Ever since I moved from Texas to California, I’ve been curating my wardrobe bit by bit, letting go of pieces I don’t love or that don’t fit (sent to thredUP, of course!) and only bringing in items that I really love, make me feel great, and serve a unique purpose in my closet. What has guided my curation process has been the capsule wardrobe method. Today, I’m going to be sharing how I formed my capsule wardrobe and my tips for starting your own!
What is a capsule wardrobe?
If you’re not familiar with the capsule wardrobe method, it’s basically choosing a set number of items that coordinate well together to encourage wearing your pieces in more ways, more often. Over time, following this method can promote more mindful purchasing of clothing.
You can create a capsule for each season, or make a larger one that works for you year-round. The number of items is also very flexible, but many find that the sweet spot is 30-40 items (this includes all tops, bottoms, outerwear, dresses, and even shoes, bags, and accessories).
I’m working toward a year-round capsule in the long-run, since I live in So Cal and our “seasons” just require an added layer or so, but I plan to refresh things each season.
Creating a capsule that works for your life
The hardest part of building a capsule wardrobe can be figuring out what items you really need for a capsule that will last a full season. The easiest way for me to choose items has been thinking about what my typical outfit structures (sometimes called “uniforms”) for different modes of my life.
My typical uniforms:
- Work: top and black pants or dress with jacket
- Weekend: top and jeans or shorts, a dress on occasion
For me, it’s that simple. For you, you might have a few more uniforms to add to your list, whether it’s for other main items you like to wear or for modes you live in.
- If you like to wear skirts for work or on special occasions, add that with a top to your list of uniforms.
- If you spend more time going out (to places fancier than Target or Chili’s) then you might have more items in your capsule for special occasions.
How Many Items in a Capsule?
When starting your capsule wardrobe, I actually suggest you keep the number of items open, yet realistic. Again, think about your life and what situations you are in most often. Think about how frequently you’re comfortable with wearing one item. Think about how often you do laundry.
In my case, I work in an office (loosely business casual) five days a week and have mostly casual evenings and weekends. I don’t like to wear the same top or dress to work more often than every two weeks, so I know I need to have at least 10 tops and dresses that I am comfortable wearing to work in my capsule, plus a few more casual items and the other outfit pieces to go with them.
Choosing your items
My suggestions for choosing items for your capsule wardrobe comes down to two main tips:
- Not every item needs to do everything. You may work a corporate job and wear business professional most often, but you don’t have to make sure every top in your capsule is both nice enough to wear with a suit and casual enough to wear with distressed denim.
- Choose items because they work for you, not because they work online. There are so many pins out there to copy to create a capsule wardrobe. But if you look at those pins and don’t see your existing closet somewhat already in that image, then you most likely won’t end up wearing the items you pull together.
Choosing Base Pieces
First, pull out your most basic pieces you wear most often, focusing on neutral colors only at first (think black, navy, gray, white, tan khaki, olive khaki). Seeing any themes?
When I first started curating my wardrobe, I realized choosing a main neutral base color would automatically help narrow down my wardrobe and make choosing outfits and new pieces so much easier. I have always preferred to wear black pants to work – khaki isn’t a flattering color for me and I always have trouble finding shoes to work with navy – so I put away everything but black and denim. For probably a full year I wore only black leggings, black jeans, black work pants, black shorts, and (of course) blue jeans.
The awesome benefit of this was that when I went shopping for a new top, I didn’t have to think, “How many colors of my Old Navy Pixie Chinos can I wear this with?” I just though, “Does this look good with black or denim?”
Choose those very basic neutrals to serve as your base colors, pull out the items in those colors that you enjoy wearing, and then move on to adding more color!
Adding Color to your Capsule
So you have your base colors chosen. Now you’ll want to think of two things to choose the other colors for your capsule: the season and your style. I recommend choosing colors based on what you have already, and then filling in to complete the capsule. That way you’re choosing colors you’ve gravitated toward in the past and flatter you instead of choosing colors just because they look nice together online.
I suggest choosing two base colors and two main colors. If you like to have a more varied/colorful wardrobe then add 2-3 accent colors. Here’s a couple of examples of these color palettes:
- Palette 1:
- Base: black and denim
- Main: white and gray
- Accent: pink, tan, and olive
- Palette 2:
- Base: denim and olive
- Main: black and maroon
- Accent: cream and gray
- Palette 3:
- Base: navy and denim
- Main: cream and mustard
- Accent: coral and olive
Give me the Tl;dr?
- Pull out all of your favorite clothes. Separate them into colors.
- Think of your typical uniforms (parts of them are probably already in front of you). Pick the tops and dresses that make up these outfits, choosing as many as you’d like to have on rotation.
- Add bottoms that go with the tops.
- Add jackets and cardigans for layering.
- Add whatever shoes you need to complete your uniforms.
- Add purses that suit different occasions and uniforms. (Some people also add jewelry and other accessories to their capsules.)
How do I keep this going?
I suggest hanging your capsule items in one section of your closet together, then trying to wear only those items for a couple of weeks. If you find yourself avoiding anything or pulling something in a few times, then reassess things until it feels good for you.
While some people choose to put all items that aren’t in their current capsule into storage, I think it’s best to keep things flexible so that you are able to learn more about how you interact with the other items in your wardrobe. Since leaning on the capsule method, I have been quicker to notice when an item I have is no longer something I want to wear, making it easier to donate or sell.
If you like to track your outfits and pieces more closely, I suggest the Stylebook app (or something similar if you don’t have an Apple device).
A Sample Capsule Template
I really can’t stress enough that you have to choose items that work for you and your life, but here’s a basic template to start with that’s similar to the structure of my current capsule:
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 2 pairs of pants for work
- 1 pair of shorts
- 2 jackets
- 1 cardigan
- 2 light sweaters/sweatshirts
- 10 work tops (some may also be casual wear)
- 3 casual tops
- 3 work dresses (some may also be casual wear)
- 2 casual dresses
- 1-3 bags (different sizes/occasions
- work shoes (different colors)
- sandals (different colors)
- 1 pair of sneakers (like Keds or Vans)
Total: about 35 pieces
Thanks for sticking with me through this long post! That is all for today, but soon I will be sharing my Summer 2019 Colorful Capsule so you can get an idea of how I put this post into practice.
Do you follow the capsule wardrobe method? How do you make your capsule your own? Please comment here or on Instagram! (Follow me @natalieblends!)
P.S. Here’s some referral links to some of my favorite sites. Use if you’d like!
- Ebates – This is a great way to earn cash back from online shopping (that you’re already doing) at many of your favorite stores! (Including Sephora & Ulta!) If you join through this link and make a purchase of $25 or more, you’ll get an extra $10 cash back and your own referral code, and I’ll get $15 as well.
- thredUP – I love using thredUP to clean out my closet and shop for new pieces at a discounted price – sometimes they’re even brand new with tags! When you join thredUP through this link, you get $10 to spend and I get $10 to shop after you place your first order.
- StitchFix – This is a great way to try out some new items for your closet, without the hassle of going to the stores and the bonus of a personal stylist. If you sign up with this link, you’ll get a FREE styling fee (usually $20) on your first Fix, and I’ll get $25 credit once it ships.