How to Build the Capsule Wardrobe You Never Knew You Needed


So capsule wardrobes are a thing now.

And believe it or not, they have been a thing for quite some time. It appeared when the minimalist movement that was already à la mode in the 70s and has entered our era in the shape of a charming Japanese lady asking us “does this bring you joy?”.

I’m sure you’ve heard about capsule wardrobes before – I’m quite sure we chatted about them in this post about slow fashion, didn’t we?

In case you need a refresher, a capsule wardrobe is a wardrobe with a limited amount of pieces. Like a boutique in your closet. It has to do with minimalism because you’re removing all the clutter and noise around you and keeping the essential (i.e. what you need + what makes you happy).

The best thing about capsule-ing is that there are rules but we can be naughty and bend them swimmingly. There are in particular two questions relating to these rules that tbh no one asked but I think are important.

capsule wardrobe

How many pieces should I keep in my capsule wardrobe?

Some people think that 24 is the magic number. Others that 33 is the sweet spot.

I say: aim anywhere under 50 to get started.

Going too minimalist too fast will frustrate you (more on my personal frustrated ugly cry on point 1) and make you want to quit your capsule experiment.

What should I do with the clothes I don’t want in my wardrobe?

Remember: you’re trying a capsule wardrobe (partly) for environmental reasons. So don’t throw your clothes away unless they are 100% unsalvageable.

Think twice because probably you can still give them some extra life:

  • sell them in your local second-hand store or online (thredUp, Poshmark, even on eBay,…), and make some extra $$ while you declutter
  • donate them to charity shops (Oxfam, for example), or shelters in your area
  • ask if any of your friends/family members want them

Do you want to learn more about sustainable fashion? Check out our series Sustainable Fashion 101 or download the free Sustainable Fashion Beginner’s Guide here:

How to build your perfect capsule wardrobe

1.Why do you want/need a capsule wardrobe?

Different people choose to build a capsule wardrobe for different reasons: saving money, being more efficient, waking up without that mental breakdown before coffee over what to wear, adopting a minimalist lifestyle or taking care of Mother Earth™.

After a lot (a lot) of trial and error, I think that the first key to a glorious capsule closet is to know your “why”.

Look, I suck at minimalism. I’m trying my best but I’m a bit of a hoarder by nature and I get very attached to clothes, I’m that basic. If I try to become a minimalist I’ll get frustrated and fail (and have that ugly-crying session I told you about earlier), but I know that if I frame things in a different way I’ll be excited about curating my closet.

My priority is taking care of the environment – with a dash of avoiding that morning mental breakdown –, so I don’t see my capsule wardrobe as a project towards minimalism, but as a way to be more mindful about the clothes I have and the potential environmental impact of the ones I want.

2. Evaluate your lifestyle

And think critically about what you really need and what you actually use.

That hot pink dress you have is fab, I agree. But probably you won’t be wearing it to the office every week.

So be honest with yourself and think about what will be useful, practical and deserves a place in your closet.

There’s a little trick that will make your job easier: you can write down the places you go to throughout the week and the activities you do there. Make a list of the main places or situations that you’ve written down and then think about the clothes that are practical or comfy for each task and location.

For example:

  • I go to uni 3 days a week and mostly wear jeans and basic t-shirts layered with a cozy cardigan
  • The rest of the time, I work from home
  • I go out for drinks once a week and I love using my little black dress or black jeans with a sparkly statement top
  • I go for brunch on Sundays and I like wearing comfy stuff, like a flowy dress or mom jeans

Something like this will help you a lot while you try to make up your mind.

Oh, bear in mind that there’s no one size fits all for capsule wardrobes, we all have different needs and tastes and that should be reflected in them. That being said, there are a few basics we all use at some point that you might want to have in your closet, like a basic t-shirt, a neutral shirt or blouse, jeans, formal pants, and a biker jacket, denim jacket or oversized blazer.

The idea is that you should have pieces that are easy to put together and that will look great with the rest of your wardrobe without losing that oomph that makes your style matchless.

3. Think about how your ideal style would look like

If limitations like money, size or society’s stupid standards didn’t exist, tell me, what would your style look like?

This is key because if you can’t see yourself in the clothes in your CW you’ll get sick of it at some point. You might be able to hang on with clothes that make you feel…meh…for a couple of weeks. A month tops. And then you’ll believe that your capsule wardrobe has failed you and that you need more clothes. And you’ll probably go on an impulse shopping session.

And that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to do here, right?

So back to my point. How does your ideal style look like?

Neutrals? Statement pieces with prints? Colors that make you feel all warm and happy inside? You do you, boo.

Instagram or Pinterest are amazing places to seek inspiration (I have seasonal inspiration boards just for this purpose, check them here: Fall / Winter / Spring).

how to create a capsule wardrobe

4. Choosing what stays and what goes

This is the hardest part, I know.

Some tips so that you don’t lose your mind:

  • start by saying buh-bye to all the clothes that don’t fit you anymore, that you abhor or that is broken beyond repair. We all have that one corner in our closet with clothes we hate but we’re too lazy to get rid of. So attack it first.
  • if you have quasi-duplicate pieces, choose your favorite one amongst them. For example, I have two very similar black going-out blouses, so I’ll have to choose only one – the most flattering one, the one with the best quality,…up to you.
  • always keep looking back at your checklist and some style inspiration from point 2 to stay focused.

5. Is there something you need to buy?

If your answer is no, perfect, you can skip this point.

If you do, you can always go to second hand or consignment stores.

But if you are really looking for that timeless staple that will give coherence to your capsule wardrobe and make your style unique and put together and you want it to be new, there are lots and lots of sustainable brands that will give you the quality you deserve without kicking your values to the curb.

Here you have a selection of my favorite sustainable fashion brands for all budgets and here you have another one on the different types of sustainable fashion.

I’m really trying to keep you away from fast fashion, can you tell?

6. Once you have the wardrobe of your dreams

Make your treasured capsule wardrobe a life-long project – after all, it has taken us quite a while to get to the last point, so we better make it worth it.

  • Do you feel there is something missing? If so, consider why you feel that way: is it a fashion craving you’re having? Or is it really something necessary?
  • Take care of your clothes properly and make them last.
  • Don’t be anxious about letting go of clothes and know that you can always rely on sustainable clothing rental services if you suddenly need something you don’t own.
  • Every once in a while, think whether there’s something that doesn’t serve you anymore, something that you don’t like anymore or something that you’d like to change.

Remember that your capsule wardrobe doesn’t need to be permanent and actually it shouldn’t – you’re a human being and you grow and evolve, and so should your style.

Do you have some experience with capsule wardrobes already?

I’d love to know your personal tips and tricks! Comment them down below or head over to my Instagram to chat about them.

how to build a capsule wardrobe

What do you think?

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