How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

My Capsule Wardrobe Challenge is officially over! It’s been such a fun month and I’m excited to share with you all how I built my capsule, so that you can create one too if you want. After that, I’ll get into what I learned, liked, and didn’t like as much, about the experience. This post might be a bit long because I want to give you guys complete and helpful information…so just to let ya know out the gate!

First, a quick recap of the challenge: for one month (Dec. 26-Jan. 25) I lived in a small, carefully selected subset of my wardrobe. It consisted of 30 items (you can view every item in my capsule here):

  • 3 jackets
  • 3 sweaters
  • 3 long sleeve shirts
  • 3 short sleeve shirts
  • 3 tanks
  • 3 pairs o jeans
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 1 dress
  • 1 skirt
  • 6 pairs of shoes
  • 3 bags

Before creating my capsule, I read several articles on the topic, with an eye to the “staple” pieces most other capsules seemed to contain. While there was a lot of variation, a black dress, a pair of distressed blue jeans, a denim shirt, and a black skirt seemed to show up in every one. Seeing this influenced me to include these items as well; for the other pieces, this is how I decided:

  1. I got a rough idea of how many pieces I wanted to include (33 was my initial target), and an idea of how that would break down in terms of  tops, bottoms, shoes, and bags. I like round numbers, so 3 of each became my general goal.
  2. Next, I put every piece of clothing I owned which I absolutely loved/wore frequently on my bed. These all became contenders. 
  3. Then, I picked out my jackets. I don’t have as many jackets as I do other pieces, so I picked these first to then coordinate tops and bottoms with them.
  4. After this I picked out my tops. This consisted of trying on a bunch of tops with Jacket #1. Repeat for jacket #2 and jacket #3. I made sure all three of the jackets I picked were extremely versatile pieces, so most tops in the running ended up coordinating well. For tops, I consciously chose mostly neutral options, but threw in a few “statement” pieces to mix things up.
  5. Once I had my tops determined, I moved on to sweaters. I decided on two very neutral options (one black, one cream) and one pop of color (burnt orange). I picked three very different styles for more interest and to be able to create differentiated looks.
  6. Next I picked my jeans, and this was probably the easiest part. I opted for my favorite pair of distressed blues, my white skinnies, and a pair of wine colored jeans. 
  7. At this point, my capsule was mostly set, so shoes were easy. Every pair of shoes was neutral, but again, I consciously chose different styles. I did wish a few days in to the Challenge that I’d included a pair of black heels…but I made things work!
  8. Last but not least, handbags. I’ve heard the Louis Vuitton monogram pattern referred to as “the new neutral” for bags, and after this experiment I see why: my LV went with my outfits like a neutral would, but the awesome thing was the pattern also provided interest to more basic outfits. For the other two bags, I chose my tan go-to Brahmin satchel and a new favorite: my Vince Camuto grey cross body with the coolest tassel ever 😍. 
  9. And that was it! I left out undergarments/pajamas/workout clothes/dress slacks. Because I only had 4 meetings this month where I needed business attire, I didn’t include dress pants in my capsule (if I had, it would have brought the total from 30-32 pieces). 

So that’s the process I followed and recommend since it worked well. Next, here are tips I learned in case you decide to create your own capsule (do it..do it…do it):

  • Spend time up front. You have to do this if you want to develop a capsule that (1) you love, (2) coordinates, and (3) allows for a variety of looks. In total, I spent around 2 hours picking out my capsule- it’s a thought intensive process (in a fun way!). Pre-capsule, it took me about 5 minutes to decide on my outfit in the morning, but with the capsule it took seconds (no joke!). So in 31 days pre-capsule, I spent ~2.5 hours getting dressed. From this standpoint, keeping the capsule for only one month only saved me about a half hour. From what I read though, the idea with a capsule is to only change your set every three months for the next season. So a quarterly capsule is a real time-saver. Once set up, it makes creating an outfit each day so fast and easy! I felt like I always had something to wear and wasn’t sacrificing style. In fact, it was faster and easier to style a darling look with fewer choices. This surprised me, but really it makes sense: whenever you have fewer options, a decision is easier to make.
  • Choose items you love and you will want to wear; don’t pick an item because it shows up in most other capsules you see online. I picked a black dress and skirt for this reason, and honestly I only wore each once. In this vein I would also say don’t feel you have to have certain articles of clothes; if you’re not a skirt person, skip the skirt; if heels don’t fit your lifestyle, go with flats.
  • Opt for high quality pieces. With a capsule, you end up wearing the same things over and over (albeit in different combinations). Things get worn out more quickly and thus quality is key. I learned this the hard way when one of my sweaters started pilling :).
  • Take into account the time of year and climate. This sounds like an obvious one, but yours truly included a black mini skirt that I only wore the week temps hit north of 70 (coincidentally, the week after our snowstorm!). (In my defense, I was going to wear it with tights in cooler weather! Never happened.)
  • Use accessories to key your looks fresh. My suggestion is to keep your accessory options (belts, scarves, jewelry) open rather than limit to a specific number. Because a lot of your capsule will probably end up being neutral pieces, accessories will often be key for “making” your look.
  • Ok, this last one is kind of funny, but here goes: leave only your capsule clothes in your closet and pack up the rest. I didn’t do this because it was a month-long experiment and I’ll be honest—sometimes I was tempted to wear other things. I mean, everything else was hanging there right beside my capsule, taunting me!

The one thing I didn’t like about having a capsule is, while I always had something to wear, I got tired of my 30 items and wanted new. I chalk that up partially to human nature (we always want more), and partially to the fact that as a fashion blogger I had to resist buying and wearing darling pieces I came across online :).

I am so happy I did My Capsule Wardrobe Challenge. It forced me to get more creative about combining things into an outfit and expanded my horizons. Because I had less to work with, I had to make it go further…they say “necessity is the mother of invention” and it’s true here, lol! For just this fact I would recommend  doing a capsule wardrobe; it’ll grow your fashion capabilities.

The biggest take home: you don’t need a lot of clothes to have great style everyday; be strategic about which items you choose, and you can have awesome style and variety  with a few dozen pieces. This can save time and money in the long run.

Lastly, you can apply capsule wardrobe principles to a larger set of clothes-or even your whole closet: when shopping, choose pieces that are versatile (for instance, solid colors and anything that can be layered) and that enhance what’s already in your wardrobe. On the flip side, removing clothes that don’t coordinate or that you don’t love/don’t fit will make it easier to see new outfit combinations.

Below is my last capsule photo as well as a few of my favorite looks from the past month.

What do you guys think: is the capsule wardrobe concept a yay or nay? Email me at fifteenminutestoflawless@gmail.com or DM me on Instagram @fifteenminutestoflawless…or let me know in the comments below!

Muah,
Terra

My complete capsule wardrobe including all of the items I’m wearing below can be found here

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