to do this with bold colors. See, there’s that orange overcoat! 

You don’t need to limit yourself to a safe, neutral palette, or classic cuts. You just have to make sure you can combine all your clothing to make several outfits.  

A Note On Pattern

Although they’re brighter, I’ve kept it pretty simple with mostly solid choices and just a few patterns. This makes it easier to mix and match. If you like more pattern, like geometric or floral prints, you’ll just need to keep its overall color in mind to make sure it matches enough other items in your capsule.

Again, we’ve got all the basics, tops and bottoms, but this time with more color. We’ve kept a few of the classics, like the jeans and white tee, because those are the building blocks of most casual wardrobes. But the pleated skirt, pink joggers, and orange overcoat are curve balls you can throw in to mix up the overall look. 

Just As Many Outfit Ideas

As you can see, these 24 pieces also come together to create many different outfits, both dressy and casual. I wish you could see those navy pants better. They have this wonderful white ticking pinstripe that adds just the right amount of interest while still being neutral enough to match with everything else.

 

Colorful Capsule Wardrobe Outfits 1

Colorful Capsule Wardrobe Outfits 2

Colorful Capsule Wardrobe Outfits 2

 

So, again, you have more than a month’s worth of outfits from just 24 items. Imagine if you also had a few of the other pieces from the Classic Capsule Wardrobe. You’d have even more outfits.

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I hope these templates and outfit ideas have helped illustrate how a capsule wardrobe can be a fantastic solution for creating a wardrobe as long as you stay true to what’s best for your personality, shape, and lifestyle.

If you need help determining what’s best for your shape and style, be sure to read How To Best Dress Your Shape: Proportion Is The Key and How to Dress Better: Discover Your Signature Style

Until then,

Erin

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