How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe in 2020
This one goes out to all of you interested in flipping your wardrobe to something stylish, yet easy-to-put-together. That's right—let's talk capsule wardrobes.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a just different way of thinking about what you buy, own, and wear—one that emphasizes quality over quantity. There’s no set, one-size-fits-all (no pun intended) list of items. Your wardrobe shouldn’t feel like a uniform, after all! The idea is just to pare your wardrobe down to the essential pieces that fit you and suit you well. One good strategy that a lot of people use when building a capsule wardrobe is to shoot for timeless collection of pieces that will never go out of style, and swap in a couple of trendy pieces to keep things fresh as fashions change.
How many items should my capsule wardrobe include?
Some who have built very successful capsules say the magic number is 33 items, including shoes and accessories. That said, many resources say the range can be anywhere from 25 to 50 pieces. Importantly, this does not count items of clothing you own for specific purposes, like work uniforms, workout clothes, or pajamas. Don’t feel like you need to hold yourself to an exact number, though—nobody’s counting! Just try to get yourself in the mindset of owning only quality, versatile items, and pick a number to use as a guideline to keep you on track.
How do I start building a capsule wardrobe?
Your capsule wardrobe should be functional above all else—a timeless, easy-to-use collection of clothing that can transcend season, occasion, and your everyday lifestyle.
So how should you start building your capsule wardrobe? Start with what you have. With a little research, a little planning, and a few simple rules, the project will seem much more manageable.
- Find Inspiration:
It's time for a Pinterest/Tumblr/YouTube dig!! Start by collecting pics of looks you’re drawn to on a Pinterest board. If you’re struggling to imagine what cuts you might make, some of the capsule creators I've been following do a small capsule wardrobe for each season, which may be easier to start off. After you’ve filled up your board, look back over the pics and take note of some common factors in these styles. Maybe you’ve saved a lot of looks with fitted trousers, printed skirts, funky blazers, etc.—make a list of the commonalities and see where there’s overlap. This is also a good time to pick out a couple of statement pieces that you can plan the more basic parts of your capsule wardrobe around. Whatever the aesthetic is, it should still feel like you :)
- Pick a Color Palette:
Image: @shopstressed - Instagram
For your capsule wardrobe to be as useful as possible, you’ll want to stick to a single color palette. That doesn’t have to mean totally monochrome; you just want to aim for a color scheme that’s as easy to mix-and-match as possible to maximize your wearability. Decide whether you want your neutrals to be browns/tans/beiges or blacks/greys/charcoals, then choose a family of colors that you love and that suits you: jewel tones, earth tones, pastels, etc. By creating a unified color scheme, you’ll be able to mix any top with any pant, or any accessory with any dress, and come out with an outfit that looks put-together and purposeful.
- Build Your Basics:
Image: Lauren Johnson - discodaydream.com
Of course, there are a few staple items that just about every wardrobe, capsule or not, needs. A good starting point for the essential pieces in a capsule wardrobe:
- A great fitting pair of jeans
- A pair of dressy trousers in the neutral of your choice
- A classic, high-quality white tee
- 1-2 neutral tank tops for layering
- 1-2 button-up shirts in classic colors (white, oxford blue)
- A little black dress, of course!
Adapt this list to your own lifestyle—what you wear to work, what you like to wear on the weekends, how active your lifestyle is, etc. If you already have some of these items in your closet, great! Hang on to them, and only buy what you need.
Contrary to what you might expect, shopping for basics is just about the least basic part about this process. Finding a great basic is actually a lot harder than it seems, and you will need the essential items you choose to be layerable and versatile enough to build lots of different outfits and try out new styles.
Personally, I have found that splurging on a basic is often very worth it. You feel good for buying an item that's well made, it will likely last much longer, and most of the time, the fits are just … better. One company that I find myself returning to time and time again is Lacausa. They have great tees, tanks, turtlenecks, and button-ups. Remember: building a great capsule wardrobe is all about quality over quantity.
- Try-On Test:
Overalls: Amuse Society
Building a capsule wardrobe is a process, so unless you are an impeccable planner with a lot of extra cash lying around, you won't have every piece at once. As I build my own capsule wardrobe, every piece I think I'm going to incorporate goes through a try-on test. If I’m considering a top, I pair it with multiple bottoms, shoes, and jackets to make sure I can get multiple uses from every piece. If I can't get it to work with more than a couple outfits, then I have to decide if it is worth keeping at all. A special occasion piece might pass this test, but be wary: “I’ll wear it someday” is the lie every clothing-obsessed human tells themselves while trying to purge their closet. If you can't work it into your new look, it's probably time to find it a new home.
- Assess Your Closet:
Image: @carmushka - instagram
Now that you’ve chosen your statement pieces and basics, take a good look at your closet as a whole. What gaps do you need to fill? Do you have several crop tops but no high-waisted pants to pair them with? Are two of your dresses sort of similar, so you can let one go? Is there one pair of pants that you just don’t have the right shoes for? This will give you a better idea of what you need to finish off your capsule wardrobe, and it’s also a good opportunity to make sure you’ve covered your bases for every season and occasion you need to dress for.
- Make a Checklist:
Now you’ve gathered all the information, it’s time to make a list of what you need to buy. Don’t rush the process. Make sure that every piece you work into your capsule wardrobe:
- Is high-quality
- Is versatile enough to be worn in many different outfits
- Matches your chosen color scheme and aesthetic
- Fits you perfectly (whether that requires a little tailoring or not)
- Makes you feel your very best!
Search for these pieces little by little, and replace what needs replacing as you go. Revisit your inspiration board if you need to re-focus on the style you have in mind!
- How to Upkeep a Capsule Wardrobe:
After all the hard work is done, continue to upkeep your capsule wardrobe by monitoring what you buy. Will it fit into your capsule wardrobe? Is it a “want” or a “need?” The point of the capsule is to size down and find your true personal style, so challenge yourself to stick to it. Style changes and evolves, so have fun and make your capsule your own!
The shop gals at Revival can help you figure out what works for you, which basics you need, and how to find pieces that fit into your chosen aesthetic—just ask when you’re in the shop! And, of course, if your closet purge results in a pile of clothes that are in great shape but just not the look you’re going for, bring them into the store and we’ll find them a loving home :)