There are many reasons you may want to start building a capsule wardrobe. I mean, you didn’t land on this article by chance. You came here for a reason.
Minimizing and simplifying our lives is more than a trend that Marie Kondo came up with when we created her tidying up technique. It is opening our eyes to the fact that less is more.
You could be sick of the clutter and the decision making fatigue it has on you. Your clothes shouldn’t stress you out.
You are meant to feel comfortable in your clothes and that includes deciding what you will wear.
The decision-making process for what we wear every morning is an interesting one. For some, it is a creative process of self-expression when we pick out pieces of clothing and pair them together. For others, it is just to put something clean on that fits with what you are doing that day whether it is going into an office or working outside.
And then some already have a uniform assigned for what they wear to work such as nurses, restaurant workers, caterers, mechanics, etc. Or you might work from home and not have to worry as much about what you wear day-to-day.
Either way, I think a capsule wardrobe (and the varying types of capsule wardrobes) can benefit anyone.
And I will show you exactly how to build a capsule wardrobe in addition to:
- Decluttering and creating the perfect capsule wardrobe that works for you and your lifestyle
- What an example capsule wardrobe looks like
- Separate base wardrobe items and mini capsule wardrobes
- How to put together a work “uniform” from your capsule wardrobe
- My capsule wardrobe experiment
What is a capsule wardrobe?
The main authority on the capsule wardrobe movement is Caroline Rector who is also the creator of Unfancy.com, where you can find tons of resources on creating capsule collections (including her wonderful wardrobe planner). She describes a capsule wardrobe like a mini wardrobe of versatile pieces that you love to wear.
How does it work?
Caroline recommends 37 items as the golden number and varies by season. You should take what you have in your closet now, size it down to 37 wearable items, and then test wear only those items for 3 months. Don’t shop for any new items until the next season.
However, I’ve tweaked this original formula to work for myself (as you should do for yourself as well). No 2 people will have the same wardrobe needs so 37 may not work for you. I like to keep mine between 25 to 50 pieces but yours can easily go below 25 or above 50.
These items include tops, bottoms, dresses, shoes, accessories, etc. You also want to keep in mind the categories of where you would wear these items such as workout clothing, lounge clothing, work clothing, formal wear, etc.
Also, not everyone needs a capsule wardrobe per season. There are areas where there are no seasons or there is a mild variance between the seasons. So keep that in mind as you think about putting together your collection.
You can either create your capsule wardrobe from what you already have, use a service to put together capsule wardrobes for you ( like or do a combination of what you already have and then shop for new items one a season (or as needed). It is really up to you and what works best for you.
The Benefits of a Capsule Collection
There are many benefits that people experience from downsizing their closet and creating something like a capsule collection including:
- Cost savings
- Time savings
- Decision making energy savings
- The ability to recognize what you enjoy wearing
The idea is that from decluttering our closets and downsizing to what we like wearing and plan on wearing, we have more time, money and energy for other things in our lives that matter.
What stood out to me most about my capsule wardrobe was how much more energy and time I had in the mornings when I didn’t have to decide between so many options. I also did not have to sift through so many options that I didn’t even like as opposed to before with a cluttered closet.
How to Create Your Capsule Wardrobe
The first thing you want to do before putting together your capsule collection is open that closet (or drawers, whatever). Try not to get overwhelmed by the disarray of clothes everywhere if you are anywhere like I am, which is messy.
Then look at the keep pile. That is where we are going to pull from for this capsule wardrobe.
What a Capsule Wardrobe Looks Like
I don’t think there is any “right” way to create a capsule wardrobe. As long as you have downsized your closet to a manageable number of clothes that you love and you plan on wearing in a rotation, you are good to go.
The entire purpose behind creating something like this is to make your life a little easier. As long as your capsule(s) accomplishes that, you did it “right”.
Use the below breakout of items to aim for the coveted number of 37 for your capsule wardrobe (please tweak for your needs):
- 11 tops
- 11 bottoms
- 6 outerwear items
- 3 dresses
- 6 shoes
Seasonal vs. All Year Round
I live in the midwest and our seasons are pretty drastic. However, I don’t have 4 separate capsule wardrobes for all of the 4 seasons. I have 2; one for warm weather and one for cold weather.
If you live somewhere tropical, I suspect you will have one capsule wardrobe. You might need to add extra items like rain boots, raincoats, etc, to be prepared for the weather in your area.
You can also include accessories in your capsule wardrobe lineup like scarves, jewelry, hats, etc, but those can be thought of as “extra” items. Remember to include as much in your wardrobe that your lifestyle and the climate of that lifestyle calls for.
Creating Sub-Categories and “Work Uniforms”
The most helpful strategy in creating my capsule wardrobe(s) was categorizing the items based on where they would be worn.
I broke them out into 4 categories:
- Workout clothes
- “Going out” clothes (which included formal wear such as for weddings or similar events)
Workwear was difficult to put together at first because I had clothes I liked wearing to work and clothes that I thought I would like, but I probably was never going to wear them. Instead, I chose based on what I was already wearing to work and what was the most comfortable and professional looking.
I approached those items like I was putting together my own “work uniform” for myself. But instead of wearing the same “work uniform” every day, I would rotate the items of my “work uniform”.
Some of the items in your capsule will straddle the categories of where you will wear them and the more they do that, the better. The more multi-functional a clothing item is, the better.
Take It for a Test Wear
After you think you have a good starter capsule wardrobe together, test it out in the real world. Get into the habit of the rotation and laundry. See how you feel in them and if there is anything you want to add, tweak or change in any way about the items you wear in the real world.
After my first couple of months of wearing my capsule wardrobe, I started feeling a little self-conscious about my rotation. I kept thinking “what if someone at work notices that I rotate the same clothes all the time”. Why did I care so much?
I decided to do a capsule wardrobe experiment and wear the same thing to work every day for a week to see if anyone noticed and if I cared that they might notice. At the end of the week, I even asked one of my colleagues if they noticed and they said no while looking at me very confused.
People are so self-absorbed in their own lives that most of them won’t notice your new minimalist wardrobe. If they do, does it matter?
In my opinion, no. They are just clothes. If we worried about every little thing other people thought of us, we would be pretty miserable (been there, done that). There are bigger fish for you to fry.
Do you think a capsule wardrobe might work for you?
Capsule wardrobes aren’t for everyone. Certain people have a real passion for fashion and collect certain items from designer collections. Then some people express themselves through their fashion and like to mix it up every day with different items. I would never ask those people to give up their collection, passion or the way they decide to express themselves.
Even if you are one of those people, you could still give a capsule wardrobe a try but make it your version of one maybe. Try it out for everyday loungewear or maybe just as a “work uniform” capsule. See how it feels.
If you hate it, you can always go back. If you loved it, look for more ways to incorporate the same logic to other areas of your life that might need simplification.
Either way, let us know in the comments your thoughts and/or experiences you’ve had with trying capsule wardrobes.
Daniella Flores is a software engineer and blogger who writes about personal finance, cheap travel, side hustles and other ways to increase income and make money work for you and your lifestyle. As a small business owner, Flores provides a unique perspective on the changing lives of Americans as we begin to embrace new ways of earning money. Flores also covers the intersection of money and LGBTQ+ issues, financial feminism, work culture, and more as she explores the many different areas of life that money touches and the different effects it has on people. Daniella lives in Missouri with her wife and writes for both of her websites iliketodabble.com and hikingandroadtrips.com.