What is a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a fancy name for a simple concept. A capsule wardrobe is a limited number of clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create lots of different outfits.
An easy way to create a capsule is to think about taking a one-week trip with just a carry-on bag. If you need to travel light, you’ll pack only the items you need, that can be worn together. That’s it — that’s a capsule.
Is a capsule wardrobe for you?
If you’re someone who likes to dress in a very expressive or impulsive way, then a capsule is probably not for you.
However if you like efficiency; if you want to spend as little mental energy as possible on your wardrobe; if clothing and accessories are low on your priority list, having a capsule could be a great way to free up more time to spend on the things that are really important to you.
How do you get started?
Step 1: Evaluate what you have
The point of a capsule is to create a sustainable wardrobe. In order to buy only what you need and will wear, start by picking your favorite items out of your wardrobe — the ones that fit and feel good on.
Simple math tells you that the more items you have, the more outfits you can create. To mix and match the maximum number of outfits, choose separates (tops & bottoms) over dresses or jumpsuits (although I do love a jumpsuit in a dark neutral color as the base of a capsule).
Step 2: Choose a theme
How do you decide which items can be combined together? An easy way is to choose a color palette, fabric or other theme.
Most people choose a neutral or two as the base for most pieces (e.g. black, navy, grey, taupe, white or brown). Add in an accent color or two, possibly a print, and you’re done.
Or maybe you love travel fabric (lightweight synthetic that dries quickly and doesn’t wrinkle), so most of your items would be made out of the same fabric in different colors/prints that coordinate with one another.
A theme could be anything: glitter, nautical, a hobby — the sky’s the limit. You just need to translate it into clothing & accessories, and make sure it’s aligned with your personal brand.
Step 3: Think in layers
Chances are, you and your wardrobe will need to adapt to different temperatures. By choosing top garments that can be worn at the same time, in layers, you can easily dress cooler or warmer. These also fold up easier in a bag than a bulkier blazer or jacket.
One of my favorite layering pieces is the wool camisole. Wool is a great fabric year round. Wear the cami dress under a shirt in colder temps, or by itself in summer.
Step 4: Accessorize
Shoes and accessories are a fast and easy way to completely change the look of an outfit. Jewelry takes up a minimum amount of space as well. Two extras to consider: hair and nails.
Step 5: Combine & Photograph
Once you have a group of items that coordinate, try making and wearing a different outfit each day. You won’t like each one equally, but photograph your favorites and save them in an album on your phone to refer back to.
Notice if any themes come up. For example, you tend to pair the same earrings with any outfit to dress it up, or you never pair sneakers with certain pants. By noticing your defaults, you can consciously challenge them and find more variety.
With fewer clothes in rotation, you’ll be wearing those items more often, so easy-to-care-for garments are important. Think about what needs less washing and ironing (also better for the environment!). Consider not just fabrics and fiber content, but also colors. For instance white garments in my wardrobe only last one season due to discoloration at the collar, under the arms, and of course everything I sit in or spill on myself.
What’s the climate like where you’re living/traveling? Does it vary? Do you need multi-purpose garments and accessories? Do certain things look good, but not hold up in the weather? For instance, if you’re in a wet climate, I would stay away from suede.
Culture is an important consideration in any wardrobe. In a capsule it’s even more important. How about modesty? Do you know the meaning of certain colors in the different cultures you’re working in? If in doubt, ask a friend or acquaintance for their input.
Elevate Your Image
For more guidance in creating a capsule as part of Your Signature Look, download the free Elevate Your Image guide that makeup artist and author Natalie Setareh have created for you.