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How to build a capsule wardrobe that you love

The capsule wardrobe has been dominating the fashion world lately. But what is a capsule wardrobe and how do you create one? Here's our take on this phenomenon and what we can learn from it from a slow fashion perspective.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is a curated collection of garments with a timeless value that can be easily mixed and matched to create many different outfits. These are often versatile pieces in neutral colors, with classic designs and silhouettes that complement each other.

Susie Faux originally invented the capsule wardrobe concept. She was the owner of a boutique called Wardrobe in London in the 70s. When Faux noticed that her customers were spending money on too many clothes that were not optimal for them in the long run, her solution was to offer a few high-quality, timeless essentials that would never go out of style.

American designer Donna Karan brought the capsule wardrobe back into the mainstream when she launched her iconic 1985 collection Seven Easy Pieces, an interchangeable line of mostly black business wear essentials for women. The idea of a carefully curated, minimalist wardrobe has seen a resurgence lately and continues to stay relevant as people try to find ways to limit their fast fashion consumption habits.

The pursuit of a timeless wardrobe

In recent days, the capsule wardrobe has become an antidote to the massive amounts of seasonally trendy garments that fast fashion manufacturers churn out daily. Brands like ASKET have even built a business model around the capsule concept. Although they sell new clothes, they aim to design timeless garments that will stand the test of time rather than announcing new clothing lines each season, in what they call "the pursuit of less."

Besides the slow fashion appeal, a capsule wardrobe can also be a helpful remedy for decision fatigue. Having a closet full of well-planned outfits should make it easier to put outfits together. Because, really, can you ever really go wrong with a white button-up and a pair of black pants?

Woman steaming a hooded sweatshirt

How to build a capsule wardrobe

Building a capsule wardrobe is a clever way to streamline your closet and make getting dressed in the morning a simpler process. You can also save money by reducing your need to constantly buy new clothes. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you build your own capsule wardrobe. 

1. Assess your current wardrobe 

The first step to building a capsule wardrobe is to take a good look at what you already own. Go through your closet and identify your favorite clothing items.

What are some staple pieces and must-haves that make up your current closet? Perhaps a reliable pair of high-waisted pants, a plain white t-shirt, or a trench coat with a classic silhouette? Or some timeless shoes and accessories that go with any outfit?

Pull out anything that you no longer wear or that does not fit you right. Here are some tips on how to sell your items on the second-hand market. Make note of the items that you wear the most, as well as those that you wish you had in your wardrobe.

2. Discover your personal style 

Your capsule wardrobe should reflect your personal style, so it's important to take some time to think about what that is. Think about which favorite colors, patterns, and textures make you feel confident and comfortable. If you're not sure what your personal style is, turn to online quizzes, style blogs, or fashion magazines for inspiration and outfit ideas.

Building a well-curated wardrobe should not hinder your creativity or mute your personal style. It is simply a pursuit to be more conscious about the long-term life of your wardrobe rather than constantly shopping based on impulse or the latest trends.

It's entirely possible to take this concept and apply your own sense of style to it. Your capsule wardrobe doesn't have to be a collection of interchangeable clothes. Never be afraid to fully embrace your own style. Play with colors and patterns and combine different materials to create contrasts while keeping the idea of buying your clothes with intention.

3. Choose a color palette

A color palette is a great way to ensure that the items in your capsule wardrobe will be able to be mixed and matched. Choose a base color (such as black, white, navy, or beige) and add a few accent colors. You can also add some neutral colors like white or gray for versatile options. Choose colors that you love and look good on you.

4. Select your wardrobe essentials 

Once you have a sense of your personal style and color palette, you can begin selecting the items that will make up your capsule wardrobe. These should include a mix of easy pieces that can be dressed up or down, such as a little black dress, a classic white blouse, and a pair of well-fitting jeans. The goal is to have a versatile wardrobe, where a few items can create many different outfits.

Here are a few examples of items that could go into a capsule wardrobe:

  • 2–3 pairs of pants (jeans, chinos, dress pants)
  • 2–3 skirts (a pencil skirt, a-line, and a maxi)
  • 3–5 tops (blouses, tees, and sweaters)
  • 2–3 outerwear (a raincoat, a jacket, and a trench coat)
  • 2–3 dresses (a little black dress, a shirt dress, and a casual dress)
  • 2–3 pairs of shoes (sneakers, heels, and flats)
  • 2–3 bags
  • A pair of sunglasses
  • A scarf
  • A belt

  • 5. Add a few statement pieces

    While your capsule wardrobe should primarily consist of versatile pieces, it's also a good idea to include a few statement items to add some interest to your outfits. These could be bold jewelry pieces, a bright handbag, or a top with a colorful print.

    6. Maintain your capsule wardrobe

    Another important and often overlooked step is to care for your garments and help them last for a long time. This includes buying high-quality clothes that will stand the test of time. Unfortunately, not all fabrics were made to last since fast fashion brands are constantly looking for ways to lower production costs.

    Different textiles are made from various fibers. Some garments are made from natural sources, like cotton or wool. Silk is a natural protein fiber produced by silkworms, while wool comes from the undercoat of sheep and goats. Read our care guide for more tips on how to care for your textiles.

    Take note of items that are showing signs of wear, and refresh them with a fabric shaver or sewing kit when necessary. This will help you to keep your wardrobe fresh and current.

    What can we learn from this?

    The benefits of a capsule wardrobe are well worth the time and effort. With a streamlined collection of essential items that you love, you will be able to mix and match to create a variety of outfits with minimal effort.

    The capsule concept could easily be misinterpreted as a hopeless journey of finding the perfect collection of bland, neutral clothes. But the most important thing is to invest in clothes that you will love and appreciate for a long time. Stay true to your style, purchase clothes that you feel comfortable in, and make them your life-long companions.

    Washington Post

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