How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe by Nicole Robertson

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

How to Build a
Capsule Wardrobe


A capsule wardrobe is a curated collection of clothes that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits.

Do you have a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear? Capsule wardrobes can simplify your life and help take away the stress of getting dressed. A capsule wardrobe is a curated collection of clothes that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits. The goal is to have fewer pieces that you love and wear often, rather than having a cluttered wardrobe full of clothing you never wear. Capsule wardrobes help reduce decision fatigue, save time, and save money. And don’t worry, capsule wardrobes aren’t just for people who like minimalist style—they work for maximalists too. Read on to learn how to build a capsule wardrobe of your own.

You can also get help from our personal stylists who will create a custom 10-piece sustainable capsule wardrobe tailored to your needs from our inventory of secondhand clothes.

Step 1: Declutter

The first step in building a capsule wardrobe is to declutter your existing wardrobe. Go through your closet and decide which items you want to keep, and which items you want to pass on. If it doesn’t fit, if you never wear it, or if you simply don’t love it, swap it! Your clothes should fit well and make you feel good. You can also sell items or give them to a friend or neighbor—we love our local Buy Nothing group. And if all else fails, you can donate items to your local thrift shop, but keep in mind that less than 20% of clothing donations get resold. As you go through your clothing, check for stains, tears, or other damage and create a mending pile. Learn a few easy stitch fixes or hire a tailor.

There are different approaches to decluttering your closet. You can KonMari it and go through everything at once, but if that is unrealistic for your schedule or feels too overwhelming, you can also take a slower approach. We recommend working in sections. For example, you could start with shirts, then work on bottoms, then outerwear, etc… Author and dClutterfly Founder Tracy McCubbin has great decluttering tips. Check out our podcast interview with Tracy “How to Stop Attracting Clutter” for some instant decluttering inspiration.

If it doesn’t fit, if you never wear it, or if you simply don’t love it, swap it!

Step 2: Define Your Style

If you haven’t figured out your personal style yet, it’s never too late! Personal style usually evolves over time anyway, and it never hurts to check in and ask yourself what you truly love. Do you like minimal, classic, relaxed, tailored, feminine, bohemian, preppy, grunge, glam, sporty, sexy, or trendy styles? Do you need clothes for work, for going out, or casual clothes? Create a mood board of different styles that you like. Pinterest is made for this.

"Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There's no how-to road map to style. It's about self-expression and, above all, attitude." —Iris Apfel

Step 3: Choose Your Color Palette

Neutral colors like black, white, beige, brown, grey, navy blue, or anything denim, can be the base of your wardrobe. This is the classic way to approach a capsule wardrobe because it’s easy to mix and match neutrals. You can then layer in any accent colors that you love. That being said, if you like bright rainbow colors and loud patterns, you can enjoy a capsule wardrobe too. The idea is to make sure you have items that can be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits that are easy for you to put together.

Step 4: Add Versatile Pieces

Now, look at the clothes you’ve decided to keep. What pieces do you already have that you can use to create similar looks from your mood board? What pieces are you missing? Look for items that can be dressed up or down, like a button-down shirt, a little black dress, a blazer, a trench coat, a basic tee, a denim jacket, and a pair of staple jeans. These versatile items will form the backbone of your wardrobe and can be worn in multiple ways. Make sure you have an assortment of tops and bottoms that can be worn together to create a variety of outfits. Make a wish list.

The most sustainable way to add new items to your wardrobe is to swap or shop secondhand. Patience is definitely a virtue here and this is your opportunity to fully embrace slow fashion. You may not find exactly everything you want right away, and that’s okay! If you’re going to add a few brand-new pieces, please make sure they’re from ethical and sustainable brands.

And before you start shopping, consider the size of your wardrobe. Depending on your lifestyle, a capsule wardrobe can have anywhere from 10-75 pieces. The key is to have the right amount of clothing for your needs. Wardrobe challenges like the 10 x 10 challenge can be a fun way to try out a capsule, but remember that the purpose is to make getting dressed easier, so don’t get too caught up in “the rules” if they don’t work for you.

If you’re wondering how much clothing is the “right” amount for a sustainable wardrobe, according to researchers from the Hot or Cool Institute, 74 pieces to create 20 outfits in total is “sufficient.” They suggest six outfits for work, three for home wear, three for sports, and two for festive occasions.

“The perfect accessory can make the difference between looking blah and totally to die for.” —Michael Kors

Step 5: Accessorize

Accessories can completely change the look of an outfit and are a great tool for having fun with a capsule wardrobe. A chic scarf, a few pieces of statement jewelry, a nice belt, and a versatile handbag can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have a little fun!

Step 6: Update Seasonally

A change in the seasons is a great time to review your wardrobe. If you have the storage space, pack away the items that you want to hold onto for the next hot or cold season, and purge any items that you have fallen out of love with. Take stock of any new additions you may want to add to freshen up your wardrobe. Remember to take a slow fashion approach and swap before you shop!

Personal Styling.

Want help building your capsule wardrobe? Our personal stlyists will create a 10-piece capsule wardrobe tailored just for you.

Order your capsule wardrobe now.

About the Author

Nicole Robertson is a sustainable fashion advocate, the founder of Swap Society, and the host of The Swap Society Podcast. Nicole is also an accomplished musician and retired dancer who lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two sons.

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