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The Ultimate Guide to Capsule Wardrobes

Shopping for clothes, whether in-store or online, often feels daunting. Without a plan or clear direction, it can be easy to drift among countless options and purchase pieces regardless of whether they truly serve our needs.

But there’s a simple solution to this overwhelming experience: a capsule wardrobe. The idea of a capsule wardrobe isn’t new, but it's gaining traction worldwide for its simplicity and sustainability. 

In this article, we explore the capsule wardrobe—what it is, who can benefit from it, and how you can start creating your own.

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is a curated collection of timeless clothing pieces that can be mixed and matched to create various outfits. 

This concept emphasizes quality over quantity, ensuring that each item is versatile, durable, and, ideally, environmentally friendly. Ultimately, you end up with a small collection of essential pieces that you wear regularly. 

A Brief History of Capsule Wardrobes

The term "capsule wardrobe" was coined by London boutique owner Susie Faux in the 1970s. Through her boutique, Faux intended to provide a roadmap for professional women to invest in cost-effective pieces that would never go out of style.

In 1985, the term became increasingly popular in the United States, propelled by American fashion designer Donna Karan who created her first line, the Seven Easy Pieces, which comprised seven interchangeable pieces that could be worn for many different occasions. 

Today, the capsule closet is a framework that is typically created per season —  or every 3 months, approximately — and includes 30 to 50 clothing items. 

Benefits of Having a Capsule Wardrobe

Sustainability

Since the capsule framework is defined by limited clothing pieces that focus on quality, longevity, and classic designs, it has become a road map for customers to remain fashionable while consuming less. This mindful consumption leads to less waste, lower carbon footprints, and a positive impact on the planet. 

Financial Savings

Embracing a capsule wardrobe compels a shopper to prioritize higher quality clothing, all while reducing the need for frequent clothing purchases dictated by trendy items and low-quality pieces. Instead of chasing after every fast fashion industry trend, a mindful shopper spends time researching, bargain hunting, and thoughtfully purchasing items that not only last longer but can also be repaired over time.

Simplified Decision-Making

With a capsule collection, deciding what to wear becomes easier. Fewer options mean less decision fatigue so that you can start your day with less stress and more confidence in your outfit choices. A curated closet can streamline your workday and reduce decision fatigue. 

Reduced Clutter

Most people wear only 20% of their clothes 80% of the time. And yet, most people struggle to let go of clothes, even those they know they no longer love or wear. 

A wardrobe detox helps you let go of unnecessary items and focus on quality over quantity, all while reducing clutter and chaos in your life through fewer clothes. By paring down your closet to the most beloved staple pieces, you can create a more organized and manageable living environment. 

Personal Style Development

Finding joy in personal style is one of the unexpected but delightful benefits of building your own capsule wardrobe. 

Though trends may seem to dominate the fashion world, most women actually value their style identity over fleeting fashions. Think of it as a personal fashion challenge that encourages you to get creative with your outfits while using the same clothes without the temptation of shopping for more.

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

Closet Audit

To start a capsule wardrobe, you must audit your current wardrobe. 

Take absolutely everything out of your closet and lay it out on your bed. It might seem exhausting and tedious but taking everything out at once is your best bet at gaining style clarity. As you put your favourite pieces back into your empty closet, your style may start to seem obvious. Embrace it and then donate or recycle items that no longer serve you.

Define Your Style

Consider what clothing makes you feel confident and comfortable. Look for patterns in colors, cuts, and fabrics you prefer, and let these preferences lead the way in terms of your choices for your capsule wardrobe.

Then, consider where you spend the most of your time. If you work in a business casual setting, your capsule wardrobe will look very different from that of a full-time yoga instructor. 

Sometimes, you might not have perspective on your style because it’s so innately yours. Perhaps you’re a fashion novice, so you’ll naturally have to learn how to style a basic T-shirt and jeans. In such cases, an outside eye can be just what you need to reveal what you already have. 

Choose a Colour Palette

When choosing a colour palette for your capsule closet, start with versatile neutrals like black, white, gray, and beige. Foundational colours like these make mixing and matching a breeze. After that, add in a few accent colors that flatter your skin tone and reflect your unique style. 

Build According to the Seasons

Make sure your capsule wardrobe is ready for any weather by selecting pieces that fit your climate. 

Picture yourself in breezy, lightweight fabrics for hot summer days, keeping you cool and stylish. Then, when the chill sets in, switch to your winter capsule wardrobe and pull out the cozy layers that wrap you in warmth without sacrificing style. By tailoring your wardrobe to the seasons, you can ensure that comfort and fashion go hand in hand all year round.

Focus on Versatile Pieces

Go for versatile pieces that can be styled in many different ways, effortlessly transitioning from casual to formal. Think tailored blazers, well-fitted jeans, and a crisp white button-down shirt. Ultimately, aiming for pieces that act as chameleons that pair effortlessly with other pieces in your closet is a great idea. 

Capsule Wardrobe Tips From the Pros

Focus on Timeless Styles Instead of Trends

When building your capsule wardrobe, prioritize classic, timeless pieces that never lose their charm even as trends evolve. Take the classic trench coat as an example – it's not just a coat, it's a style statement that keeps you looking sharp and sophisticated, rain or shine. A simple, well-made sweater can be your go-to for both cozy weekends and polished office wear. 

Prioritize Comfort

An important step in curating your very own capsule wardrobe is determining what you like to wear and which pieces give you comfort and confidence. Feeling comfortable in your clothes allows you to listen to what your body needs without the distraction of feeling squeezed or out of breath. Enjoying movement is also easier when you aren’t distracted by your clothes.

Don’t Buy Your Capsule Wardrobe 

It’s tempting to go out and buy 33 perfect pieces for your entire wardrobe, but this simply isn’t the point! Instead, start by figuring out what you really need by working with what you have. If you need to add a piece or two, go for it! Otherwise, give yourself three months of dressing with less to better understand what you need for a capsule wardrobe that works best for you.

Layering is Key

Layering is key to making your clothes work for all seasons. Layering not only allows for creative dressing but it also empowers you to express yourself by introducing different lines, shapes, patterns, and fabrics to an outfit. You can extend the life of your summer wardrobe into fall by experimenting with layering. In doing so, you can select your essential pieces of clothing and find unique ways to wear them, too.

Consider Your Lifestyle

When creating a minimal wardrobe, a lot of people focus on defining the numbers right from the get-go. There isn’t a magic number (or wardrobe) for everyone. Your capsule wardrobe will depend on the type of lifestyle you lead. If you’re a professional who works in an office, you’ll need quite a different wardrobe than a casual freelance programmer or a nurse who wears scrubs most days.

Regularly Reassess

Life is always changing – whether it's a new job, a new hobby, or just a shift in your individual tastes. By periodically reviewing your wardrobe, you can make sure it still fits your current needs and preferences. Updating your wardrobe to reflect your lifestyle changes helps you stay stylish and ensures that every piece you own is something you love and wear often.

Take Care of Your Clothes

How long clothing lasts depends on several factors: frequency of wear, fabric durability, color, the ability to repair or alter garments, and how well clothes are cared for. Taking good care of your clothing extends its lifespan and reduces environmental impact. Whether it's brand new or a cherished hand-me-down, everyday wear, or special occasion attire, all garments benefit from basic maintenance, ultimately saving you money in the long term.

Draw Inspiration From This Capsule Wardrobe Example

A well-crafted capsule wardrobe embodies the essence of minimalism while maximizing versatility and style, offering the best basics. For example, having a few basic tees in your wardrobe is the perfect canvas for any outfit—simple, versatile, and effortlessly stylish. In fact, no basic tee collection is complete without a timeless black tee. Whether you're aiming for professional polish, casual elegance, or weekend comfort, these items showcase how thoughtful choices can transform your daily dressing routine into a seamless and stylish experience.

 

2-3 Basic Tees



1-2 Essential Dresses

1-2 Button-Down Shirts/Blouses



3-4 Sweaters

3-4 Jackets/Coats/Blazers

1-2 Trousers/Pants

1-2 Shorts

2-3 Pairs of Denim Jeans

3-4 Pairs of Shoes



2-3 Bags

1-2 Belts

Ready to Build a Capsule Wardrobe?

Building a capsule wardrobe can be an exciting personal project that leaves you with a collection of versatile, classic pieces that can be mixed and matched over time. With each iteration of the capsule wardrobe, you’ll develop new ways to implement your own personal style while also prioritizing a smaller environmental footprint. 

Frank and Oak is the perfect place to start when taking the first step in building a capsule wardrobe. All of our products are produced using sustainable processes and eco-friendly materials. Ready to start your sustainable style journey? Check out our versatile essentials!

 

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